Up until they discover time travel, there will only be 24 hours in a day. You’ll probably only get a third of this to earn your income. If you have special hobbies or kids, then you can’t even count on that. Even when people are at work for eight hours, the number of hours they’re productive for is much lower than the expected eight hours. What all this should show you isn’t that you’ll be working into the twilight of your life. Instead, it should show you that it isn’t about quantity as it is about quality. Actionably speaking, you need to boost your productivity if you want to get ahead in life.
You need to boost your productivity, regardless of whether you’re in an entry level position or the head honcho of a stable business. This is especially true if you’re hard working. If you’re hard working then you’re already utilising all your available time. For you, the trick will now be to learn to utilise this time better so that you can get more done in the same amount of time. This is what we mean by “boost your productivity”. Here are some ideas on how you can go about doing this.
Boost Your Productivity Hack #1: Prepare For the Day
The best way to boost your productivity is to prepare for the day in advance. This could mean preparations on the previous day or even preparations in the first 15 minutes of the new day. You should prepare for the day by creating a to-do list and then scheduling for the day.
Making the list is important so that tasks don’t get forgotten. Scheduling is important because even tasks on to-do lists can be neglected when there are too many to handle. Scheduling will allow you to assign specific time periods for each task on your list. It will bring clarity in terms of not only what you need to do but also at what time.
However, in order to be effective, both these hacks need to be implemented in the right way. You can’t have macro tasks on your list and you can’t schedule the next whole week for such tasks. You need to drill down into specific components of bigger tasks and define how much time each of them will take.
For example, you cannot put down “build a website” as a task and then schedule it for the next 15 days. You’ll need to break it down into smaller tasks such as pick colour scheme, write content, choose images, make a wire frame, make mood boards, code the website, do SEO etc.
Another thing to remember is that you can’t put unappetising tasks at the end of your list. That way you’ll never get to them. Neither can you put them at the beginning of your schedule. That way you’ll end up delaying everything. You should ideally alternate unwanted tasks with tasks that you enjoy.
It might also be a good idea to put all small tasks at the beginning of your schedule. Small tasks can be defined as anything that will take less than two minutes to complete. This will ensure that these tasks don’t become bigger due to neglect. More importantly, finishing multiple smaller tasks early will also put in the positive and achieving frame of mind.
Boost Your Productivity Hack #2: Define and Utilise Power Hours
Productivity can be defined as the best utilisation of time possible. This means achieving as much as possible within a time frame. This may seem highly intangible and subjective but it isn’t. Productivity studies have actually been conducted that reveal the amount of time you need to work and the amount of time you need to not work to be most productive.
As per the study linked above, if you want to be most productive, you need to work for 52 minutes and then take a break of 17 minutes. This works because this routine emphasises focused working or “deep work” over working with a scattered mind. We’ll call these 52 minute periods “power hours” for convenience sake because they help you power through your tasks.
Boost Your Productivity Hack #3: Choose Between Minimalism and Free Rein
Your surroundings have a major impact on how you work. The way your desk looks, the way your room looks and even the way you’re dressed is of significance to your state of mind. So, the big question is: should you keep your surroundings neat and minimalistic or colourful and bright?
The answer depends on the nature of your work. If your work requires you to be creative, then you can get away with chaotic surroundings. However, if you need to be metronomic at work, then you’ll do well with minimalistic surroundings. Both these scenarios have actually been proven by independent studies.
There was a study in 2013 that claimed that you can be more creative if your desks are messy and another study in 2011 that stated that multiple things in your field of vision will prevent you from focusing on the task at hand. Both studies are worth listening to but you’ll have to decide which one suits your nature of work more.
Boost Your Productivity Hack #4: Drown Out Background Noise
The 2011 study linked in the third hack has relevance to this point as well. That study actually talks about multiple stimuli in a person’s field of vision. It says that these stimuli will compete with each other for neural attention in the viewers’ bodies. Even though that study focused on visual stimuli, the same logic holds true for aural stimuli.
Background noise i.e. the type of sounds you find in offices can easily be a distracting element when you’re trying to be productive. Therefore, it stands to reason that one of the easiest ways to boost your productivity is to drown out background noise. The best way to do this would be to use noise cancelling earphones. You can even play some background music if that helps you focus.
Background noise can also be figurative i.e. notifications that we’re inundated with on an everyday basis. This is possibly the easiest to deal with. Simply turn off all irrelevant personal notifications when you need to work hard.
Boost Your Productivity Hack #5: Organise Your Emails
Emails have been and will always be one of the most insidious anti-productive elements in offices. While “meetings” come real close, at least they need to be scheduled. Emails are just always getting in the way, what with formal statements and verifiable documents. On top of this, emails also appear under the guise of entertainment, education, and information. In essence, emails can get in the way of you being productive in various ways.
Unfortunately, they are nearly inescapable. They can, however, be managed. The trick is to use labels and filters. Labels will allow you to be decisive about your emails i.e. respond to them, act on them, delete them, or even archive them. You need to create labels in which all your emails can be sorted. Once you have these ready, you can keep them from intruding in your schedules.
Filters are even more excellent when it comes to managing your inbox. Use labels and filters in conjunction and you can have your emails managed automatically. All it takes is to set these filters up once and you’ll be free of your emails forever. Well, nearly.