It’s hard to get things done when friends keep inviting you to do something fun, but putting off your obligations will always come back to bite you. However, erring on the side of productivity is not necessarily always better either.
Spend too much time chasing after productivity, and you will quickly burn out, negating what you set out to accomplish in the first place. The optimal solution to this dilemma is to realize that procrastination and productivity are not necessarily opposed. The point is to set aside time for both and ensure they don’t overlap.
So if you’re having trouble with productivity, all you have to do is find elements of procrastination that have crept in over time, and then replace them with elements that enhance productivity. And to help you get started, we present 7 practical tips for overcoming productivity challenges.
1. Curb your multitasking habits
Most of us lead hectic lives, and in order to cope with the multitude of demands placed on us, we have developed a habit of multitasking. Unfortunately, multitasking has been correlated with drops in productivity due to a loss of focus, increased fatigue, and shortened working memory.
To overcome this challenge, you need to re-learn how to focus on one task at a time. Setting a deadline for each task you want to accomplish, and sticking with it until it’s done is one approach that works well.
2. Get small chores out of the way
Our day-to-day life can be broken down into a collection of small tasks that we need to accomplish in order to get things done. We also have a tendency to overthink things, so we often get bogged down planning how to accomplish these tasks efficiently, leading to productivity losses.
Productivity guru David Allen noticed this pattern, and he proposed a solution which he called the ‘two-minute rule’. Simply put, whenever a task demands two minutes or less to carry out, it is not worth thinking about – you should just carry it out immediately and be done with it.
3. Tackle major tasks first
The order in which you accomplish things during the day can have a significant impact on your productivity levels. If you start your day by consuming social media content, watching TV, or sitting on a couch doing nothing, you’re not off to a good start as far as productivity is concerned. Instead, the moment you come to your senses after a good night’s sleep, you should tackle the biggest challenge you have for that day.
Getting the hard stuff out of the way first will allow you to tackle others at a more relaxed pace.
4. Escape the notification hell
Many of us use a whole range of mobile and desktop apps on a daily basis, some essential, some less so. What all of these apps have in common is a propensity to create notifications, and when you have multiple ones installed, things can quickly get out of hand.
These visual pop-ups, blinking LED lights, vibrations, and sounds will create a cacophony of distractions, killing your productivity dead. So when you’re trying to get things done, try to create some radio silence by turning all but essential notifications off.
5. Tidy up your work environment
Every work environment will become cluttered over time, whether you’re a neat freak or complete slob. As your work desk succumbs to entropy, and so will your ability to concentrate and process information effectively. Conversely, if you keep your work environment organized and tidy, you will feel more at ease while working.
So make it a point to declutter your workplace as soon as things start getting messy. Remove all non-essential junk from your vicinity, find a designated spot for frequently used items, and keep everything clean.
6. Don’t do everything by yourself
Discussions around productivity are frequently framed around the individual, which gives off the impression that you should try to do everything by yourself. In practice, this is a recipe for burning out early.
So instead of forcing yourself to do everything on your own, consider sharing the burden with someone else. This can be a friend, a co-worker, a partner, or anyone else willing to help (sometimes for a price). By delegating parts of your work, you can focus more on areas where you truly shine.
7. Take regular breaks
There is a common misconception that in order to work hard, you have to work hard all the time. Unfortunately, if you stick with this kind of approach, you’re more likely to end up in a hospital than with productivity gains.
The trick to actually being productive is knowing how to pace yourself, which involves taking breaks. Taking the time to unwind for a little while after each chunk of work will allow you to regain focus, refresh your body, and gather sufficient willpower to continue working.
In the fast-paced world of today, attaining higher productivity is seen as the key to leading a successful life. Unfortunately, many people still take the brute-force approach to productivity, which usually spectacularly backfires. So instead of pushing yourself to the brink of exhaustion by chasing productivity, you should learn how to work smart, instead of hard.
**About the Author: Michael Deane is one of the editors of Qeedle, a small business magazine. When notblogging (or working), he can usually be spotted on the track, doing his laps, or with his nose deep in the latest John Grisham.