“I’m so busy.” It’s a constant refrain for humans in this day and age. We’re working, we’re running businesses, we’re spending time with our families and friends, and we’re out there giving back in ways that matter to help make the world better. We do it all on some level to achieve productivity and success. The definitions vary from person to person, but we all want to get things done and reach our personal version of success.
The two are intertwined. To achieve success, one must be productive. Successfully productive! Here are some tips I’ve incorporated in my life and work that increase my own productivity.
1) Take a break
Just because you have work to do doesn’t mean you should keep working. During a certain season of the year, a close friend of mine is in high demand at work. They are often working 12- and 13-hour days for roughly six months of the year. As you would expect, it is draining and they reach a burnout point every year.
You need a break before you reach burnout, though. Recently, I told my friend that they needed to take a day off. After taking my advice (whew!), they returned to work feeling a lot better.
The same goes for smaller chunks of time during the day. Making mistakes, getting easily distracted, avoiding tasks – all signs you might actually need to do something else for a while.
Get some rest. Recharge. I promise you’ll be more productive. And if you need help establishing a new break habit, one of these apps might work for you. All-nighters may seem like a good idea (especially to night owls like me), but they aren’t your friend if getting things done is important to you.
If you need a break on June 22nd, join us at the WBN Golf Tournament!
2) Eliminate productivity killers
Have you figured out the things that negatively impact your productivity? Noises are a huge problem for me. I rarely ever go work at a coffee shop because the chatter and other noises repeatedly shatter my concentration. Open concept workspaces are the worst, in my humble opinion. I love working from home because I have a dedicated space that is away from chores and other potential distractions.
Social media is another potential distraction so I try to limit my access to work tasks only when I need to get things done for myself or clients. I’m a big fan of shutting down my email and every other notification-bearing app (Do Not Disturb is a wonderful thing) while I’m working on tasks that require heavy thinking and research.
Make your own list of productivity killers and then figure out how you can eliminate them!
3) Do more with less time
It sounds counter-intuitive, but working longer hours doesn’t mean you’re going to get more done. Not only do you need a break, you probably just need to work less to increase your productivity if you’re already putting in 40-hours a week.
4) Multitasking is a myth
The belief that we can do multiple tasks at once has gotten so pervasive because of the intense push to always do more, be more, deliver more, and show the utmost efficiency in every task you perform. The problem is that trying to do more than one thing at a time usually means you’re not doing one or more of the tasks you’re attempting very well.
As a writer, and an avid reader, I dearly wish my brain had the capacity to compartmentalize to the point that I could spend my entire day writing intelligently while listening to audiobooks. Sadly, my writing suffers a great deal when I try and I just end up having to rewind a lot. I think my clients are grateful that I don’t attempt to do both at once. I wish that I could scroll through Twitter and have a conversation with my husband. Unfortunately, he makes fun of the long pauses as I attempt to process questions he’s asked that I’m expected to respond to even as I’m trying to comprehend what I’m reading.
There is probably no better example of the myth of multitasking than texting and driving.
What most of us call multitasking is actually switch-tasking, and it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Tackle your task list one item at a time and the whole list will get done faster and more efficiently.
5) Your well-being matters
I think we’ve all had those days when we just weren’t feeling up to par. Life happens. Weather happens. Sickness happens. All of these have an impact on your productivity, according to a 2014 study that found happiness makes workers more productive. This underlines the importance of taking good care of ourselves physically, mentally, and emotionally so that we can optimize our life and work experience.
Bonus: Not your genius work? Outsource.
Talk to your boss and co-workers to find ways to ensure your task list is filled with tasks well-suited to your strengths. (Of course, we’re all going to have those tasks we don’t particularly love!) Not a bookkeeper? Hire one! Marketing isn’t your gift? There’s someone out there who can help.
Don’t add to your stress and distractions by trying to carry on doing tasks that frustrate and bog you down. If you have to spend 4 hours to do something that takes someone else 1 hour, you’re sure to come out ahead.
WBN President, 2015-16
Karen C. Wilson Communications