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Last Updated on December 1, 2020

Productivity Can Be Improved By These 10 Actionable Steps

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Productivity Can Be Improved By These 10 Actionable Steps

If there is any challenge that is common to everyone apart from staying happy, it’s improving personal productivity.

Nothing stimulates joy like getting things done and doing the right things. You become happier when you are focused and productive.

So what is productivity and how do we improve it?

What is Personal Productivity?

Personal productivity means different things to different individuals. Some might define personal productivity as accomplishing your milestones without failing, or setting goals and completing them.

So what, then, is personal productivity?

Personal productivity can be thought of as completing a set of tasks that moves you forward in the direction of your life purpose without causing you to sacrifice other life aspects.

Personal productivity can be improved by identifying your key objectives and what actionable steps you need to take to fulfill them.

In all of this, it’s important to remember that personal productivity is different than workplace productivity. Here’s why.

Personal Productivity Vs. Workplace Productivity

Workplace productivity deals with your level of efficiency in accomplishing corporate goals and providing goods or top-notch solutions for customers. For instance, productivity in the workplace could incorporate the speed at which you respond to a query as a customer service assistant or design a website for a web development agency.

The 4 Components of Productivity

Penny Zenker, a notable Productivity Coach, propounded four essential components of productivity: purpose, language, focus, and physiology. Let’s break these down.

Purpose

According to Penny,

“When you are on a course or purpose that goes beyond what’s in it for you or what you need to do, you gain a higher sense of being more productive and a feeling that you are working on something significant.”[1]

One way to find your sense of purpose is by answering your “Whys.”

Language

Language is another crucial component. It’s how you express yourself in describing the world around you.

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Any time you utilize negative words during self-talk, you are conditioning yourself to produce negative situations.

Productivity can be improved by paying attention to the language you use. That way, you can change your words consciously and then talk yourself into becoming more productive.

Therefore, try to change your language to improve your output!

Focus

You only have 24 hours each day. How do you guide your energy within this limited time-frame? The answer lies in being focused.

Focus is the art of directing your energy towards your objectives. It is eliminating every form of distraction and achieving your set goals.

Physiology

You need a great body to be productive. That’s why your physiology influences your level of productivity.

For instance, what you eat affects what you can do. If you continuously neglect the habit of eating healthy, you will continually undermine your performance and efficiency.

So what’s the way forward?

Take good care of your body!

Productivity can be improved by eating healthy, exercising regularly, and spending time with nature.

How to Evaluate Productivity

Evaluating your productivity is an important step as it helps you keep track of what you’re doing right and wrong on your journey to completing your goals. Try these five proven steps to keep you on track.

1. Review Your Completed To-Do Lists

One of the strategic means of assessing your productivity is by examining your completed to-do lists. You can accurately look at your activities in the past two to three weeks. Find out what you have accomplished. Estimate how many tasks, how long each task took you, and find the ones you failed to complete.

Were you distracted? Busy? Or lacking sufficient time? The essence of this assessment is to enable you find a solution that can assist you in completing your objectives on time.

2. Track Your Time

Tracking your time is highly crucial to determining your productivity level. You only have 24 hours, just like any other person. How you spend each second is what differentiates you from the rest of the world.

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While some are experts at managing their time productively, others retire at night without any significant thing they have accomplished all day.

You just can’t live your life like that.

Track your time to derive an accurate evaluation of your accomplishments and performance in your workplace.

3. Practice Accountability

While you can collaborate with an accountability partner to monitor your progress, Jones Loflin, a keynote speaker and a prolific author, also recommends that you ask yourself some reflective questions daily[2]:

  • Was I productive today or reactive?
  • Have I accomplished any of my short-term goals?
  • What took my time today?
  • Who is excited that I was part of their day?
  • What did I accomplish today that will relieve me of stress tomorrow?
  • What did I fail to do that can make my tomorrow worse off?

While you don’t have to ask all these questions each day, you can ask them at intervals throughout the week.

You can also practice journaling or blog about your experience.

