Maintaining productivity is something everyone struggles with. Even if you’re working on a project that you enjoy. You can still become unmotivated and unproductive. But, don’t worry, there are plenty of ways to get you out of that slump.
Productivity can mean different things for different people. And we all work in different ways. So we need different methods of remaining motivated and productive. Here are some of the best top tips for a productive day.
1. Make a Flexible Schedule
When first beginning a piece of work, it can be overwhelming to see all the tasks that you have ahead of you. This can result in some people procrastinating and not getting on with their work. Even if the tasks are small and easy.
One way to overcome this is to make a schedule. Break everything down into small steps. And work on the first one in front of you. Then move on to the next. Chopping and changing between tasks might make you feel productive. But it can cause you to become tired and unmotivated. Then, when you start to feel unproductive, you will have some tasks only half done.
But, this is where flexibility comes in. Even if your schedule is perfectly organized and you know exactly what you’re doing, things can always go wrong. It might seem impossible to plan for something to go wrong. But you always need to be ready for this. And be ready to adapt your schedule. This will stop you from stalling and having to throw everything away and start again.
2. Adapt to Your Own Rhythms
When creating this schedule, you need to acknowledge how you work. If you have flexible working hours, make sure to schedule your time for when you are most productive. If you find that you produce most of your work in the afternoon, then schedule your hours for 12pm to 8pm.
People who are night owls or prefer to sleep later are often considered to be lazy. But this definitely isn’t the case. People have different circadian rhythms. And this can have a huge impact on when you are productive.
This might not be possible if your work regularly involves meetings with people who work a more standard Monday to Friday 9 to 5. But you can still work around this. If you can, organize meetings for later in the day. Or even in the mornings. Then use the afternoon to complete the bulk of your work.
3. To-Do Lists Are Essential
Making a schedule for a big project can help. But planning ahead doesn’t have to mean making a plan for the whole week or month. Just making a to-do list at the start of your day or the night before will help.
To-do lists are one of the easiest ways to keep track of your work. And remind yourself of the tasks you have laid out ahead. Just make sure that your to-do lists are in-line with your schedule. The most organized option is to make an overarching schedule for the project. Then a to-do list every morning.
This will help you to organize your day. But make sure that you don’t overload your to-do list. Be realistic about the time you have. And factor in how long each task will likely take. Give yourself a break. And remember that it’s okay to fall off the schedule a little. As with a flexible schedule, you can easily get back on track.
Overloading your to-do list with unachievable tasks will only make you feel as though you’re failing and falling behind. Even if you’re not. This will be detrimental to your productivity. Especially if you’re an “all or nothing” kind of worker.
4. Try the Pomodoro Method
If you struggle to organize your own time, the pomodoro method is an easy way to help. The pomodoro method involves working for a period of 20 or 25 minutes, then taking a 5-minute break. This is repeated three or four times. Then you have a slightly longer break.
This breaks down your day. So you will only need to think about the next 20 minutes of work you have to do. This is especially useful if you need to focus on a big project. Or struggle to maintain focus for long periods of time. Some people can easily focus for hours. But this is impossible for others.
Be sensible and realistic about your attention span. Forcing yourself to work when your brain isn’t engaged is only going to result in you producing poor work.
This is also super useful if you struggle to ignore your phone while working. This can often be a problem for people who work alone or at home. You can use the 5-minute breaks to look at your phone. And then ignore it when you’re working. Timing your breaks will also stop that “quick 2-minute break” accidentally becoming half an hour.
5. Remember to Rest
This is a super important one. It’s a tired saying but it’s true. “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” Resting will help to revive you and allow you to produce better results. There is no point in powering through when you’re tired. As you will only be producing work that will need changing later on.
Working late or working long hours is often seen as an act of dedication. But it won’t help if you are burnt out and can’t produce anything of value. Rest doesn’t always have to mean sleep. It can simply mean taking a break to go for a walk around the block. Or preferably a park.
Giving your mind a break will allow you to come back refreshed and ready to carry on. It’s a bit like turning your computer off and on again when it’s becoming slow.
Taking breaks can also mean spending time doing things outside of work. Even if your job is incredibly important, you need to take time away from it. Remember to always use your holidays and days off. They will help you to give your best to that important work when you return.
6. Learn How to Say No
This might seem counterproductive. But saying no to meetings that you don’t really need to go to is incredibly important. This is an act of prioritization. You need to prioritize your time as well as your tasks.
You will be spending time and energy on something that isn’t necessarily important. Then you will be too tired to work on the tasks that actually require your attention. This also means knowing when to say no to other projects.
This can involve telling your manager when you’re at capacity. Or, if you’re self-employed, acknowledging that other opportunities will come along. Focus on what you’re doing now and do it well. Then move on to the next project.
7. Perfectionism is Pointless
This is another tired but true phrase. “Perfectionism is the enemy of done”. If you continue to reread and redo your work, then it will never be good enough. Especially if you continuously change things. Sometimes you can over-edit a piece of work. And it will become worse than before.
When it comes to work, there is no such thing as perfect. Remember that you are human and can only do your best. You have been hired because your employer knows that you can do your job well. So write the report, send it to your manager, and move on to the next thing.
And if they come back with edits, then that is okay! Your manager isn’t going to be disappointed or want to fire you because you need to change a line in a piece of work. This is how collaborative work environments operate. It’s better to send over something that is good enough, than to spend hours working on something that will only result in a “Thanks” from the recipient.
8. Start Your Day With Exercise
A lot of people perceive exercise as always being exhausting and tiring. But this doesn’t have to be the case. Any kind of exercise, from running to yoga to a walk around the park, will help wake you up in the morning.
Exercising in the morning will almost make you feel as though you have already been productive. Then you can ride that wave of energy and productivity into your work day. You will feel fresher and more alive after even the smallest workout.
9. “Swallow the Frog”
This is a strange phrase, but it essentially means that you need to do the worst task first. If you’re putting off work because you have a task that you don’t want to do, then chances are you won’t do anything. Even if every other task on your to-do list is enjoyable.
Once you start your work day, do the piece of work that you have been putting off. Chances are, it will be much easier and take less time than you expected. Then, you can spend the rest of the day working on nicer tasks. And feel proud and productive that you managed to get the horrible task done straight away.
10. Delegate Properly
If you are in a position to delegate, then you need to learn how to do this properly. This can mean giving someone who is junior to you some of the workload. Or it can mean outsourcing some work if you’re self-employed.
Delegating doesn’t mean that you’re being lazy or not doing your own work. Remember, other people work at your organization for a reason. And other companies exist to provide work and support. If you are self-employed, you can outsource small aspects of your work to other small businesses. This will also help you to create a network. As well as support other small businesses.
If you work in a large organization, giving smaller tasks to junior staff members can help them to learn. You can take on the role of mentor and help them to develop their skills. You can still look over the work and change it if it isn’t completely up to scratch. Just make sure to allow them to do the work themselves first. Then you can help them with any corrections.
This will help you to carry on with other tasks that are a higher priority. And you won’t be overwhelmed with work. Or feel as though you’re ignoring something more important when working on smaller tasks. Remember that you don’t have to do everything yourself! (Even if you think that you could do it better…)