Imagine that one day you come to work, take a quick look at your to-do list, make a coffee and get straight to work, no distractions along the way. Sounds like something that hasn’t happened to you in a long time? If so, and you’re looking for reasons behind your problems with productivity, read this productivity guide to find out how to solve them for good and finally be able to get more done. Or at least you can try some of these methods and get back to your favorite chaotic style with a clear conscience and feel like you know what you’re doing.
Take a moment to think about how you would define productivity. If you google it, you’ll find various definitions, such as “the ability to do as much work as possible in a particular period” (Cambridge Dictionary) or “a measure of the efficiency of a person in converting inputs into useful outputs” (Business Dictionary). But what does it actually mean for you?
What you should take into account when thinking about the definition of productivity is the difference between workforce productivity and personal one. Workforce productivity is the total amount of goods and services workers produce in a certain period, while personal productivity is the relevant output of an individual in a certain period. Why is it important? Because it’s only your own productivity that you can directly influence so you shouldn’t blame yourself if the level of workforce productivity in your team or company is too low.
The distinction is also important from the point of view of employees, because they may have a hard time trying to raise workforce productivity unless they help their employees maximise their own productivity first.
If you need to get some productivity tips, you”ve found the right guide.
Improved performance starts with employee engagement. That’s why the employers need to do their best to create conditions in which employees can unfold their full potential. Without this, even the most complete productivity guide won’t give any results. What can they do exactly to get started?
Good quality equipment at the office can work wonders for employee productivity. With an efficient computer and a big screen you’ll be able to complete your tasks one by one, instead of worrying about slowly loading pages. And people don’t want to waste time trying to figure out how to print out an important document when the printer is not responding.
Apart from hardware, it’s also vital to provide employees with efficient collaboration tools that will structure the workflow and facilitate communication in the team, such as HeySpace.
Another important thing is to take care of workplace conditions. Even seemingly trivial matters, such as temperature, can make a difference for employee productivity and motivation, not to mention some space to focus in silence when necessary.
What employers should also take into account are the differences in peak productivity of their employees. None of us is able to stay productive or focus on one thing for 8 hours straight and that’s known for a fact. But what’s equally important is that every employee can have their peak productivity at a different time of the day. That’s why it’s a good idea to offer flexible working hours.
It’s important to take care of atmosphere of openness and equality at the company. Making sure conflicts are resolved before they grow out of control and providing employees with opportunities for discussions and brainstorming is absolutely necessary for improving their collaboration and, therefore, productivity.
The benefits of increasing employee productivity for employers are quite obvious, but what do we gain personally?
Increasing your productivity will have a positive influence on your performance and will give your professional career a boost. But that’s not the only positive outcome for yourself. If, like many other people, you constantly think that you’re not doing enough and feel bad about it, finding a way to increase your productivity will help you get more motivated and grow your self-confidence.
Let’s now think about the factors which affect our productivity, both external and internal ones, and whether we can do something about them (you’ll find those tips in this guide). If you ignore those factors, even the most effective productivity guides and techniques will be useless.
There’s probably nothing more distracting in this day and age than mobile phones. If we have a mobile phone on the desk all the time, it’s hard to resist the temptation to reach for it and scroll through the social media newsfeed. That’s why it’s much easier to focus if you put your mobile phone in a place which is not within your sight or turn off the internet connection not to get distracted with notifications. After a while, you will forget about the temptation and be able to focus completely on the right things.
It might be a good idea to customise the settings of your company communication channels as well, as it’s not easy to stay productive when you have to reply to messages of your colleagues all the time.
As much as environment can help increase productivity, it can also hinder it considerably. That’s why it’s important to prepare your surroundings accordingly before you get to work. The temperature should be neither too low nor to high, as both can hold back your productivity, and your desk should be clean and tidy. It’s difficult to find what you need and get started, when you have dirty dishes, unnecessary documents and tangled cables all over your desk.
Once you make sure that the basic things are taken care of, think about the ergonomics of your workspace. Since you probably spend most of your day sitting at your desk, workspace ergonomics is particularly important for your health and wellbeing.
