Advertising

Small Things You Do Can Make You Way More Productive, Here’s How

Small Things You Do Can Make You Way More Productive, Here’s How
Advertising

Blink.

It’s 9:50 AM. Work starts in 10 minutes; I am punctual, awake, and ready for the day. Awesome.

Blink.

1:00 PM.

Wait, what?!

Advertising

I shut my eyes tightly and opened them again. There is nothing wrong with the watch. But I realized that in the three hours that just passed, I barely finished one article – which was supposed to be done in an hour. Sounds familiar?

As you rush to finish what was supposed to be completed in the morning after lunch, you realize you can either:

  1. Lower the quality of work to increase your speed; or
  2. Stay in the office longer to finish all your work.

Stuck between a rock and a hard place – talk about making a difficult decision! Having been in the same spot before (and I never want to be back), here is my take on procrastination and how you can boost your productivity!

1. Focus on consistency instead of quantity of actions.

In 7 strategies that will help you eliminate procrastination, a fundamental point was raised –

Put more importance on your consistency, rather than on the quantity of your actions.[1]

Instead of trying to juggle 30 tasks at the same time, going from tab to tab, app to app every minute, take one task, concentrate and get that part done. Even one finished task is better than 30 unfinished tasks. Take small but certain steps towards your goal and you will be surprised at how much quicker you get there.

2. Identify your peak hours and finish your important tasks during that period.

As Professor Christopher M. Barnes points out, humans generally follow a rather regular internal clock called the circadian process[2], or the circadian rhythm. When the workday begins, it would take us a few hours to reach our peak level of attentiveness, which would then decline to a low at around 3 PM. Even though it would hit a second peak at around 6 PM, it would quickly fall as time goes, reaching the lowest point at around 3:30 AM.

Therefore, we must identify our own peak hours (it should be quite similar to the ones mentioned above) and allocate our important tasks during that period. Try to finish the more mundane tasks like replying emails at non-peak hours and reserve your heightened attentiveness for making important decisions, drafting the defense for your client in a case, writing up that interview you have to finish before the day ends, etc.

3. Eliminate unnecessary options to prevent diffused efforts.

We would come across numerous opportunities and options as we progress in life. And like businesses, when we are rapidly growing, we tend to embrace expansion and take on as much of these opportunities as possible. Yet, if we started off succeeding because we have a clear sense of purpose, taking on all these opportunities would cloud our purpose, diffuse our efforts and lower our productivity on all fronts, eventually leading us to fail.

If success is a catalyst for failure because it leads to the “undisciplined pursuit of more,” then one simple antidote is the disciplined pursuit of less. Not just haphazardly saying no, but purposefully, deliberately, and strategically eliminating the nonessentials. – Greg McKeown

Therefore, to maintain clarity and focus, take a deep breath and cast away all those unnecessary options and opportunities.

4. Play some angry music at work!

Plugging in our earphones to ignore the chatter and ruckus in the office has become an ordinary practice for us in this age. However, it might have never come to you that the music you listen to can directly affect your work performance. In fact, anger focuses our attention on rewards, increases persistence, makes us feel in control and more optimistic about achieving our goals[3].

In an experiment done by Tamir and her colleagues, participants are exposed to angry music before an aggressive shooting game. Inducing their anger has actually improved their performance in the game.[4] Although your work might be slightly different from a computer game which involves a lot of action, we believe the music can still give you a boost in productivity.

5. Associate something you love with your work.

According to Dan Ariely, he would connect a ritual he loves – morning coffee with writing[5], so even though writing might be a tough task in times, he would be enjoying the whole process of sipping coffee and writing.

It could be anything from listening to a certain soundtrack to munching on that bagel you get from the store below – when you combine the task you need to be productive on with something you love, your productivity would spike for sure.

Advertising

6. Take a break and recharge at the office.

“Resilience is how you recharge, not how you endure,” – Shawn Achor

As much as we like to be the Spartan that could bear a hundred wounds and still fight, research has proven that the traditional method of biting our teeth and enduring costs companies $62 billion per annum in lost productivity.[6]

Surprising, isn’t it?

Therefore, it is crucial to take a break and recharge at the office so we can work more effectively and efficiently afterwards. It could be as simple as taking a stroll around the park around after lunch instead of staring at the computer screen to check the newest updates on the election!

Featured photo credit: Picjumbo via Picjumbo.com

Advertising

Reference

More by this author

Eamon Suen

Student, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Life Is Not Supposed To Be Fair, We’re Supposed to Learn To Live With It If You Want To Be Successful, You May Need To Cut Off Something From Life The Earlier You Understand These Truths Of Happiness The Better Accept Where You Are And Happiness Is At Your Fingertips Your New Habits Will Stick With These 5 Killer Strategies

Trending in Productivity

1 7 Effective Ways To Motivate Employees in 2021 2 How a Project Management Mindset Boosts Your Productivity 3 5 Values of an Effective Leader 4 How to Motivate People Around You and Inspire Them 5 The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
Advertising

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

Advertising

From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

Advertising

The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

Advertising

But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

Advertising

Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Advertising

Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

Read Next