We’ve all wished for an extra hour every single day, so that we can get more things done. But, as sad as it is, time is a limited resource and we cannot have more of it per day. Which means that we need to use our precious time wisely, especially when the modern world we work in expects maximum productivity from everybody.
Whether you are working or studying, you probably want to get things done as fast as possible, so that you have more time for hobbies, friends, and family. However, staying focused and productive is not an easy task. And it’s even more challenging nowadays when many of us work from home, where the environment is often quite distracting.
In this article, we will talk about things that can lower our productivity levels, and we’ll look at steps you can take to improve it, this way you’ll get the most out of each day.
What lowers productivity?
Before we dive into ways to be more productive, let's discuss common reasons for low productivity.
- Sleep deprivation. We need a set amount of sleep. Cutting an hour or two off our sleep cycle is not going to help us. In fact, sleep deprivation can significantly lower productivity. Make sure you get enough sleep because when you do, you’ll notice that you’ll be able to concentrate and make better decisions at work and in life.
- Stress and anxiety do not only harm our physical and mental health, but they damage our ability to stay focused and to remain productive. This inevitably leads to reduced creativity and a higher error rate at work. If you are struggling with stress or anxiety, it’s essential to acknowledge the issue, determine the source, and to find a way of managing them.
- Distracting environment. We all face distractions at work every single day. There are some unavoidable distractions like co-workers with urgent questions or outside traffic. But considering the fact that it takes about 25 minutes to refocus after each distraction, it’s a good idea to eliminate the distractions in work that we can control. So, turn off social media and email notifications, use noise-cancelling headphones, and put your smartphone in a drawer - doing these things will help you to become more productive.
- Lack of motivation. Have you ever found yourself in a place where you have a lot of urgent tasks to do, but no motivation at all to work on them. So, in the end you go to bed to watch Netflix? Well, the truth is, you are not alone loads of people feel this way. At some point, we all go through days when our energy is extremely low, and trying to find a tiny chunk of motivation is hard. There are a number of reasons why we feel like this, it could be tiredness, low self-esteem, or feeling overwhelmed by a task. The key is to find the reason so you can fix the problem. Sometimes all we need to do is take a short break from work, remind ourselves of the important things we have already achieved, and divide a task into smaller pieces - this will increase productivity in the end.
Now that you know what things can lower your productivity and how to address these issues, let's look at some simple but effective strategies to help you improve your overall productivity.
How to improve your productivity?
If you feel that you need to get more things done, instead of increasing your working or studying hours, focus on things that will help you to use your time smarter. Here are some tips on where to start.
- Track time. Before attempting to improve anything, it’s always good to analyze your current situation. Time tracking is an excellent way of monitoring the time it takes you to complete various tasks. Ask yourself, how much time do you spend on each task? And, are those tasks equally important? Once you have this information, you can determine which areas need to be changed or modified. Time tracking tools like Toggle, Harvest, or RescueTime can be of great help.
- Stop multitasking. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that taking care of two or three small tasks at once will save you time. It does not work like that. Plan, prioritize and concentrate on just one thing at a time. This way, you will finish your work faster and with fewer errors.
- Take breaks. Humans can stay focused on a task for a limited time only, so giving your mind and body time to recharge is crucial for productivity. You can try the popular Pomodoro technique. The idea here is simple; you alternate 25-minutes of work with 5 minutes of rest, and after four rounds you take a longer break of 15-30 minutes to refresh. If you feel that more extended intervals would work better for you feel free to adjust this schedule. The main point is to take regular breaks.
- Figure out your peak hours. Some people are more productive in the morning, and others work better in the evening. Understanding when you are the most creative and energized is key to creating a schedule that works for you. Think about the most important task you have to complete and plan to do it during your peak hours.
- Follow the "two-minute rule." If you see that you have a task that you can do in two minutes or less, don’t waste precious time adding it to your to-do-list - just do it immediately! You will be surprised at how quick this simple rule can boost your productivity!
- Done is better than perfect. Remember that in many cases, perfectionism is just another form of procrastination. Complete a task to the best of your ability and move on.
Make these small changes in the way you work, and you will see that you get more tasks done in a shorter time. And you will also feel more productive!
How to stay focused while working from home?
With the pandemic outbreak spreading around the world, more people are now working from home. We are all now facing new challenges while working in this new environment, and staying productive is a big problem for lots of people.
Here are some additional tips on how to stay productive when you are working from home.
- Create a schedule and stick to it. It’s not that easy to maintain a work-life balance when your job has moved into your living room. So, assign yourself ‘work hours’ and do not attempt to finish tasks outside these hours. All the other time is ‘home time’.
- Get dressed. Staying in your pajamas the whole day long might be tempting, but this will definitely lower your productivity. Instead, help your brain to get ready for work by giving it some signals you are about to start work. Basically, do the things you’d usually do before you went to work - take a shower, brush your hair, and get dressed.
- Designate a workspace. Of course, not everyone has a separate office in their home, but at least set aside some space where you can focus on your work and keep it organised.
- Get outside. Do not underestimate the power of sunlight and fresh air. Even a quick walk around the block can do wonders for your productivity levels.
Hopefully, these tips will help you to remain productive during the next few months and beyond.
But, don’t worry if some days you don’t feel productive because that’s only natural. Be kind to yourself and remember that you can't become more productive overnight - it takes time. Making new habits is a gradual process, so be patient.