Updated: May 30, 2020
Most people are busy, but not all of them are productive. Busy could simply mean you’re occupied with trivial matters. On the other hand, being productive means you’re producing results.
Have you ever finished a day of work and felt that you did not really accomplish anything? That could mean you were just busy — doing non-essential tasks or worse, doing the work of others.
Meanwhile, to be productive is to have an outcome at the end of the day. Or at the very least, to make good progress towards an important goal.
It is essential to learn how to increase productivity if you want to succeed. And below are some tips, which has helped me for many years to improve how I work.
Learn to Say NO
Often, our time is unnecessarily spent on doing stuff with little importance. That’s why it’s important to learn when to say NO.
If you really can’t afford to spare the time, then say NO to your colleague who needs help with their work. Bravely say NO to attending office meetings with no clear agenda.
Moreover, say NO to your friends who wants to chat online. Say NO to yourself who wants to indulge in water cooler gossip.
This is one of the best ways to overcome procrastination. First and foremost, if a task takes less than five minutes to do, then just do it now. No excuses.
On the other hand, if something takes longer to do and you’re feeling lazy, then just force yourself to do the task. After five minutes, if you’re still not feeling it, then stop and find something else to do.
In most cases, you’ll be surprised that you’d rather continue working, instead of abandoning the task. It’s the Zeigarnik effect.
Set specific times to check your email, and be strict about it. Personally, I open my inbox three times a day only: once in the morning, once in the afternoon, and once after dinner.
Stop checking it every hour — it’s unproductive. If something is urgent, they’ll most likely call or send you a message about it. Trust me on this.
Opening my inbox, I always go through the list first and sort out those that don’t need a response from me. Each one, I either delete it or mark it for reading later.
If an email can be better answered by a colleague, I forward it with a short note of endorsement. If an email can be answered within five minutes, I hit reply and do it.
But if it takes longer, I mark and move it to a “To Reply” folder, which I work on after sorting through all the emails. Finally, I read and then archive the rest.
Make a To-Do List
It’s stressful to remember all the things you need to do. Unload them from your mind on a to-do list and never forget a task ever again. It only takes seconds and all smartphones have an app that can do this, so use it.
And give each task a priority rating. I use three categories: “must do today”, “do this week”, and “do anytime”. If something needs to be done on a particular day, I add the date.
Managing a to-do list only takes five minutes. So I always apply the five-minute rule here whenever I’m feeling lazy about writing or making it.
Take regular breaks. Ideally, give yourself a 5-minute break for every 25 minutes of work. Alternatively, you can do 10 minutes of rest, for every 50 minutes of work.
I’ve written about this before, and you can read more about the Pomodoro Technique here. There’s a five-minute video there also that explains the technique.
Do Mindfulness Meditation
I’ve been practicing mindfulness meditation for almost two years now, and it has significantly helped with my focus and productivity; as well as in managing my stress and anxiety.
Several studies have already proven the helpful benefits that mindfulness meditation brings. And the best part, it normally takes just 10 minutes a day to do it.
I learned this through the Headspace mobile app. But YouTube has a lot of free guided mindfulness meditation videos as well. Try it for a week, and I guarantee results.
People don’t pay much attention towards improving their personal productivity. They assume that if they’re busy, then they must be productive.
However, once you learn the difference between the two terms, your perspective will change. And you’ll realize that being productive means having more results while spending less time at work.
The tips above are among the most effective strategies for me. But there are many other techniques out there that can help increase your work productivity. Find those that suit your personality and work habits, and start getting things done faster, today.