First of all, make sure your chair is comfortable and adjustable, so that you can change the seat height and the position of the backrest. It’s best if you can adjust it not only up and down but also set the most convenient angle.
It is equally important to set the hardware properly, so make sure your monitor is placed at eye level and you can perform comfortably with your mouse and keyboard. What may seem like a small thing can actually make a big difference in the long run.
How you feel has a great impact on your level of productivity. You’re only able to get things done if you satisfy your most basic needs. Don’t underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep – it’s crucial to let your brain have proper rest if you want it to work at full capacity. Most people try to figure out how to get more things done at the expense of sleep, while it’s actually the other way around – you’re only able to be productive if you get enough sleep. Also, take care of your diet and never start working when you’re hungry. Take your time to eat something and you’ll be much more efficient when you get to your chores, but don’t eat too much, as it can make you sleepy and tired, rather than energetic.
It’s probably happened to you that when you were trying to focus on an important task and suddenly all you could think of was some stressful situation and you can’t even get started with your jobs. Stress is a big distractor and the best thing you could do is to avoid it altogether, but we all know that’s not possible. That’s why you should rather learn to cope with stressful situations and not let distracting thoughts hold back your productivity. One way to do it is by practising mindfulness. Thanks to that you will be able to fully focus on your tasks and won’t be so easily distracted.
The way you organise your work has a big impact on your productivity level. It’s difficult to be productive without a good time management and if you don’t get organised, your day will get chaotic and you’ll end up frustrated with how little you managed to do. To avoid it, start off your day by making a to-do list and stick to it throughout your day. It helps if you set clear goals and work towards them every day. And as difficult as it may be, try to avoid procrastination. Putting tasks which you don’t like off for later or the next day will only make it more difficult to complete them. It’s better to start from them and cross them off your to-do list as fast as possible. It’s a good time management technique.
Having all that in mind, remember not to expect that you will be productive all the time – no one is. Listen to yourself and accept the productivity drops that happen every now and then. What you can do, on the other hand, is to find a productivity technique that will suit you best. That’s how you’ll get done more in less time.
Getting Things Done is currently one of the most popular technique present in almost every productivity guide, described by David Allen in his book of the same title. The method helps to get organized and stay productive by adopting the right approach to planning and prioritizing tasks. You can grow your business or achieve personal goals faster and with more focus. The basic prerequisite for the technique is to clear your mind of everything you’ve got planned and focus on one task. The way you should go about it is to jot them down and put them into categories based on clusters of actions which are related and can be done one by one. You should, for instance, make all phone calls you’ve got planned at the same time, schedule meetings one by one or reply to all important messages at a specific time. Thanks to that, you will do the job faster and more effectively than if you were to combine them with unrelated activities and you’ll get things done.
To keep the list of tasks up-to-date, you should review it weekly in order to remove all tasks which are not necessary, plan new ones and define the priorities for the near future. A good way of doing this is to use a collaboration software with a kanban board.
If you decide to adopt the Getting Things Done technique, bear in mind five steps of getting organised. First of all, you should capture everything – your to-dos, plans, ideas, etc., and note them down as soon as it happens. Then, clarify things to do by breaking them down into actionable items. At this stage you should also decide whether there is anything you can do straight away, a short task that doesn’t require much effort and if so, do it. If it’s not, though, decide whether you should put it into your planner or delegate it. All the actionable items – those which you will do yourself – should then be properly organised. Put them into the right categories, assign due dates and prioritise appropriately. Once you’ve done it, reflect on your to-do list. See what the next action is and if there’s anything that needs breaking down into smaller tasks, this is the right time to do it. The last step is to engage with your tasks and get done your job.
The Pomodoro Technique is a popular time management method, created in 1980s by Francesco Cirillo. Adopting this technique, you break your worktime into 25-minute parts, separated by 5-minute breaks. The intervals are called pomodoros – after four of them, you take a longer break of about 15-20 minutes.
