For me, productivity is a real hit or miss kind of deal. Some days I make to-do lists, tick everything off and feel completely feel free by 6pm. Other days I make the list, complete almost nothing and am feeling totally frazzled at bedtime.
Some days are just good days for productivity but here are some tips to make the small changes have big results.
The 2 minute rule
The simplest of rules: if it takes less than two minutes then do it now. This is great for tasks like making the bed, filing papers away or taking the bin out. Loads of those tasks that you hate doing actually don’t take up much time at all when you look at them like this.
Set time limits for tasks
I’m pretty time obsessed anyway but when I’ve spoken to other people about time management, a major issue is that they don’t set time limits. This means that they’ll look up and two hours will have passed doing one task when they really needed to have started a new task an hour ago. A good way to handle this is to estimate how long you think a task will take and then allocate a period of your day to it by putting it in your calendar or your notebook.
Take advantage of your phone’s reminder app
Another way to make sure you’re not spending too long on projects is to set reminders on your phone to go off when you need to start something else. Sometimes, relying on ourselves to look at the clock doesn’t always work so having a reminder is good to jog your memory and take your focus away from the task you’ve been working on.
Find the apps that work for you
Some of my favourite productivity apps are Forest, which stops you using your phone while you’re working and lets you grow cute little trees so you can see just how long you’ve focused for. Another app I love using is Focus Keeper, which is basically just a Pomodoro timer, but I find using an app more helpful. If you haven’t heard of the Pomodoro time management method then check out my post on it, here.
Don’t pack your day too tightly
The worst thing you can do when you’ve got a big to-do list to go at is pack your day so tightly that you don’t leave yourself any time for rests. When you know you have loads to do it’s easy to think “I’ll just do everything quickly so I’ll be done by 4pm and have the rest of the day to do nothing.” It’s much better to spread out the work so you don’t overwhelm yourself so you can have the odd TV break here and there without having felt like you’ve rushed your tasks.
Do the worst task first
This is the one that gets me every time. I’m terrible at this but slowly getting better. But I promise, that if you do the worst task first then every other task will seem simple. You’re going to have to do it at some point so may as well get it done quickly.
Another simple tip. Just don’t multitask. It’s so tempting to convince yourself that you’ll just do half of this task now and come back to it later, but ‘fess up, how often do you actually come back to that first task?
Have a ‘waiting on’ list
Amongst all of my to-do lists, the ‘waiting on’ list has changed my life. Create a list of things that you’re currently waiting on for tasks that you can’t start yet. Maybe you’re making plans for dinner with a friend but she hasn’t got back to you yet so you can’t book anywhere yet. Put it on your ‘waiting on’ list so you know you can’t do anything further towards completing this task.
Work out what gets you started
Figure out the triggers that motivate you. Does making your bed get you in the mood for working? Can you not get started until you’ve eaten breakfast or worked out? Take these aspects into account before you start your day and you’ll be more motivated and feel more ready to take on your tasks.
There is no one size fits all approach to productivity. Reflect on the best way for you to get things done. Is the morning the best time for you to start or are you a late riser? Reflecting on your more productive days and seeing what you did well means you can be a lot more productive in future.
What are your best productivity tips?