Productivity is important to all working professionals, since high levels of productivity means a lot of work is getting done.
One of the difficult things to do is to increase productivity levels, as we all have tendencies to plateau. Despite these tendencies, there are still ways to increase productivity levels. I used to be a rather unproductive person, but I’ve managed to double my productivity levels since the beginning of the year, using these 7 methods.
1. Keep a To Do List and Schedule
I used to abhor to do lists and schedules. I thought of them as barriers and restrictors, things that I had to fight against. Having a schedule placed upon me made me felt caged in.
That is, until I actually started making my own to do lists and schedules.
You see, I never trusted to do lists and schedules until the beginning of 2018. Before then I never thought that writing down what I needed to do would make much difference in how I worked.
But then I started writing down what I wanted to get done over the course of a day or a week, and suddenly I was getting all of my work done on time, and I was no longer forgetting to do things either.
So I kept making to do lists and schedules. Right now I’ve been experimenting with the best format for my to do lists, and I’ve ruled out using notes on my phone or computer, or using email. So far writing things down on paper work best, but I’m still experimenting with different methods.
2. Make Concrete Goals
Concrete goals are goals with both a task and a deadline.
I need deadlines in order to get work done, so now I make sure that everything has a soft deadline and a hard deadline. The soft deadline is the time at which I want to have something completed, and the hard deadline is when it needs to be finished.
For example, all of my blog posts have a hard deadline of 12 hours before they are scheduled to be published. I publish posts in the mornings, and I sleep through the night, so finishing blog posts the night before ensures that I have a couple of extra hours to make last minute changes.
My soft deadline for blog posts depends on how much of a buffer I have, but I usually aim for completing 5 blog posts a week, so I tend to group my soft deadlines together.
Art is a little more tricky for me, since I’m rather slow at it, and I also have to spend a lot of time correcting mistakes. While I would like to be able to complete one step of my process each day, I often find myself having to spend 2 or 3 days on each step because of how much time I spend correcting things. There are only 4 – 5 steps in my process, but most art pieces take more than a week for me to complete, sometimes even 2 weeks.
So instead of giving myself day long or week long goals for art pieces, I give myself month long goals. I’ll choose a task (such as make a self portrait, or complete 2 pieces) and then give myself an entire month to do that.
3. Take Frequent Breaks
Taking frequent, but short, breaks throughout your work day is a good way to keep your energy levels up.
During my breaks I like to walk around, drink some water, stretch, and sometimes I have a small snack.
When taking these breaks, it’s important to keep them short and simple. Otherwise you may become too distracted to return to work. Unless I’m taking a longer break (e.g. a lunch break), I try to avoid doing things that will take more than 10 minutes to complete.
The frequency of breaks varies from person to person, but I find myself naturally taking small breaks every hour or so. If I’m having a difficult day then my breaks usually happen every 30 to 45 minutes.
4. Remove Distractions
Distractions are total productivity killers, and so there are rooms that I avoid working in, or situations that I avoid working under, in order to prevent distractions from coming up.
Noises are one of my worst enemies when it comes to my productivity, so I do my best to avoid working in a room where I can hear music or the sounds of a TV (I work at home). I rarely ever listen to music myself, unless I cannot find anywhere quiet and need music to drown out something even more distracting.
Another thing that I find distracting are visuals of things I’d rather be doing. I rarely work in the downstairs’ living area, since it’s difficult to find a place to sit where I can’t see the TV and my video game console. When working upstairs, I make sure my back is turned to the TV.
I work most often in my room, so I have the furniture arranged in a way that makes it difficult for me to see my bed from my desk, since being able to see my bed just makes me want to sleep.
Doing all those things took time, especially finding the ideal furniture layout in my room, but it was definitely worth it in the end.
5. Block Out Disruptive Noises
If you find that noises disrupt you, but you can’t find a reprieve for them, try to find ways to block them out instead.
There are times that I just can’t find silence in the house, so I just find ways to block out the noises that I do hear. I prefer natural sounds when trying to block out noises, such as pouring rain or gusts of wind, but I can’t control the weather, so I’ve found other methods.
One of my favorite ways to block out sounds is wearing earbuds or headphones without any noises playing through them. They help block soundwaves, and they’re comfortable to wear, so they help a bit. Sometimes I also like wearing a hood or hat to block out noises. I’m usually cold, so hoods and hats keep me warm as a bonus.
When worse comes worse, and I desperately need to block out noises, I stick to the soundtracks of my favorite video games. A good sound track is designed to keep you focused without distracting you, so they’re usually the best option when it comes to listening to music.
6. Simplify Your Goals
Sometimes I begin to become unproductive because of an overwhelming number of goals or tasks that I want to complete. When that’s the case, I try to simplify them.
I do this most often by only focusing on one kind of work each day. Unless my schedule is messed up by a holiday or special event, I rarely focus on writing and editing on the same day, I usually alternate.
Because of this, I tend to structure my day around just 2 simple goals:
- Writing or editing in the mornings
- Art or other activities in the afternoon
My structure is simple, easy to remember, and caters to the way my energy declines throughout the day, so keeping this work schedule is best for me.
If you find yourself getting overwhelmed and distracted by the amount of work you have to do, try simplifying things as much as possible, to see if it helps you feel better.
7. Keep Track of What Motivates You and Why
Lastly, you should keep track of what motivates you and why, so that you can utilize it to your advantage.
Here are some of the things that motivate me:
Thinking about the future. Planning for and thinking about the future motivates me because it allows me to see where I’m going in life. It also calms me down, since most of my anxieties stem from insecurities and uncertainties about my path in life.
Lists of goals. Having a list of my goals makes me feel as if I’m playing a quest based video game, which makes my work more enjoyable. It also gives me a solid idea of what I need to accomplish, and helps me visualize how I’m going to do things.
Think about the things that motivate you, and write them down. Then figure out why they motivate you, so that you can use them to help you get more work done.
Increasing your productivity levels isn’t too difficult when you know what you need to be doing, when it needs to be finished by, and what you can do to create extra motivation for yourself. That’s what I did, and I just about doubled my productivity levels.