The aim of the Pomodoro Technique is to make you fully focus on your tasks and give you a sense of urgency. Instead of feeling that you have a full workday to do your tasks, you squeeze them into the pomodoros, which might seem short, but if used to the fullest, can help you do more than you would otherwise do.
The time management technique definitely requires a lot of determination at the beginning, as you need to adhere to strict timing rules and not everyone finds it easy. It might be tempting to make the breaks longer or to go on with a task for more than 25 minutes. But once you get into the habit of sticking to the time frames, it might turn up to be more efficient than you’d think.
To make the method easier to implement, you should use a timer or download an app and there are plenty of apps and websites facilitating the technique.
The Eat That Frog technique has been introduced by a self-help guru, Brian Tracy. He was inspired by the words of Mark Twain, who said: “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” The quote is an apt metaphor for productivity and gave rise to the Eat That Frog Technique, which is also a very effective cure for procrastination. What is it about? Tracy’s premise was that if you cope with the most difficult or the most important thing on your to-do list first thing in the morning, you will go through the day much more productive, knowing that it’s probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you. And that’s your frog. It can be a task you’re likely to procrastinate on, one that you’d otherwise avoid doing or something that’s going to have the biggest impact on your life.
The technique teaches you how to prioritise your tasks and focus on your objectives while striving for increased productivity and better time management. Maybe it will encourage you to build a habit that will help you be more productive and feel satisfied with achieving your goals? Or maybe you’ll get to like frogs. ;)
Another technique which depicts prioritising as the key to productivity is the ABCDE method. If you want to adopt this method, just like for many other techniques, what you need to start with is one thing – a to-do list. Take a moment to think about the tasks you want to get done and your objectives for doing them. Then, instead of getting straight to work, look at your jobs list and try to assess how important they are. The ABCDE method encourages you to consider the real value of your responsibilites so once you’ve prepared a to-do list, you should assign a letter to them: A, B, C, D or E, according to their priority. ‘A’ goes for the most important ones and ‘E’ for those with the least priority.
You can use the method for any period of time and prepare a new list every day or just once a week. Choose the option that best suits your needs to make the most of it and undergo productivity personal transformation.
The Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule states that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. It’s reflected in many areas of business – for example, 20% of clients generate 80% of income or 20% of your marketing messages account for 80% of your campaign results – and our everyday life – like when you wear 20% of your clothes for 80% of time. So what does it have to do with productivity? It does a lot and that’s why you should learn to use it to your benefit.
Even though it might seem like the Pareto Principle suggests you should do less, it’s definitely not the case. Instead, it shows that you should reconsider what you put the most effort into and whether these are the things that will bring the most effects. It’s one of the best productivity tips from this guide. To be more productive, then, you should look for areas which are well worth your effort and focus on them more, to get more done with little time. So, when drawing up a to-do list, put the things that will deliver the biggest results first and focus on them for more time than on the less important ones. Thanks to that, you’ll be more productive and you’ll focus on important tasks without distractions.
The technique is based on the premise that people tend to waste our mental energy on planning and worrying about approaching deadlines too much and it distracts us from what we should really focus on. Every one task you add to your to-do list throughout a day makes a part of your focus go to the task. When you open your email in the morning and see all the messages you need to respond to, the same thing happens, and so on. That’s why, to free your brain from the distractors, you should set a deadline by which you will not check your inbox. As the name of the method suggests, it could be noon, but if that’s not feasible for you, you can just as well set any other deadline and stick to it.
Eisenhower, the 34th president of the United States, lived one of the most productive lives you could imagine. He was also a general in the US Army, launched programs that led to the development of the Interstate Highway System in the US, the launch of the internet, NASA and use of alternative energy sources. And that’s not even the end of the list. How come he managed to do so much? He remained extremely productive throughout his life and it’s the ability that let him become so successful.
His productivity technique, known as the Eisenhower Box, is a strategy for taking action and organising your tasks. What you need to do is use a decision-making matrix which will separate your tasks based on four categories:
Urgent assignements are ones that you need to react to, such as emails, phone calls, etc. while important responsibilites are ones that contribute to you long-term goals.
