Are you seeking ways to improve your productivity? Everyone, including students, managers, and entrepreneurs seek better productivity and time management skills. Fields such as time management were popular long before the digital age and they are just as relevant today.
Even as everything is supposedly faster and more efficient today, people still run into the same old challenges, such as lacking time. There are also new ones, such as more distractions with social media, endless texts, and emails. To help you overcome these obstacles to your success, here are five tips to help you improve your productivity and get more accomplished.
One trap to avoid when pursuing enhanced productivity is to leave out activities that foster creativity. Very often, creative solutions come from unexpected sources.
To tap into these areas, it’s best to leave behind your usual reports, textbooks, meetings, or whatever else keeps you busy. While creative pursuits overlap with leisure time, it’s often beneficial to deliberately foster creativity during work hours.
Some examples of how to do this:
Go for solitary walks during lunch or breaks. Keep your phone and other devices off.
Read books or articles that have nothing to do with your field or industry. If you’re in finance, try reading about ancient history, poetry, or wildlife.
Listen to music. Certain types of music, such as classical, are especially good for stimulating creativity. This is something you can do while working alone.
Write down ideas. Writing the old-fashioned way, such as in a notebook or journal, is often effective for stimulating new ideas. If you’re a visual thinker, doodling is another possibility.
Creativity is intelligence having fun. – Albert Einstein
Track Your Time
This is a tip that sounds simple but is quite powerful. It’s also harder to do than it first appears.
You want to identify, as precisely as possible, exactly how you spend your time. The trick is to break this down as much as possible. There are a few ways to better track your time. You can walk around with a notebook or recording device or use one of the apps made for this purpose.
One reason that this is difficult is that the activity itself feels unproductive. It’s fairly distracting to constantly note what you’re doing. However, the benefits are enormous.
You gain insights into what you’re actually doing as opposed to what you think you’re doing. For example, you may find that in a given hour you actually spend 15 minutes working on a project and the rest of the time browsing the internet, writing texts on your phone and daydreaming.
Create a “To Not Do” List
The to-do list is one of the oldest productivity tools of all. Yet, it may actually be more helpful to write a “to not do” or a “stop doing”. When you think about, you’ll probably realize that certain actions get in the way of your productivity. Until you stop doing these things, simply piling more tasks on your to-do list won’t help much.
What you put on your stop doing list really depends on your own habits. Consult the above tip and see how you spend your time. You’ll probably identify certain behaviors that waste more time than you realized. In some cases, it’s not necessary to entirely stop doing something but to do it less. To cover this, word your stop doing list very specifically.
For example, you might put down items such as:
Watching TV after 11 PM (so you get to bed earlier).
Checking email more than 4x per day.
Playing your favorite video game for more than an hour per day.
Like your lists of goals or to-do items, your stop doing list will change over time. Simply keeping such a list helps you refocus your attention as you realize that it’s often more important to quit certain behaviors rather than to set more goals.
Manage Your Energy
Author and CEO of The Energy Project Tony Schwartz recommend that you focus on managing your energy rather than your time. This is a paradigm shift that requires you to understand that your energy is ultimately more important than your time. The problem with the traditional productivity mindset is that it treats you like a machine with endless energy.
If all that counts is productivity, you might conclude that working 18 hours per day and sleeping 4 hours (with 2 hours for breaks) makes sense. Over time, however, such a regimen is likely to destroy your health. In addition, overworking reduces your effectiveness. When you think in terms of managing energy, however, you look at things a little differently. You then see that activities that initially seem like a waste of time have real value. For example:
Rest – While experts suggest getting between 7 and 8 hours per night, adjust this based on your own energy levels. Some people do better sleeping less through the night and taking a nap.
Diet – Eating well is crucial for maintaining energy levels. Aside from eating balanced meals, there’s evidence that eating more slowly is good for your health. This is a perfect example of something that seems unproductive but enhances your overall well-being, making it more productive in the long run.
Leisure– Focusing too intently on one subject is conducive to tunnel vision. Taking time to have fun and explore your interests lets you approach work with a refreshed perspective.
Exercise– Regular exercise is good for your brain as well as your health. In fact, there’s evidence that exercise helps your memory and thinking skills.
Get Better at Failing
While failing sounds like the opposite of productivity, this isn’t always the case.
Seth Godin says,”the person who fails the most wins.” Godin and other successful people advocate “failing fast.”
One of the keys to failing the right way is to admit when something isn’t working. If you continue pursuing a failed strategy, you’re wasting your time and resources, no matter how “productively” you’re moving forward. When you fail fast, you’re open to trying many strategies but also just as willing to let them go when they aren’t working. This ensures that you apply your productivity and time (and energy) management skills on the right projects.
These are some of the most effective ways to enhance your productivity. Fortunately, none of these strategies compels you to work harder or get stressed out. In fact, if you put them into practice you’ll find that you feel more relaxed and in control. In most cases, getting more accomplished isn’t about working harder but rather finding a more creative way to approach tasks.