Have you ever wondered what the secrets are for productive people? Why is it that some people can so easily develop productivity habits, while others fail?
The truth is that it takes a month, at minimum, to develop a new habit. Those who are productivity gurus have been working to become more productive their entire lives. But the good news is that you can start now.
Let’s take a look at some ways you can become more productive.
1. Start and End Your Day with a List
At the end of each day, write a list of things you need to do the next — and at the beginning of the next day, check it. This centers you and ensures that you don’t forget anything that’s important.
Lists can seem like a lot to manage. But once they become habitual, they are critical to productivity. They create the structure for your day. Prioritize your list from top to bottom and take the time to do the important things first. Everything else will eventually become a breeze.
With a list, you don’t need to waste time thinking about what you need to do next.
2. If Something Takes 5 Minutes, Just Do It
You can often cut your list in half by just doing the smaller things first. While you should prioritize your list, consider that anything that takes five minutes or less can be done immediately — rather than listing it at all.
We can fall into a trap of just listing everything instead of actually getting things done. But this can be counterproductive. When things can be done simply and quickly, it’s better to get them out of your head.
3. Try to Do Your Most Challenging Tasks First
Once you’ve cleared the simplest items off your list, tackle the challenging ones. In general, you should always do your most difficult tasks first thing in the morning.
Otherwise, you may find yourself procrastinating throughout the day because you simply don’t want to tackle that task. You can find yourself wasting an awful lot of time this way.
4. Separate Your Day into Quadrants
It’s very tempting to think to yourself “Well, it’s 3 PM and I’ve done nothing; this day is wasted!” But consider separating your day into the morning, afternoon, evening, and night instead. Sure, you may have not been able to get anything done during the morning and afternoon, but the evening is still free.
This prevents you from adopting an “all is lost” sense.
5. Manage Your Deadlines Wisely
Every task you have should have a deadline. Be realistic about your deadlines. Use a software solution, such as a smartphone app, so that you can identify your deadlines and track them.
One thing that people often mistake is that they set unrealistic deadlines and they soar by. This is inherently demotivating and can make it very difficult for people to remain productive. Be conservative. It’s better to under-promise and over-deliver than over-promise and under-deliver — even to yourself.
6. Take Time for Yourself
It’s very important to manage your own time — and that means personal time. There’s a reason why plants take a while to grow, because they’re growing their roots before they start to bloom. You want to take time for yourself so that you can enter into your productivity with renewed vigor.
If you start to sense that you aren’t feeling well or that you’re too stressed, take a mental health day. It’s better for you to take a single day off and have a great week than have a sluggish week. Many people try to force themselves through and continue to struggle to no avail.
7. Recognize the Problems Behind Your Productivity
Why are you procrastinating? Sometimes it’s because you’re uncertain about a task. Asking for clarification could help. Other times, it could be that a task is just too large. You might want to break it into pieces.
But often, it’s just because of general anxiety. You may not feel competent enough for the task, and you might be afraid to start it. You might feel overwhelmed and not even really know what the task requires.
Identifying why you’re not being productive is a very important component to improving your productivity. This may require you to start building new skills and habits, as you may learn at a technical school like the London Image Institute.
8. Break Tasks into Small, Manageable Pieces
It’s very hard to confront a large task. But there’s a reason why many project managers break things into smaller, manageable milestones. Even if you have large, discrete tasks, you can take the time to break them into steps. It may be that you can handle one step at a time until the entirety is done.
Breaking tasks into manageable pieces doesn’t just make it easier for you to do. It also makes it easier for you to see whether your project is going how you want it to. And if your productivity gets derailed, you may need to reassess the project as a whole.
9. Consider a Change of Scenery
Sometimes what’s hurting you is that you just can’t be productive in the location you are. Consider that a change of scenery can also cause a change in mind.
Have you ever gone to a coffee shop while studying and realized that you suddenly have more focus? It’s very easy to stagnate if you’re in a single location all the time, such as a home office. Today, with many people working from home, it’s easier than ever for people to get distracted or just fail to concentrate.
Going into the office, going to a coffee shop, or even going to the library can help you focus and be more productive. Consider regular changes of scenery to keep yourself on task. And if your existing scenery is regularly distracting (such as a home office that has a lot of noise), you may want to address that, too.
With the above productivity tips, you can boost your efficiency — but keep in mind that productivity is also a metric of your own health. If you’re finding it difficult to be productive, it could be that you need to take a holistic look at your own lifestyle, before you look at your habits.