3 Tips to Help Boost Your Productivity
Logic tells us that the more time you spend working on something, the more you will get done, but that isn’t always true.
There is a limit to “overworking” that not only affects productivity but also your personal health. A Harvard study of around 1 million people found some pretty detrimental effects to overworking.
Those who worked more than 55 hours per week had a 13% greater risk of a heart attack, and were 33% more likely to suffer a stroke.
Not only does your ability to concentrate and produce high-quality work diminish, but so does your health. In this post, I’ll talk you through my techniques for maintaining a healthy balance but still being highly productive.
1. Writing a List
Ever feel overwhelmed and there's just so much to do that you don’t really know where to start?
Write a list!
Scientific studies also back this up, with one from Baumeister and Masicampo which found that anxiety about other future tasks can distract us from our current one. “Simply writing the tasks down will make you more effective” as you’re freeing your mind from the anxiety as you’ve effectively promised it that you will do it later.
List writing also helps compartmentalize activities. This allows you to focus on one task at a time, tick it off when it’s done and move onto the next one. The way you structure your list can also have a huge impact.
There are many list-making techniques out there but I prefer the Bullet Journal approach. I simplify this approach down to 3 core things:
- Write a detailed list of activities you want to get done by the end of the day
- Label each with a number representing their priority order (you can also use this to group similar activities)
- After finishing a task mark it off. The next day review the list and whatever wasn’t completed gets moved into that day's list.
This allows me to set some goals for the day, group similar tasks and keep track of incomplete activities.
Achieving each goal is a morale boost and encourages me to continue. It’s important to write any task down no matter how big or small as every task that is ticked off incites a winning mindset that snowballs into something bigger.
Knowing that I can simply move my unfinished tasks to the next day (as the highest priority ones have been done first) gives me greater peace of mind and actually stops me from overworking.
2. Work Less
Here’s a list of ways that I might spend my time.
- Work 9–5 (5x per week)
- Workout (4x per week)
- Write for Medium (5x per week)
- Write as a Guest Blogger (1 per month)
- Manage my Craft Beer Instagram account (daily)
- Manage my Craft Beer YouTube account (1 per month)
- Brew some beer (1 per month)
- Listen to Audiobooks (daily)
- Read (daily)
Some of these tasks are considered work, others are purely fun but by splitting them up into “doing for me” and “doing for someone else” I can balance my productivity across them all.
Our “normal” jobs have this innate ability to seem like the most important thing. This is because they provide us with financial stability and the fear of losing this can sometimes lead us to continually work harder and longer to the benefit of someone else.
Instead, you should look to work on yourself. Split your time up so that you focus on your own mental or financial stability first. I work 9–5 Monday to Friday but I spend my mornings writing, either on Medium or as a guest blogger. This is because these activities benefit my mental health and can also contribute money to my back pocket.
The same applies to working out, reading, making Instagram and YouTube content and brewing beer. Each of these tasks is fun for me and provides me with a well earned mental break from my day job.
They appear to have no benefit to my 9–5 job but their ability to recharge my batteries has an indirect impact on my performance on other tasks.
Work time is for working, living time is for living. Ensure a clear split between the two by compartmentalizing your activities so that time is spread evenly across both. You’ll find that you work less but still manage to get at least the same amount of work done.
3. Laser Focus
The third and final tip is to increase your focus. Writing a list gets you one step closer to this and there are other techniques you can stack on top to ensure you always get the most out of what you’re doing.
List-making ensures your brain focusses only on the current task as any future tasks have been logged on the list for later. However, if you have a messy environment then cleaning that environment should be the first task on your list.
Research from 2009 found that mothers who lived in cluttered homes had higher levels of cortisol that can lead to anxiety or depression. Decluttering your space, whether it’s your work desk, kitchen or even your mobile phone removes the constant reminder in your head that you should be tidying, giving you greater cognitive freedom for the task at hand.
Removing toxic apps and notifications from your mobile phone can have the same effect. The constant scroll of social media applications that provide nothing of real value can drain a lot of our time. Scheduling time to use social media can help or remove the apps altogether. I removed the Facebook app from my phone so now I can only use Facebook if I visit it via a browser (which is rare).
I also turn off notifications for a large number of apps. This stops them from distracting whilst I’m doing other things. I can then use my focused and scheduled “phone time” to respond to any messages and emails and browse social media if I want to.
All of this puts you back in control of your time and ensures you stay focussed on the task ahead. Higher focus means better workflow which yields higher results often leading to more work being done in less time.
I hope these tips help you not only get more work done but also to work less. Striking a balance between work and life is key, especially when a lot of us are currently working from home. I use these tips daily and if you have any questions about any of the techniques I’d be happy to help. You can comment below or message me on LinkedIn or Twitter.