Keeping yourself busy for many hours a day doesn't mean you're efficient. Truth is, you need systems – to find out what works best for you and do more of it, to do things slowly but with more attention, to build the right habits that will boost your productivity improvement in the long term, and to be selective when it comes to dedicating time to projects.
But some people – especially hard-working entrepreneurs who have many things to do and little time – can't even spare some time to do research, find the right resources, brainstorm ideas on how to be more productive, or else. And that often means they get stuck, don't see progress, and are too stressed and overwhelmed. But that can be fixed.
Here's a quick and straightforward guide on what to do so that you can reclaim your time and freedom, do meaningful work, focus more efficiently, and be happy with the results.
1) Plan your day the night before
That's another simple habit, but most people rarely consider it essential. However, it can be the one thing you do that will make a big difference to your productivity improvement.
Set aside 5-10 minutes every evening to make your to-do list. Include all the things you need to do tomorrow. Try to figure out how long each will take, define the most critical tasks, and put them on top so that you'll know what to start with first thing in the morning.
Also, using such a list lets you enjoy crossing items off it, as after each completed task, you feel accomplished. Besides, you'll know what's left to be done, how much time to dedicate for it, and how to schedule your day.
2) Become a morning person
It's no coincidence that the wealthiest, most creative, purpose-oriented, famous and productive people of today are waking up early.
To begin the transformation, simply wake up 10 minutes more first tomorrow, no matter when you went to bed. Then, invest ten more from your sleep the next day. Do that until you feel comfortable getting up an hour or two earlier and slowly start adding essential morning habits to this period.
Choose a few healthy activities that will set you up for a super productive day, and dedicate the first hour or so of it to them. Then you'll be ready to get out there and do work that matters.
3) Define your M.I.Ys
These are your Most Important Tasks. At any moment of the day, some things are more important than others. So it's smart to focus on them and do them first for productivity improvement. And if you have set goals in life and want to get closer to them, these are usually the tasks connected to them.
So to increase productivity and see progress, you'll have to prioritize. Put them before anything else, respect them, and let them stay on the top of your to-do list.
When you wake up and have already listed all the tasks for the following day (and thus won't waste any time deciding where to start), do the 1-3 most essential ones first. You'll feel great after that.
4) Focus – if you are looking for improvement in productivity
Our brain is programmed to perform well when the mind is focused on one activity. That's the only way to pay our full attention to it and to get it done faster while doing our best.
To find focus and do your best work, you'll have to remove all distractions. But how do we find it? Again, we should use the principle of minimalism and should first exclude the unnecessary. In this case, that's the distractions preventing us from concentrating. They may be:
- People coming in the room
- Random thoughts popping up in your mind
- Over-analyzing or planning too much before you actually get to work
- Thinking of excuses to procrastinate
- An unfriendly working environment
- Getting distracted while working online
Take your time to do something about each. When you remove these, it will be just you and the task.
5) Break big projects into small tasks
Often the big projects we work on may seem so scary that we can avoid even starting. And without making the first step, we can't get any further. So why not make it super easy?
Break your big project or task down into achievable actions. Then break these down into even more trivial things. In the end, you'll have a list of all the steps you have to take to complete this, and each will be simple and will take no time.
You can quickly start with the first one right away. This works excellent for productivity improvement.
6) 80/20 your life for productivity improvement
That's the Pareto principle. And it states that only 20% of the things you do give you 80% of the results you get. So it's smart to identify these 20 and do more of that.
While eliminating the rest. All these are simple habits you can start developing and techniques you can start implementing that will improve your productivity and help you get more done in less time.
Choose one of the seven items and give it a try today. Once it's a permanent part of your working process and mindset, move onto the next. Such gradual change leads to continuous success after some time.
7) Let go of perfectionism
Fear of failure is an enemy of your productivity improvement graph. So it is our desire to do things correctly, to answer other people's expectations, to get everything done, and so on.
But that often leads to bad results. Being a perfectionist is a wrong approach as it doesn't let you focus on the current task, but instead enables you to go back to the past and compare it to how you've failed to complete others, or to the future – where you imagine how you may be criticized.
That creates mental blocks in your mind, and you can't concentrate, can't do your best, and can't get more done in less time. So let go of all these thoughts. The only thing you should do is be present and work on the task in front of you.
8) Time Management for productivity improvement by setting deadlines
This is one of the old and easy time management hacks, but it works wonders. We tend to waste time and procrastinate if we don't have a deadline.
Parkinson's law states that "work expands to fill the time available for its completion". And we see that in reality daily. Some office workers may get almost nothing done after being stuck behind a desk for 8 hours, while others can complete a long to-do list, meet with people, and do their chores in just one part of the whole day.