4. Allocate a Time-frame for Your Goals

Establishing a timeline is one of the requirements for creating SMART goals. You can determine if you have accomplished your objectives when you have a time period as a point of reference. You provide yourself a timeline to implement your tasks when you assign deadlines for all your milestones.

That way, you can detect when you are not meeting your deadlines and quickly get back on track.

5. Complete a Weekly Review

The best time to audit your accomplishment is the weekend and not the end of the year. Create time each week to evaluate your objectives and track your outcomes. Find out which stage you are in, and determine how you can tweak your schedules and routines to better achieve your aims.

How to Improve Productivity

Tracking productivity is important, but it’s all for naught if you’re unable to improve your productivity in the face of difficulties. Productivity can be improved by incorporating these simple things into your life.

1. Exercise

Do this first thing when you wake up. According to research, exercise, especially team exercise, can enhance your mood for up to 12 hours after a workout.[3]

Therefore, if you care to have a productive day, invest your first 20 minutes in physical exercises.

Nothing energizes you like physical exercises, and productivity can be improved by a boost in your energy level.

2. Prioritize the Most Critical Tasks

Everyone has specific activities that count the most. An important step is to identify three things that add value to your life’s purpose.

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What three things produce the most income?

What three things generate the highest impact?

Delete the “additional stuff” as much as you can. This action will enable you to enjoy the importance of focusing on your most important activities.

3. Allocate Less Time for Major Projects

Time is like a new mansion. You fill a new house with furniture and fittings, just as you load each block of your time with activities.

So here’s a practical approach you can apply.

Reduce the amount of time you assign for a critical task.

That will help you to focus and stay productive. It will also optimize your energy level and help you get things done faster.

4. Chunk Your House Chores

Now that you are working from home, housekeeping activities can become your greatest distractions.

You don’t have to worry about that.

Instead of performing those tasks at any time of the day, sort them out in an organized block. Then, schedule the blocks and take them out when you are tired or need a mental break.

5. Learn to Say No

That does not mean you are not polite. It’s important to protect your time by saying no as often as you say yes.

Time is a great asset; you cannot waste it trying to please everyone.

6. Schedule Free Time

Don’t let your free time just happen. It should not also be a product of “if you have a chance.”

Plan it!

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Set out fun things to do during those free periods. It could be watching a new movie or playing an exciting game. Let it be something that you love so you can anticipate it.

Productivity can be improved by an increased level of happiness, which we can improve during those crucial moments of free time.

7. Take a Productivity Nap

A quick nap has the ability to boost your creativity, retention, and focus.[4]

Midday siestas can supercharge your productivity, so don’t overwork yourself; take a nap!

8. Use Your Mind to Think, Not to Recollect

Never clutter your mind with mental lists of things you need to remember.

Instead, write those things down and focus your mind on how to do them better. Avoid wasting your mental energy on remembering important ideas, and let papers take care of that.

9. Turn off Notifications

Turn off email dings, phone buzzes, and pop-ups. Every notification distracts you from the most important task, so eliminating them is an important step if you want to focus your energy.

Go notification-free, and once or twice each out, check for a few minutes if you’ve missed an urgent call or a message.

Most of the time, you will discover you haven’t missed anything and that the time you gained was better spent being productive.

10. Create Room for Reflection

Block about 20 to 30 minutes of your working time for reflection.

Close the door and reflect. You can also take a walk during this period. Exercising this way can aid your thinking as it encourages focused energy and relaxation.[5]

Bonus Point: Use the 2-Minute Rule

In his book Getting Things Done, David Allen recommends:

“When an activity requires less than two minutes, do not schedule it, do not set it aside for a later time, do not set a reminder — just do them instantly.”

Bottom Line

Productivity can be improved by the ten actionable steps mentioned above. Don’t forget to do the most important things first, allocate limited time for them, and focus like a laser to achieve your milestones.

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Don’t forget the two-minute rule! If you can get it done quickly, get it done now.

