How many productivity systems have you tried in the past? Have any of them worked?
When it comes to productivity, there is no “one fits all” approach, although having committed to improving it, in time we can figure out what works for us and establish our own system.
To do that we need to become an observer of our actions, thoughts, and the results we create. Below I shared a few ideas that can help you get started.
- Make Decisions in Advance
Consider the main cause of distraction from our workflow. Most people get distracted by their own thoughts. Our mind has a tendency to wander from problem to problem, reminding us that we have not found a solution for it yet. Which in turn settles some panic and anxiety in us.
Whilst if instead we made some decision about every significant problem or project we want to undertake; we would have freed up our mind and improved our ability to focus on what we are doing in the moment. That decision could be anything, from deciding what you are going to do about that issue to simply deciding to think about it at 5pm. As long as you made it clear in your head, you can let it go until the time you decided you would come back to it.
- Know Your Starting Point
I find it the most unproductive when in the morning I need to decide what to start my workday with. I know I have a lot of tasks on my to-do list, I might have even categorised them by urgency and importance but having to decide which one to pick first slows me down. Maybe it has to do with me not being a morning person and functioning on autopilot until about 10 am…
But again, it comes back to making a decision ahead of time. Plan you morning the night before and you will be in a good position to have a productive start.
- Stop Multitasking
Multitasking is a myth; we all have heard that. Yet, we still try to make it work. It happens mainly due to a lack of decisions (again, as per my point above). If we keep all the issues we need to deal with in our head, at some point we will try to do something about them. As if seeing some progress on the project, would make the worrying thoughts go away and make us feel better. However, this feeling is short-lived. As working on a few tasks simultaneously, means you don’t focus fully on either of them, which in turn could cause mistakes and bad quality of results, not to mention the mental exhaustion it creates.
To help you with this, combine the two steps above and make a decision about the first step in every project that is on your mind. For some projects, the first step might be all you need to get it off your mind. Maybe you need to send an email to someone, which takes only 2minutes, or make a call or delegate something to your assistant. These small steps could give you a sense of progress and create space to focus on one task at the time, without your mind wandering between all of them.
- Understand Your Energy Levels Throughout the Day
Once you become an observer of your behaviour, you will start noticing your natural rhythms of productivity. What time you are your most productive and when you feel like falling asleep. You can track all your activities during the day for a week or two, to help you notice the pattern. For example, I know that my most productive hours are from 3 to 7 pm, which is contrary to most people. However, if I need to do any creative work, like writing, morning is the best time for it.
Once you know your patterns, you can plan your work around your energy levels at different points in time, so you’ll have a better chance of staying in the flow.
- Schedule Your Breaks
Scheduling your breaks is not only useful for recharging your energy, but also for setting deadlines for blocks of tasks. For example, knowing that you have a break at 11 am, you decide to finish the presentation you are working on by that time. As a reward, you can go for a coffee with your colleague or have a short walk outside to reset your mind.
This way you can plan your day in a way that you set a deadline for each task or group of tasks in a form of a break. These intentional pauses also give you something to look forward to. Find what uplifts you and boost your energy and do these activities in the break. It could be a cuddle with your pet (now that we work from home), maybe a cup of tea, or a chat with your partner. These add some variety to your day and help you stay productive.