Updated: Jun 10
I’ll start with the good news. The only person who can make you more productive is you. Nobody else can do that. That’s also the bad news, nobody else can do it for you. People can help you and support you, but you have to do the actual doing.
Now all you have to do is figure out the how. Here’s where I can help. Let me start by saying that if you want to be more productive, you’re already halfway there. It’s a habit and the basis of any successful habit is wanting to do it.
To be more productive you need to put the right habits in place. I’m going to suggest the four most important ones:
1. What time do you start work?
Do you force yourself to start work at 7am because you feel that’s when you need to start only to find that you’re exhausted by 2pm? Not everyone is a morning person no matter how hard they try. I’m not and I have given up trying to change my basic wiring. If it’s possible in your job, start at a time that works best for you. That does mean that you’ll probably have to work a little bit longer in the afternoon (if you’re paid by the hour), but you will get a lot more done in the same number of hours.
If you work for yourself, you’ll find that you’ll need to work fewer hours, because the hours you do work will be during your natural productive time.
2. Do you know the most important tasks for your day?
Do you work from an endless to-do list that contains each and everything you will ever have to do until you retire and gets added to on a daily basis? No wonder you’re not getting anything done. You’re working under constant overwhelm.
Instead, create a list of items that need to get done today (or tomorrow if you’re planning the night before). This list should be no longer than 3-5 items and contain the one thing you need to get done that day to move you towards your main goal. Also make sure that the tasks are actually achievable taking appointments and meetings that are in your diary into account. You want the satisfaction of crossing them off once you’re finished.
3. How do you react to distractions?
Distractions are one of the main productivity killers. It very much depends on how you deal with them, though. Do you give into distractions? This could be immediately jumping on notifications to see what’s just pinged in. Do you get annoyed by distractions? Maybe you’re spending valuable time grumbling about being distracted and annoyed that you’re not getting anything done. What can you do instead?
First up, be aware that distractions are normal and it’s how you deal with them that determines the impact they have on your work. You can minimise distractions (Top Tip: turn off ALL notifications!) but you can’t eliminate them completely. Recognise that you’re being distracted, then get back to work. If it’s stray thoughts disrupting your work flow, simply write down what you need to do about it later. If it’s people, tell them you’ll get back to them later (and reliably do so).
4. What do you do when you don’t feel like working on your tasks?
We don’t always feel like doing the work we need to do. That’s human nature. This is the time when you need to trick yourself into doing the work anyway. For some of us this is easy; you simply do the work anyway. For others (and I count myself in this group), we need to come up with incentives.
Spend a couple of minutes visualising the goal you’re working towards. What will you achieve if you do this task now? If this is simply “I’ll keep my job”, then think of what you will do with your next paycheck.
Another option is thinking of a little reward, something you’ll do immediately once the task is finished. This could be listening to your favourite song, having a treat (chocolate works for me), spend a certain time on a game you enjoy, etc. It doesn’t have to be a big thing.
If you work better with threats than rewards, what do you have to do if you don’t do the task or don’t finish it on time? This could be 20 push-ups or clean the toilet. An accountability buddy can really help with that, someone who will hold you accountable that you complete the task and make sure you do the punishment if you don’t.
How I can help
As a Productivity Coach I teach you a highly personalised set of tools and hacks that you can use to make yourself more productive. The above tips are just a few in my arsenal. I also hold you accountable to stay on track, especially while you are learning the skills and establishing your new habits. This ensures that the tools are not only something you know, but actually use on a day-to-day basis and will help you stay more productive in the long term.