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10 Simple Ways to Double Your Productivity

10 Simple Ways to Double Your Productivity

I rarely find anything more satisfying than ending my day feeling like I accomplished what I wanted—apart from accomplishing more than I expected. Time is the resource we desire the most of, but we handle it so badly. Many of us in our youth never really accept that deep-down knowledge that the four hours spent doing quite literally nothing are hours we will fight tooth and nail to gain back. But we never will; time doesn’t work like that.

Being productive sounds daunting and downright preachy to many. It’s pushy. It’s guilt-ridden. I could give you an infinite amount of stories about how people who know they have no time left have accomplished so much with so little. But that’s not what you need to hear.

It’s not hard to make incremental moves towards freeing up hours of your day—hours that turn into days and weeks that you can proudly say you earned. Before you step onto the highway of Evernote, GTD and Scrum, start the little things that build towards a real and permanent change in your use of time.

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1. Buy in bulk, cook in bulk

Every day on the way home I see the same people queuing at the supermarket at 6pm with one or two items essential for making their dinner. The queue at this hour is unbelievable—at least 15mins, but usually more. Add that up over 5 days and in just a single week you’ve spent at least 1hour 15mins in a bloody SUPERMARKET QUEUE! Do math and count how many days a year that is. Then there comes the food prep. It’s ridiculously simple to add or double the ingredients and store it for eating the next day or day after. I usually bulk-cook on Monday (for Wednesday) and Tuesday (for Thursday) and so on. This way I don’t have to eat the same thing two days in a row, AND I only need to cook every second day. That’s 2 – 3 hours a week saved, plus half the washing-up to do.

Action: Do a huge shop one day a week for perishables and once a month for non-perishables. Buy foods that can make multiple kinds of dishes so you don’t get bored. Don’t choose dishes where you have to buy specific ingredients just for one serving. Go with a potato dish, a pasta dish, a salad dish, a fish dish, a rice dish, a pie dish, a wrap dish etc. that involve ingredients that can be mixed and matched.

2. Keep spares in strategic places

…and I don’t just mean a spare tyre. This is unique to everyone, and I will describe how I do it for myself. Have an overnight bag of  essentials in the boot of your car or under the desk at work. I would also recommend a change of top/shirt in case of on-the-spot meetings, a spontaneous night out or a spilt coffee. Nothing stops my productivity more than the stress of feeling unprepared.

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Action: Identify three or four repeated instances in the past where you had to rush off to buy something, or you were otherwise caught unawares. Prepare something to solve that issue.

3. Use your commuting time wisely

Commuting time is useful time. It is not just about the trip from A to B’; trip time of over 15mins is especially easy to convert to productivity if you have the equipment.

With your smartphone, get a bunch of emails out of the way, set up social media content, browse for info/content to read later or create your to-do list for the day on whichever app you use. A trusty Moleskin diary can also be used to map out your day and maximise the use of it. By the time you hit the office you’ll be ready to hot the ground running.

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4. Take breaks

When you are setting up your to-do list for the day remember to place breaks at regular intervals to refresh your mind. Be strict about ensuring you get enough stops to re-energise your thoughts. 90 minute sprints with a 5 – 10min break work really well. It depends on your task, of course, to know what is possible. Just don’t make it a one-hour break after an eight hour marathon—that is counter-productive!

5. Regular sleeping hours

Not to be an old granny… but I find how screwed up my to-dos can get once the routine has been upset. Working whilst tired is not fun, and we’d all rather be happy at our jobs. Being rested is a major contribution to the happiness of our jobs. And the quality. I’m not against a good party—hell, we need to cut loose every now and again! Pro tip: start the cocktails earlier, finish earlier, and things will work out better than a late-night collapse of exhaustion into bed :)

6. Eat well: no highs or lows, just steady energy!

The stench of a vacuum-packed microwaved curry often hangs around the office kitchen space. One glance at the label is enough to give anyone the jitters, which is probably why they are bought guiltily and the wrapping hastily ripped off. Do your utmost to make them an honest once-off. The salt content alone will drive your blood pressure through the roof, let alone all the other rubbish. Keep snacks like raisins, apricots, fruit and nuts nearby (yes, to stop you from popping out for a bag of fries as a quick fix!) and bring bottles of juice and yoghurt to change up the tastes. And yes—bring a salad for lunch!

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7. Organize as you go

I don’t mind labelling emails as they come in, but sit me down to 100 for labeling and I get seriously cranky! To make a comparison, it’s more daunting to clean a week’s worth of pots and pans at once than to simply do the dishes daily. Do all that little stuff in chunks during your day and save yourself the mountain of a repetitive mundane task once a week.

8. Add positivity: celebrate the little achievements

There’s nothing that gives a person more energy than feeling like they have accomplished something. Milestones give hope and satisfaction in a very personal way, and the good feelings influence our actions. Personally, I don’t have many huge accomplishments to celebrate every week, but I do have little milestones that I give myself a pat on the back for. Completing a part of a project, passing an exam, losing weight at the gym… it doesn’t matter. You did it! Remember to congratulate those around you for their achievements too. It may well brighten their day.

9. Turn the wifi off

If blocking software doesn’t work for you, get the router plugged out of the wall. If you work a lot on the internet, this can be tough. If you have an offline option for the tools you use, it might just be that you need to spend a portion of your time in technological isolation so as not to get distracted.

You can handle being off the internet for a few hours, I promise :)

10. Tell yourself that you can do it

A simple but oft-overlooked productivity booster is convincing yourself that you can do it. Demotivation and low confidence are productivity blockers that you yourself can overcome. As someone once put it to me “How hard can it be—people do this [task] every day!” He was absolutely right. If you do find yourself in over your head on a task, and you truly do not possess the required skills to do it (like when I tried to rewire a socket…) let it go. Do some research or find a colleague who can get it done.

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Andrea Francis

Andrea loves being productive and getting things done. She shares practical tips to help people achieve what they want in life.

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Last Updated on March 23, 2021

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

You need more than time management. You need energy management

1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

2. Determine your “peak hours”

Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

3. Block those high-energy hours

Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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