More Productivity Tips

Featured photo credit: Carl Heyerdahl via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Published on October 22, 2021

The Flowtime Technique: A Pomodoro Alternative

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The Flowtime Technique: A Pomodoro Alternative

Today, there are countless productivity techniques that claim to help you work at peak efficiency. Among them, few are more widely known and widely used than the Pomodoro Technique. It’s a time management system that suggests that you break down your work tasks into 25-minute chunks and take breaks in between them.

The idea revolves around the notion that most people begin to lose focus after 25 minutes of continuous work and will need a reset to remain productive. But there’s a problem with that idea: no two tasks are the same. And for that matter, neither are any two people! That means a one-size-fits-all productivity system can’t possibly be the best fit for everyone.

But there’s an alternative that provides more flexibility and allows you to customize it for your specific use cases. It’s called the Flowtime Technique, and here’s everything you need to know to use it and start getting more done.

What Is the Flowtime Technique?

The Flowtime Technique, while not as well-known as the Pomodoro Technique, has been around for some time. In many ways, it’s a direct descendent of Pomodoro. It’s the brainchild of Zoe Read-Bivens, and she thought it up as a means of dealing with some of the shortcomings she experienced while using the Pomodoro technique.[1]

She found that sticking to 25-minute work segments often interrupted her flow—the feeling of being immersed in a particular task—and ended up harming her productivity rather than enhancing it. To fix the problem, she sought to create a system that retained the beneficial aspects of the Pomodoro Technique while allowing her to get into a positive flow and stay there.

The Basics of the Flowtime Technique

To start using the Flowtime Technique, the first thing you’ll need to do is create a timesheet to help you manage your daily activities. You can do this with a spreadsheet or by hand, whichever you find most convenient. At the heading of your timesheet, include the following column headings:

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  • Task Name
  • Start Time
  • End Time
  • Interruptions
  • Work Time
  • Break Time

Your timesheet will be the primary way you track your daily tasks and establish a flow that works best for you. Once you have it set up, here’s how to use it:

1. Choose a Task

To get started, choose a task you wish to get done. It should be specific, and something you can reasonably complete in the amount of time you have. In other words, don’t choose a task like “paint my house.” Choose something like “paint the front door of my house.” If you select a task that’s too broad, you’ll have difficulty sticking with the work. So, try and break down what you’re doing into the smallest manageable pieces.

2. Begin Working on Your Task

The next step is to start working on your task. Begin by listing the task you’re going to work on in the appropriate field of your timesheet. Then, list the time you’re starting work. Once you’ve gotten started on your task, the only rule you must observe is that there is no multitasking allowed. This will help you to focus on what you need to get done and minimize any self-imposed distractions.

3. Work Until You Need a Break

You may then keep working on your listed task for as long as you like. If you feel yourself getting fatigued after 15 minutes, take a break. If you get into a productive groove, lose track of the time, and end up working for an hour straight, that’s fine, too.

The idea is to get to know your own patterns and work in segments that fit you best. If you don’t focus well on certain tasks, work on them for shorter durations. If you get absorbed in other types of tasks, maximize your output by working for as long as you feel capable of staying focused.

You’ll likely find that the longest period you’ll be able to sustain is around 90 minutes or so. This corresponds to your Ultradian Rhythm, which are the alternating periods of alertness and rest that our brains experience throughout the day.[2]

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There are plenty of case studies that demonstrate how taking regular breaks improves productivity. It’s one of the reasons that mandatory breaks are a part of the Pomodoro Technique. But there’s evidence that the less-structured Flowtime approach to breaks works just as well. One technology company that recently directed its employees to take breaks every hour as they saw fit saw productivity levels rise by 23%—with no mandate required.[3]

4. Take an Appropriate-Length Break

When you decide you need to take a break, go ahead and do so. Just make sure to write down your stop time on your timesheet in the right place. You can take a break that’s as long or short as you like, but don’t abuse the privilege. Otherwise, it won’t be long until your breaks eat up the majority of your time.

As a general rule of thumb, try taking a five-minute break for each 25-minute work period, and increase your break time proportionally for longer work periods. You should use a timer to make sure you get back to your task in the right amount of time. And when your break ends, don’t forget to record the time you’ve resumed work and list the length of the break you took.