Starting from the first category, these are things you should do immediately, then those which should be scheduled for later, then ones which you will delegate to someone else and the rest just needs to be eliminated. As simple as that, the technique helps decide what’s worth your time and what’s not and focus on your objectives, rather than waste time doing things that seem to contribute to your productivity, while they’re in fact not valuable at all.
Kanban is a project management system which is at the same time simple and powerful. It can significantly increase your personal level of productivity and that of your team as well. Kanban is a an agile framework commonly used in software development and can be successfully implemented for any other area, as it’s easy to customise and brings many benefits.
To be able to implement kanban, you need a kanban board – you can use a kanban-based task management tool or a regular whiteboard and sticky notes, whatever works for you. Then you should divide your project into categories, such as: To Do, Doing and Done, but you can just as well come up with your own categories. The most important thing is to reflect the stages of a project. All jobs within the project should be divided between the categories and their status should be updated on a regular basis.
The framework is perfect for your personal productivity, allowing you to plan your backlog and see the progress of the project. At the same time, it works great for team productivity, as it gives everyone a clear overview of the workflow and lets them see the bigger picture. You can also set up your kanban board in HeySpace.
A good approach to setting goals is a successful goal-setting strategy. It helps you stay focused and manage your expectations. Thanks to that, your productivity increases and you can see a steady progress. Hence another productivity method, namely SMART goals that you can find useful.
The name is an acronym which stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. And that’s what your goals should be like.
Make your goal specific by stating clearly what needs to be done and what measures should be taken in order to make it happen. No matter what your goal is, you need to define it clearly to be able to approach it appropriately.
The next step is to make sure your goal is measurable. It means that you need to be able to measure the progress in order to see its impact on your performance.
Then ask yourself whether the goal is achievable. And it should be. Make sure the goal is based on thorough research, a needs analysis or is a follow-up to your previous goals.
Have in mind the reasons behind your goal and what it will let you achieve. Another important thing is that every goal should fit in with your strategy and broader objectives.
Last but not least, think about the time frame for your goal. It’s very important as it will help you stay focused on the goal and motivated to achieve it.
Example of SMART goal: “Eat 5 Big Kahunas Burgers by the end of March 2020.”
The Inbox Zero technique focuses on the impact of your email inbox on your productivity. First of all – don’t delete now all your emails without reading them. It might save your time, but it won’t work in the long term. ;)
The technique has two basic rules. First is called a 2-minute rule and states that if an email response takes less than 2 minutes, you should reply immediately rather than put it off for later. You’ll get over with the email and it will no longer distract you. The rest of your emails should be forwarded to your task management tool and treated as other pieces of work.
The simple technique will let you prevent your inbox from becoming yet another one thing on your to-do list and will help you avoid getting distracted every time you receive an email which takes time to reply to.
Timeboxing, as the name suggests, helps you increase your productivity by managing time effectively. According to this technique, people work the most productively if you put some structure into their daily routine. You can do it by categorising your duties and allocating particular periods of time to specific types of work. To do it, you need to split your day into time boxes and assign your tasks to them so that you avoid interruptions and can focus completely on specific type of work.
You will do your work faster and more efficiently if they are similar rather than you do unrelated assignments one by one, as each of them requires some time to get into. This technique can be successfully combined with other techniques, for instance with the Zero Inbox technique.
Since the choice of productivity techniques is so big, you might end up confused as to how to choose one for yourself. Well, there is certainly not one technique that works for all productive people, so the best way to go about choosing one is to, first of all, think about the character of your work and the most important things you need to focus on. Then, take into account your personality type and how you like to operate. At the same time, observe your productivity peaks and find methods which best reflect them. Don’t mind other people, they can be entirely different. Trust your intuition and once you eliminate some techniques which don’t seem convincing, try the rest out yourself and see which is the most suitable for yourself.
And remember to be understanding for yourself and not feel bad if you’re less productive at times – it happens to everyone. You just need some time to rest and recharge your batteries and if so, do it. Your productivity will only increase if you’re relaxed and motivated!