Everyone can be productive for a while, but staying consistently productive is the real challenge. There are productivity hacks and miracle apps all around, promising to make you more productive instantly, but the truth is that it’s different for everyone.
That’s not to say productivity techniques and apps don’t work – they often do their job, but none of them will be a miracle solution by themselves. You have to put in the effort, and also understand if that technique works for you.
With that in mind, I want to discuss some broad and useful productivity tips that work for almost everyone, as well as some more specific ones that you may try for yourself.
Do one thing at a time
If there’s one thing every expert can agree on is that multitasking will be the death of you. It simply does not work for the majority of people.
The urge to multitask is usually a reaction that comes from anxiety and the need to feel more productive, but it almost always makes you less so.
If you find yourself so stuffed with tasks that multitasking seems like the only option, then this is a sign that you need to plan better, be more efficient, or hire help to delegate certain tasks. One person can only do so much.
Instead of resorting to multitasking, try to write down your tasks and determine exactly what you can do on that day. A lot of the time you think you have too much to do, but when you write everything down, you realize it’s not that bad and it motivates you to work through it.
Finally, you can try one of two techniques: either swallow the frog early or start the day with your quickest and easiest tasks.
These are complete opposites: some people prefer to start the day with their most difficult task, thus getting it out of their mind for the rest of the day and freeing up space for all the easy tasks. But you can also prioritize your smaller tasks that shouldn’t take more than two minutes each and just get them out of the way first – thus completing what seemed to be a huge chunk of tasks in one go.
Centralize your tasks and your team
Using apps to manage your team and organize tasks or documents is excellent, but it’s important to keep things centralized – otherwise, you’re just creating a mess in a different way.
For example, let’s say you use Evernote to take notes and store documents, Google Drive to backup your work files, Skype and Messenger to chat with your team, and Trello to plan out your week.
Your work would be spread over five different apps, which could make it difficult and time-consuming to find what you need. Is it on this app? Oh wait, it’s actually on this one. Did I message John about this? Let me check.
Keep meetings brief
Catching up with your team is great to keep in touch and give everyone a sense of belonging, but meetings that aren’t strictly about business ought to be kept short and infrequent. If you start on a weekly basis but find that most meetings are pointless, then reduce the meetings to every two weeks.
Many times a meeting can be replaced by an email as well, so keep that in mind. The goal is to stay productive and pointless meetings just break the flow for you and everyone else.
Once you get into the habit of writing down your tasks, whether it’s on a notepad or a list-making app, you also need to learn how to prioritize based on your routine.
The most common way to prioritize tasks is this:
Priority 1: Imminent. This task is urgent and important, so it must be done today, as soon as possible.
Priority 2: Important. This task is important, but not urgent. Decide on the right time for you to complete it.
Priority 3: Delegate. This task is urgent, but not important. Either delegate for someone else to take care of it in your place, or get it done quickly right after priority 1 tasks.
Priority 4: Delete. If a task is neither important nor urgent, then you have no reason to do it.
There are other ways to do this, but this is a nice and useful system that should help if you find yourself overwhelmed with many tasks.
Try productivity techniques (but don’t be afraid to experiment)
Productivity techniques are systems that help you manage your time, but there’s no one-size-fits-all here. Everyone is different and just because it works for most people doesn’t mean it will work for you, but of course, you’re encouraged to give it a try. Maybe you find the perfect system that helps you stay productive.
Here are some of the most popular productivity techniques:
Pomodoro. Choose a task and work on it for 25 minutes, then take a 5-minute break. After 4 cycles, take a long break of 30 minutes.
The 80/20 rule. This is based on the assumption that 20% of your tasks make up 80% of the results. Thus, you should spend 80% of your time on your top 20% of tasks.
Eat the frog. This refers to the action of focusing on your hardest task first. If you need several days to complete it, divide it into steps or chunks of time every morning.
There are many other productivity techniques that are worth trying, and you can even adapt some of them to your liking. For example, for writing articles, I started with Pomodoro but found that 25-minute chunks were too short – I would often get the most focused as the timer was ending, thus breaking my concentration. So I changed to work in chunks of 45 minutes and found it to be much more comfortable.
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