1% Better Than Yesterday

How to be More Productive

“I have so much to do, how can I be more productive?”

In a world that’s busier and more distracting than ever, it’s getting more challenging to stay focused.

Oftentimes, we can confuse ourselves with being productive from being busy.

Being busy is mindless work without necessarily producing any value.

Being productive is more than just checking things off. It’s about focusing on the most important task first and completing it in the most effective, distraction-less manner.

Successful people understand that there is one thing in the world you cannot get back; that is time. Being efficient and productive seems to be a common trait across all successful people.

So how do you do it? How do we maximize output given the same amount of time that we have?


Productivity = Focus + Organization

Before you can sprint at your 100%, you need to know where you’re sprinting towards, ensure there are no obstacles along the way, well unless you’re doing hurdles, and that you’re focused and have enough energy to do so.

Setting a clear direction and goals is essential to being productive. Besides, we also need to be in a good mental and emotional condition in order to be focused and productive.

These are the 8 things you can start incorporating today to boost your productivity:

  1. Start your morning right
  2. Meditate
  3. Identify your top priorities
  4. Give yourself less time to complete a task
  5. Define a time boundary for each of your tasks
  6. Create a distraction list
  7. Incorporate small breaks throughout your day
  8. Make it difficult to be distracted

1. Start your morning right

Mornings are one of the most crucial moments that set the tone for the rest of the day. If you started your day in a bad mood, the rest of it might not go as smoothly. It is important to start your day not thinking about your emails, or checking how many likes you got from the photo you posted on social media last night.

Take it slow, drink plenty of water, have a good breakfast, exercise, or meditate.

2. Meditate

Research has proven that meditation helps with focus. According to research published by Nature Reviews Neuroscience, mindfulness practice not only enhances our attention span but also helps regulate emotion and reduces stress.

You will be able to see a big difference by just practicing 5 minutes a day. I’ve been a believer in meditation since I started 2 years ago, which I will get into in another post.

Check out the other benefits of meditations!

3. Identify your top priorities

We tend to like putting the hard things off, but typically the hard things are what matter to us the most. Would you feel productive if you were able to crank out a bunch of trivial tasks, but left the most important one untouched? Probably not.

To actually be productive, it is crucial that you tackle your top priorities as that will yield the most results. This is well demonstrated by the Pareto Principle. In this context, focusing on the important 20% of tasks will yield 80% of the productivity.

4. Give yourself less time on a task

Have you ever had an experience where you woke up 10 minutes later than usual, but were still able to get to work on time? This is a phenomenon of Parkinson’s Law that states the work will expand to fill up the time you’ve allocated to complete it. If you gave yourself an hour to complete a task, when you actually only need 30 minutes, you’ll most likely fill up that entire hour.

To be more efficient, give yourself slightly less time than needed (without compromising the quality) to complete your task. You’ll be surprised how much more you can get done.

5. Define a time boundary for each of your tasks

Elaborating on the above, and defining a time boundary or deadline for your tasks helps keep you motivated. When we’re under slight pressure, we tend to move a little faster. Personally, I like to give myself an average of 30 minutes to complete a task. If deep work and analysis are required, I’d give it an hour.

Even outside of work, I would set up these time boundaries for my workout, dinner, and “relaxing time”, so that I can use my time more consciously and wisely. I was able to get more things done in a day when I adopted this practice.

6. Create a distraction list

According to the statistics from a team of psychology experts at the Queen’s University in Canada, we go through as many as 6000 thoughts in a day. Assuming most of us are awake 16 hours a day, that is about 6 thoughts per minute on average (this is a conservative number, there are debates saying it’s actually 10x more).

To more effectively manage distractions that pop up, having a list to jot them down can be helpful. Your thoughts deserve your attention, just not when you’re trying to get work done, entertain them later.

7. Incorporate small breaks throughout your day

When work piles up and deadlines creep up, you may feel the need to squeeze in every minute you can to work on your tasks. That, however, has the opposite effect that could lead to stress, burnout, and inability to think critically.

Research published by the University of Illinois stated that a brief mental break can help refocus on your tasks. Some workplaces recognize the importance of breaks and have forced employees to take breaks throughout their day to help boost their productivity.

8. Make it difficult to be distracted

Our mobile devices are probably the most wicked distractor ever. An obvious yet hard thing to do to minimize distraction is putting your phone out of reach. Remember, we don’t like doing the hard stuff. If looking at your phone requires you to get up and walk to another room, it helps ease your temptation.

Another great tip you could use is setting up a “digital wellbeing” on your device where you can specify the apps you want to “lock” until a certain time. I prefer this better because you don’t have to worry about missing important phone calls and at the same time, you won’t be able to use the apps that distract you. Android has a built-in feature for digital wellbeing. There are also many apps out there you can use for free. 


Conclusion

There are habits and little things we can do to boost our productivity either at work or in life in general. It will take time to apply them in your routine but practice and consistency are key. 

These are the 8 things you can start incorporating today to boost your productivity:

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