10 ways to increase your productivity: shut off distractions and get to work!
This is a very easy to follow ten step guide to increase your productivity and get the work done. So, let´s get started:
- Don´t look at your phone!
- Shut off all distractions.
- Stop constantly checking your emails.
Sounds easy right? But for many of us this is the most difficult part, which keeps us from doing the work. Many of us are online most of the day (and night). Our smartphone has nearly become a body part for us: while we are having a shower, we are listening to music. When cooking, it displays the newest recipe. Leaving the house: it guides us the way and keeps us informed timely (News, Emails, Social Media). During the night, it waits beside our bed to wake us up in the morning.
We are constantly bombarded with a flood of information, therefore staying concentrated and focused becomes harder and harder. But there are some easy tricks, which help us to focus and get the work done. Becoming more productive is not about the most inventive method for prepping our creativity, it is about eliminating distractions.
Switching off the phone is the immediate task at hand – and the hardest.
Switch off the phone and follow these steps:
Set your tasks for the day
Make a plan for the day and stick to it. Stop cheating: list all tasks, which have to be done: e.g. write an article, research for the new project, Sport, call with your mum, kid’s appointments, etc. We often feel, that we haven´t done A THING throughout the day, because we think that these doesn´t matter. Acknowledged that you have to take care of the household, walk the dog, make the filing, call your parents and make dinner. It is not necessary to list all those tasks, just list slots for “family time” or “miscellaneous”. It also makes it easier to optimize your day. Walk the dog, when you need a break or call your mum on your way to an appointment.
The earlier you start your day, the better. We all know that people have different biorhythms, some are more productive in the morning, others in the evening. But research has shown, that for many of us, the early morning hours are the most productive ones of the day. Our brain is still fresh and not overloaded with the impressions of the day (if you have followed the general rule – switch off your phone). If you prefer walking the dog first – great! The fresh air will pump your lungs, unless you ware yourself out so much, that all you want to do is rest on the couch. Take the early hours to do the hard work, you will be very happy, once they are done.
Switch to your working place
Since a lot of us are still working at home, it is important to appoint a working place without distractions. This was one of the most important learnings for me: I tried to work at the dining table, but the mess around me made me crazy. I also prefer to have a quit space (working in a café does distract me too much) with the possibility to squeeze in some short household tasks, so I decided to go to the rooftop studio to avoid distractions (e.g. sound of the finished washing machine). But once I´m ready for a break, I can quickly hang the laundry and set the next one into gear, before I grab my coffee for a short break.
Our mind cannot focus, if it´s been distracted all the time. Do you really need the phone at your desk? Good, keep it beside you but mute all push-up notices to not get distracted by what´s going on in the world or by your social media channels. You can also turn the screen around, so you won´t see it brighten with incoming messages. Don´t answer the phone, if it´s ringing but the caller doesn´t classify as urgent. If your family is at home, make sure they know you are working and need some time without distractions. It is up to you, to decide when to react and when to work.
Tackle the hardest part of the day first
The morning is the best part of the day. Don´t waste precious time with making phone calls or doing the filing. Start with something, which fully needs your attention. When our brain is fresh and rested, we able to come up with new ideas and find new solutions. Later the day, this task may seem unfinishable, whereas now, it is possible, and you will be happy to delete it from the list.
Whether you work on a written task, you design a new layout or go through your excel files, don´t switch between the tasks. Science has proven, that multitasking reduces the productivity by up to 50 percent. If you constantly switch to your email browser or “quickly pass your colleague the requested file”, your mind is so distracted by what it has seen or done, that you will need valuable time to get back into the topic, before the next click will disturb you again.
Work uninterrupted for at least 90 minutes
Researchers have found out, that we are highly productive, if we are working in a 90-minute rhythm. If you have followed the steps 4 – 6, this shouldn´t be a problem. But remember: our brain is tricky. You´ve finally sat down in front of your computer and started to work? Already 10 minutes later your body is telling you it´s so thirsty, it can hardly continue the work. You need to do some research, but ups, you accidently opened the browser and see the email with the latest fashion sales– wouldn´t it be nice to be the first before the right sizes are sold out? Don´t give in! Even your boss can wait for the answer to her latest email, that´s how she knows, you are really working.
Build in breaks and reward yourself
Breaks are a valuable source of new energy. My workday is attached to my family’s life (afternoon activities, doctors’ appointments, housework), which needs to fit in between. Therefore, I do have natural breaks. My problems are not the breaks, but to make sure, I have enough time to work uninterruptedly. For you it may be the other way around: you are completely free in organizing your day and you have this urgent task, which needs to be finished, so you can´t stop working. Try to build in natural breaks. You will be way more productive, if you take a short rest, get some fresh air or stretch your muscles, before you continue.
Split the work in smaller doable chunk
Often times we are overwhelmed by the load of work we have to do. It´s like sitting at the base of a mountain and not being able to make one single step. Splitting the work is like hiking: instead of looking at the cross far away you look at the next stone ahead, the next green bush or the sign, which shows the way. Divide your work into smaller doable chunks. See how rewarding it feels to get closer to the top by taking one step at a time.
Rework your goals for the next day/the week/the month.
Once you are done for the day, it´s good to risk a short look at the tasks for tomorrow, so you are already aware of what´s coming. You will be much more effective, if your work is planned in advance. If you need longer with one task, you can adjust it in your weekly schedule and won´t get overwhelmed with the tightening schedule. You will realize how much more work you will get done, once you start to eliminate the distractions. Enjoy the positive feeling of being in-line with your planning!
“Distraction is the only thing that consoles us for our miseries. Yet it is itself the greatest of our miseries.”