5. Record Distractions as They Happen

While you’re working, there are always going to be times when you’ll get distracted. It may come in the form of a phone call, an urgent email, or even the urge to use the bathroom. When these things happen, record the occurrence in the interruption column on your timesheet. Do your best to keep distractions short, but don’t try and block them out.

The reason is that you’re unlikely to succeed and sometimes, the things that distract you will be a higher priority than what you’re working on. So, it’s important to deal with distractions as you see fit instead of trying to simply work through them.

6. Repeat Until Your Work Is Complete

All you have to do next is to repeat the steps above until the tasks you’re working on are complete. As you complete each task, be sure to record your final stop time. If you wish, you can calculate your total work time (and fill it in) when you finish a task, or you can do all of the math at once at the end of the day.

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All that matters is that you don’t leave any gaps in your time tracking. Your timesheets, once complete, will become an asset that improves your ability to create a work schedule that maximizes your daily output.

What to Do With Your Timesheets

Although the act of recording your work periods and break times will help you remain on-task each day, there’s another important reason you’re doing it. It’s that your timesheets will gradually begin to reveal to you how to craft an ideal daily schedule for yourself.

So, at the end of each week, take some time to compare your timesheets. You may see that certain patterns begin to emerge. For example, you might notice that your longest work periods typically occur before lunch or that there are specific parts of your day that tend to be filled with distractions. You can use this information to plan subsequent days more effectively.

In general, you’ll want to cluster your most important tasks at your most productive times. So, if you are reviewing detailed property records, for example, you can set aside time to do it when you know you’ll be able to focus without interruption.

Conversely, you should schedule less critical work at the times when you’re most likely to be interrupted while working. So if you need time to respond to emails or return phone calls, you’ll know just when to do it. This will not only make you more productive but will also eliminate mistakes in your work.

Key Similarities Between Flowtime and Pomodoro

If you’re familiar with how the Pomodoro Technique works, you may have noticed some similarities with the Flowtime Technique. As we’ve discussed earlier, this is intentional. The Flowtime Technique is specifically designed to retain three critical features of the Pomodoro Technique, which are:

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1. Precise Time Tracking

One of the reasons that the Pomodoro Technique is so effective for many people is that it creates a rigid system to facilitate time tracking. By having to split your work tasks into 25-minute segments, you become acutely aware of the tasks you have in front of you and how you’re using your time. That alone helps you to avoid wasting precious work time because you have to account for every minute. The Flowtime Technique provides this benefit, too.

2. Eliminating Multitasking

With the Pomodoro Technique, you have to choose a task to work on and use a 25-minute timer to measure each work period. This does an excellent job of keeping you on-task because you know from the moment you set the timer what you’re trying to accomplish, and you’re therefore not likely to stray onto another task.

Even though you don’t need to use a timer with the Flowtime Technique, the very act of writing down your task accomplishes the same task. Because you know you’ll be tracking your time spent working on a particular thing, you’ll tend to stick with your task until it’s complete or time for a break.

3. Facilitating Breaks

One of the biggest killers of productivity is exhaustion, and there’s plenty of data to prove that taking breaks is essential to maintaining peak work performance. That’s the real secret to the Pomodoro Technique’s successful reputation—it makes breaks mandatory and unavoidable.

The Flowtime Technique, by comparison, also insists you take breaks. It just doesn’t force them upon you until you’re ready to take one. In that way, some additional self-discipline is required to succeed using the Flowtime Technique. But if you can obey a timer, there’s no reason you can’t learn to obey the signals your body sends you when it needs a time out.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, you may find success using the Pomodoro Technique. There’s a reason it’s so popular, after all. But if you’ve been using it for some time and find yourself straining against its rigid structures, you’re not alone. So, consider giving the Flowtime Technique a try for at least a week or two. You may find it’s a much better fit for your work style and that you get even more done than you ever have before.

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Featured photo credit: Fakurian Design via unsplash.com

Reference

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