In our fast-paced, ever-evolving world, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed, particularly at work. When you want to succeed, reach goals and have new ideas, you need an abundance of energy and mental space. But with phones that serve as constant distractions, and a social norm of “hustle culture” making it feel as though we never do enough, it can be difficult to get that energy and space – especially for leaders. Boosting productivity may sound like just another way to “do more”, but that’s not what productivity is about.
It’s about doing things more efficiently so that you have more time to do less.
That “doing less” time can be spent relaxing, but it can also be spent on actions that give you inspiration and ideas on how you want to engage once you’re back to work. You get more of your time back, and more out of your time, when you focus on productivity.
So how do you start? Here are 5 tips that you can begin today.
1. Start with small habits.
You don’t have to immediately be a productivity pro. In fact, that pressure alone is enough to keep many of us from becoming more productive at all. Instead, set relatively small goals that are realistic to achieve in your day-to-day routine.
Grab your phone first thing when you wake up? 61% of people are with you, and science shows that it isn’t healthy. You are immediately decreasing your productivity by forcing your brain into beta-mode, missing the ideation and creativity of those other brain phases. Instead, place a book or a journal on the nightstand closest to you, and reach for one of those first in the morning. Even if it’s just for five minutes, little changes like this make a huge difference.
If you feel like you’re too reliant on your phone in general throughout the day, boost your productivity by getting a weekly planner, where you can physically write your to-do lists and prioritize your daily schedule. Just having that resource available will make you less likely to check your phone, and help solidify your tasklist in your mind for the workday.
Need more movement in your day? Tons of people struggle with getting enough exercise due to working at a desk all day – even remote workers. Set a timer on your phone to stretch every hour for five minutes. Park farther away from your office, go on a walk for your lunch break, and force yourself to get more steps in.
All of these small changes could make a huge impact on your day – and they are easy and painless to try.
2. Plan ahead to set yourself up for success.
Feeling overwhelmed often comes from tasks and decisions that have piled up over time. Looking at a mountain of work can make it difficult to even feel inspired to start. Keep yourself from getting stuck in this rut by setting yourself up for success, everyday.
Plan your next day before your current day has ended. If you’re planning to work out, write it in your planner. If you want to ensure you are on time, lay out your outfit for the next day. If you know you will have a longer commute tomorrow, make sure you have a water bottle filled and a podcast or phone call you have been meaning to get to ready for the drive.
Know you have an important meeting tomorrow? Make your outline of talking points and questions beforehand. Have a handful of tiny tasks you just haven’t gotten around to? Write them down on a post-it, and start checking them off between meetings or while you’re waiting for lunch to be delivered.
By giving yourself a jumpstart on goals you want to achieve, you not only are more prepared – you have shown an act of self-care to yourself.
3. Bundle your tasks together.
This is the perfect example of doing things more efficiently, not doing more. When you bundle tasks (that won’t be devalued by multitasking), you get more done at once and make yourself more productive.
If you have a class or workshop you have been meaning to listen to but haven’t had the time, do so on your morning commute or during your daily workout. Batch your meetings so you don’t have them looming over you, and batch your inbox and Slack tasks so you can get to those all at once, uninterrupted.
Need to have a work call, but also haven’t gotten your daily steps in? Grab headphones, or take it on speakerphone, and walk while you talk. There are psychological benefits to having a conversation while walking anyway!
Of course, there are some tasks that can’t be multitasked and require your complete, unmoving attention. But for things that can be batched, or can be combined to increase productivity, there’s no reason not to try.
4. Streamline your communication.
Everyone is familiar with the “this meeting could have been an email” thoughtline. But what about emails that could have been Slacks? And Slacks that could have been a 15-minute conversation over lunch, or better yet, a walk where both coworkers can get their exercise in?
Prioritize your task list, and then streamline who to communicate with and how to achieve your goals. Book meetings for the amount of time you will truly need for a conversation – 15 minutes, half an hour, etc. – rather than the default hour block that many companies have gotten stuck in.
Send a Slack message when instant messaging for short ideas or questions will suffice. Make bullet-pointed emails with direct questions that are less time-consuming for you to write and for them to read.
Save yourself (and others) time and energy by streamlining where you can, and being direct when possible. Not only will you spend less time in meetings, but you will have more time to spend accomplishing the tasks needed to accomplish goals.
5. Outsource where you can.
Not all jobs have to be done by you. For dedicated employees, particularly leaders and business owners, this can be a hard concept to accept. But by entrusting others with the responsibility and accountability they can handle to take tasks off of your plate, you free up mental and physical space to truly focus on the skills you contribute to your team.
For project management, use online shared resources (for example, Monday, Asana, Trello, etc.) where everyone can contribute. This removes reply-all email chains about projects that require responses from each person on the chain, and gives everyone visibility and accountability on projects.
For instant messaging, meeting spaces and more, you can download software such as Slack or Microsoft Teams. These platforms also allow you to add functions to store documents, share polls across your teams to gather insight, and measure calendar efficiency.
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