Do you ever feel so overloaded at work that it seems like there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done? In fact, a recent Gallup study revealed that about two-thirds of full-time workers experience burnout on the job with one of the main reasons being unmanageable workload. So, what’s the answer? Work more hours? Well, according to another study published by John Pencavel of Stanford University, employee productivity falls sharply after a 50-hour work-week. So essentially someone who puts in 70 hours produces nothing more with those extra 20 hours. Since we can’t create more hours (I know, wouldn’t that be awesome!) here are some valuable ways to increase your productivity so you can work smarter instead of harder.
Create a done list
Most people focus on to-do lists, but few create a DONE list. A to-do list is a great tool, but have you ever had that experience where you created a laundry list of things to get done, and all it did was overwhelm you and stress you out? Personally, I’m a big fan of to-do lists, but sometimes things stay on that list for A LONG TIME staring me in the face. At one point I remember just removing a few items after a while because I was tired of being reminded of what I hadn’t done yet. That’s because I wasn’t creating a done list. Research suggests that one of the most powerful ways to stay motivated is to focus on the progress we’re making. A done list is a log of the things that you’ve accomplished. This gives you a sense of achievement, heightens positive emotions and helps you to stay motivated. Some ways to implement this at work include:
- Set aside 15 minutes once a week to document your wins for the week
- Keep a done list for all your projects and share them regularly with your manager
- Ask your team to start their meetings with recent successes and progress reports rather than what still needs to get done. You’ll find it easier to keep your employees motivated and happy.
Tim Ferriss, Tools of Titans author and podcaster, says that single-tasking in a digital world is a superpower. You want to develop that superpower because it’s well-known that multi-tasking is inefficient and counterproductive. What’s happening when we think we’re multitasking is that we’re actually task shifting. The problem with that is that each time we shift from one task to another, it takes time for our brain to refocus (about 23 minutes to be exact). Research suggests that multitasking can reduce productivity by as much as 40%. So how do we learn to single-task? Removing unnecessary distractions is a good start. For example, if you want to plan on doing any deep work, like research or writing, schedule that time on your calendar and protect it like you would any meeting. Another suggestion is to turn your phone on airplane mode for several hours at a time while you work on an important project (believe me those emails and texts will all be waiting for you when you turn it back on). And finally, there are many apps out there that can help. One is the Freedom app. This is a great little tool that allows you to block websites and apps or the entire internet if you want to. You can even schedule blocks in advance that will begin automatically.
Start with your MITs
MIT stands for “most important task” (this is separate from your to-do list). Ask yourself the following question every morning: “What are the two or three most important things that I could do today that will help move me closer to my goals?” These are usually the things that are critical and will create the most significant results. Another idea is to identify your MITs the night before so that you’re mentally prepared to tackle them in the morning. Create a list of two to three MITs every day and focus on completing them as soon as possible. Try to structure your day to ensure your MITs get done first, before anything else. Some ways of doing this could include blocking off time on your calendar every morning as well as setting an artificial deadline for yourself—say 10am. Setting a deadline is an effective productivity-enhancing technique because if you do encounter any unnecessary interruptions, it will be easier to say no. The reason for this is that you’ve already mentally flagged these tasks as being important.
By following these three simple tricks, you will finally be able to take control of your day and boost your productivity. Remember it’s not how hard you work but how much you get done that matters!
Do you have any additional productivity hacks that work for you? Please share them in the comments below!