Time management skills and the right motivation is what separates the two groups. And if you want to be like the productive ones, you have to set deadlines and take them seriously.
9) Use lists and tools to be more organized
There are plenty of project management tools, software, and apps out there that can support you on how to be more organized. Start using them. Here we selected a few of them:
- Easilydo, manages your email and social networks, controls your meeting schedules and upcoming trips and even tracks your shipments
- TaskRabbit, allows you to outsource small domestic tasks, like minor home repairs or assemble your Ikea furniture, for example. TaskRabbit can help you do activities that you have been postponing for some time
- OmniFocus, which helps you organize your to-do list into major projects or contexts, like supporting and remembering your actions during an important meeting.
Whatever your concern is, there's a tool designed specifically for that. Do your research and make the most of that. How to be more organized?
10) Work smarter online
It's easy to get distracted when doing some work on your laptop. So it's crucial to set some limits. For example, check email just twice a day. No more.
Don't browse the Net for no reason, as that can turn into hours of consuming pointless information without doing any actual work. Subscribe only to newsletters of your most essential websites checked out regularly so that you don't miss out on something new in your industry.
Use some of the many tools and apps out there that help you block Internet access for a certain period, preferably your most productive time doing your best work.
Check out other apps on how to get more done for productivity improvement. They provide helpful resources on getting notifications on deadlines, saving time when communicating with the team, assigning tasks, organizing email or new projects, and tracking its progress.
11) Outsource to see improvement in productivity
Outsource some of your tasks daily to save time. Not everything needs to be done by you. Even if you're a successful business owner and don't like delegating, it's time to let others do what doesn't necessarily require your role.
This will give you more time to focus on the essentials. If it's at home, try to outsource some activities to keep your life organized, like small domestic tasks or minor home repairs.
12) Knowing when to call it quits
There are too many options to choose at any moment, as work on a project, daily activities, and tasks, read emails, do phone calls, or else. Some people fall into the trap of wanting to do it all.
But that's impossible. Our time and focus are limited. Besides that, most of these aren't necessary and don't get us closer to our goals. That's why it's important to learn a unique skill in life and business – to know when quitting and moving onto something so that you can say "yes" to the few activities that will make you more successful in less time. Leaving here isn't a bad word.
And more importantly, know that there's nothing wrong with leaving something behind, even after you've already started it. That's when others will probably criticize you, making you feel guilty.
But it's not smart to keep working on a useless project for weeks, just because you've already invested time and energy into it.
13) Learning from the experts
Don't forget to do your research, see how others are doing this, ask for advice, seek support, and learn from their mistakes. Start by reading the best books on business and productivity first. You can't go wrong with that.
Take "Rework", for example, and go through it. It's this brilliant bestseller by the founders of 37Signals, which teaches how to simplify things and let go of conventional wisdom, doing work that matters and changing the way you work forever. The authors give solid reasons why:
- Meetings are a waste of time
- Long-term business planning is pointless
- Often choosing less is smarter than scaling
- The details aren't as important as most people think, and more.
The book is proof that what we think is right in business, is usually wrong. Its creators have failed, but have also been successful for 15 years and decided to share everything that must be done differently. You can then can stand out from the crowd in such a competitive world, protecting your time and creativity to invest them in what truly matters.
Each time you get advice from the expert, you enter a smart person's mind and learn directly from the source. It's a powerful experience and can be a great inspiration.
14) De-clutter for improvement in productivity
Simplicity goes together with the organization. And living in chaos can only make you less productive. Productivity improvement demands you to de-clutter before taking on your journey to success.
So get rid of the possessions in your home and office that you haven't used in a long time. And put everything else in order. Then, once you take something out of its original place, put it back there.
15) Review your day
I know many people who rarely analyze what they did throughout the day or wonder why they couldn't be more productive. But an assessment every evening can improve your results significantly.
Go over every task you worked on and each thing you did. See how long it took you. Write down how you felt after that and whether you're satisfied with the result. Then, once you know exactly how you spent your time, see what can be eliminated and what should be improved.
Make the necessary changes accordingly. What other time management hacks have you tried or heard of?
Knowing how to reclaim your time, make the most of it, get more done in less time, and never being late or in a hurry – all these are a result of being good at time management. The best use of our time, however, is to focus on the things we can control. These are habits, daily activities, attitude towards life, our mindset, and level of productivity.
Sadly, we rarely realize that early enough, and we keep ourselves busy with unimportant things. But if you recognize your time is money and time management is a powerful skill, you'd love to get better at it.
Therefore, it's time to learn some little productivity and organization hacks that will help you save time for eventually have more of it to yourself.