Small incremental improvements can have a significant impact, and luckily, productivity is an area that can be influenced by little changes in how you work and the environment you work in.
To help you, we’ve compiled a list of ten productivity hacks to help you get focused and ensure the time spent on tasks is adding the maximum value. If you’re looking for a bit of inspiration on ways to get more done, try one (or all) of these productivity tips.
Productivity Tips for:
Interruptions and distractions break our focus and hinder productivity. Research shows that interruptions and distractions can take up to 238 minutes of the day, and getting back to what you were doing loses you another 84 minutes. While you cannot control all interruptions and distractions, these steps can decrease volume.
1. Turn Off Notifications on Your Phone
Much like Pavlov's dog, the ding of a new alert gets our attention. These distractions were found to have us checking our phones 344 times a day! By simply turning off push notifications on your phone, a study found that people reported “feeling significantly less distracted and more productive without them.”
2. Stop Multitasking
It is common to get distracted when something new comes in and then to attempt to work on both simultaneously. Unfortunately, multitasking decreases productivity by as much as 40%. So, while it may be a hard habit to break, it is worth pursuing if you want to be more productive.
3. Setup Separate Profiles for Work and Personal
An easy way to avoid non-work interruptions and distractions is to set up separate profiles for work and personal. Keep different profiles and inboxes, so you stay focused and don’t get distracted when a promotional email, mailing list, or invite comes your way during work hours.
Controlling Your Time
Setting boundaries on your time is one way to increase productivity. Here’s what we suggest you do.
4. Try Time Blocking
Blocking out time in your calendar with a specific start and end time where your sole focus is on completing your scheduled task can help you be more productive. In addition, scheduling time for answering emails, phone calls, and instant messages will allow you to remove those distractions as you know you have a scheduled time to check them. To make it easy, Niagara Institute created a time-blocking template for you to use.
5. Take a Break
While it may seem counterintuitive, taking breaks has actually been proven to positively impact productivity and overall well-being. Yet, studies have shown that many of us are bad at taking breaks. For example, a 2020 survey found that only 3 in 10 employees take a lunch break while working from home, and when we do, 6 out of 10 of us feel guilty. To overcome these feelings, schedule your breaks ahead of time and take them as planned to reap the potential benefits of breaks.
Planning Your Tasks
A famous quote by Dale Carnegie rings valid for productivity: "An hour of planning can save you 10 hours of doing.” By taking the time to plan, you will prioritize what needs to be done and where your time is best spent to achieve your goals.
6. Prioritize Your Tasks
Arrange your tasks against their level of urgency and importance to ensure you’re spending your time wisely. Spending the time upfront to prioritize your tasks and then visually laying them out gives you a roadmap to follow and a sense of achievement every time one is checked off. To make it easy, we’ve created a task prioritization matrix template.
7. Be Specific
Your to-do list needs to be specific and break down large projects and tasks into smaller achievements. For example, “create 2023 plan” is much too broad. Instead, break it down into more specific steps, such as “determine five strategic objectives by Friday.” The tasks should be actionable, timebound, detailed, and the only ones you can do. If the task can be delegated or eliminated, don’t hesitate to do so.
8. Complete Small Tasks to Build Momentum
There is a brilliant commencement speech by Admiral McRaven, where he shares the importance of making your bed in the morning. In his address, he explains that “if you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and encourage you to do another task and another and another." If it takes under two minutes to complete, do it now. The momentum from crossing off an item on your list will propel you to complete the next task, and before you know it, that one task has turned into many tasks completed by the end of the day.
Creating the Right Environment
Curating an environment that promotes productivity can be just as important as removing distractions, managing your time, and having a to-do list. While you may not be able to dictate where you work, here are a few tips on creating a space where work gets done that is within your control.
9. Clear the Clutter
If your workspace is cluttered, it’s best to take a few minutes before starting your day to get it organized. Ron Lieback, CEO of ContentMender, uses an analogy that your workspace should be like a new document. He said, “A blank document actually allows your mind to focus more. Now picture that document filled with random words and numbers all cluttered onto the paper, and you have to write in between this. Your mind will play tricks on you, and focus will be impossible. The same goes for an unorganized office.”
10. Use a Productivity Playlist
Have you found you are more productive when you have music playing? According to Thomas Chamorro-Premuzic’s HBR article, “Picking the right type of music, at the right time, and for the right task, can be a powerful productivity booster. It can improve your mood and make you more relaxed, focused, and proficient.” He recommends background music without lyrics if you’re having a hard time avoiding distractions and getting focused. There are a plethora of free playlists on YouTube to choose from, such as:
- Ambient Music For Work - Deep Focus Music for Better Concentration and Productivity
- Work Jazz: Relaxing Music for Work
- Focus Music for Work
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