As I sit down to write this, I am bombarded with distractions. There are the dishes in my sink, email alerts, Facebook updates, and my messenger app calling me away to chat.
Every little thing seems to conspire to keep me from being productive. How does anyone get anything done? Thankfully, over the years, I’ve developed a few tricks to help me get more done in my day. Here are my five tips to increase your productivity.
Productivity Tip #1: Make a List
At the beginning of each day, write out what you need to do. Include everything big and small. Those tasks could be completed in a few minutes (take out the garbage) or multi-step tasks (plan a birthday). Write all of them down.
Getting the tasks out of your head and on to a piece of paper allows you to make a plan. Avoid keeping all of those tasks in your head; that’s what your notepad is for. You want to concentrate all your focusing power on completing tasks, not remembering them.
Productivity Tip #2: Prioritize
Rank your tasks in order of necessity. Break up large tasks (plan a birthday) into actionable steps (buy a cake, send invitations) so that you can tackle one task at a time.
Trying to tackle everything at once can be stressful and counter-productive. Having tangible goals makes completing those goals possible. If you focus on one step at a time, it will be easier to accomplish more over the course of the day.
Productivity Tip #3: Work in Intervals
It’s easier to fend off distractions if you only need to defend you concentration for 30 minutes at a time. Set a task, whether it is to write a proposal, brainstorm your office retreat, or start the list of invitees for that birthday party, that you can focus on for 30 minutes.
Do not answer phone calls, respond to emails, or veer from your task during your 30 minute sprint. Focusing for short bursts of time will help increase your concentration and raise your productivity.
Productivity Tip #4: Take Breaks
Working in 30-minute intervals also makes it easier to monitor your breaks. After every three intervals, get up and walk around. Tony Schwartz, productivity expert & CEO of The Energy Project, reported in his piece for the New York Times that “working in 90-minute intervals turns out to be a prescription for maximizing productivity.”
He cites several studies that confirm that the moments of relaxation in between exertion are the keys to giving your next task your maximum focus and energy. So take a coffee break, because working in shorter controlled increments is far more productive than working long hours without breaks.
Productivity Tip #5: Minimize Distractions
The New Republic recently reported on a study that proved that interruptions not only reduce your productivity but also your efficacy. Every time your train of thought gets momentarily derailed to think of something other than your task at hand, you need to re-group and get back on track.
Translation: Turn off your browser and email. Every little alert is your worst enemy, repeatedly disturbing your laser focus with seemingly important bits of news that can likely wait the 90 minutes it will take to finish your current task.
If you want to maximize your time and get more done: make a list, prioritize, work in intervals, take breaks and minimize distractions. Those five small changes to your workflow can go a long way toward getting more done in your day.