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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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Last Updated on September 11, 2019

Why To-Do Lists Don’t Work (And How to Change That)

Why To-Do Lists Don’t Work (And How to Change That)

How often do you feel overwhelmed and disorganized in life, whether at work or home? We all seem to struggle with time management in some area of our life; one of the most common phrases besides “I love you” is “I don’t have time”. Everyone suggests working from a to-do list to start getting your life more organized, but why do these lists also have a negative connotation to them?

Let’s say you have a strong desire to turn this situation around with all your good intentions—you may then take out a piece of paper and pen to start tackling this intangible mess with a to-do list. What usually happens, is that you either get so overwhelmed seeing everything on your list, which leaves you feeling worse than you did before, or you make the list but are completely stuck on how to execute it effectively.

To-do lists can work for you, but if you are not using them effectively, they can actually leave you feeling more disillusioned and stressed than you did before. Think of a filing system: the concept is good, but if you merely file papers away with no structure or system, the filing system will have an adverse effect. It’s the same with to-do lists—you can put one together, but if you don’t do it right, it is a fruitless exercise.

Why Some People Find That General To-Do Lists Don’t Work?

Most people find that general to-do lists don’t work because:

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  • They get so overwhelmed just by looking at all the things they need to do.
  • They don’t know how to prioritize the items on list.
  • They feel that they are continuously adding to their list but not reducing it.
  • There’s a sense of confusion seeing home tasks mixed with work tasks.

Benefits of Using a To-Do List

However, there are many advantages working from a to-do list:

  • You have clarity on what you need to get done.
  • You will feel less stressed because all your ‘to do’s are on paper and out of your mind.
  • It helps you to prioritize your actions.
  • You don’t overlook so many tasks and forget anything.
  • You feel more organized.
  • It helps you with planning.

4 Golden Rules to Make a To-Do List Work

Here are my golden rules for making a “to-do” list work:

1. Categorize

Studies have shown that your brain gets overwhelmed when it sees a list of 7 or 8 options; it wants to shut down.[1] For this reason, you need to work from different lists. Separate them into different categories and don’t have more than 7 or 8 tasks on each one.

It might work well for you to have a “project” list, a “follow-up” list, and a “don’t forget” list; you will know what will work best for you, as these titles will be different for everybody.

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2. Add Estimations

You don’t merely need to know what has to be done, but how long it will take as well in order to plan effectively.

Imagine on your list you have one task that will take 30 minutes, another that could take 1 hour, and another that could take 4 hours. You need to know the moment you look at the task, otherwise you undermine your planning, so add an extra column to your list and include your estimation of how long you think the task will take, and be realistic!

Tip: If you find it a challenge to estimate accurately, then start by building this skill on a daily basis. Estimate how long it will take to get ready, cook dinner, go for a walk, etc., and then compare this to the actual time it took you. You will start to get more accurate in your estimations.

3. Prioritize

To effectively select what you should work on, you need to take into consideration: priority, sequence and estimated time. Add another column to your list for priority. Divide your tasks into four categories:

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  • Important and urgent
  • Not urgent but important
  • Not important but urgent
  • Not important or urgent

You want to work on tasks that are urgent and important of course, but also, select some tasks that are important and not urgent. Why? Because these tasks are normally related to long-term goals, and when you only work on tasks that are urgent and important, you’ll feel like your day is spent putting out fires. You’ll end up neglecting other important areas which most often end up having negative consequences.

Most of your time should be spent on the first two categories.

4.  Review

To make this list work effectively for you, it needs to become a daily tool that you use to manage your time and you review it regularly. There is no point in only having the list to record everything that you need to do, but you don’t utilize it as part of your bigger time management plan.

For example: At the end of every week, review the list and use it to plan the week ahead. Select what you want to work on taking into consideration priority, time and sequence and then schedule these items into your calendar. Golden rule in planning: don’t schedule more than 75% of your time.

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Bottom Line

So grab a pen and paper and give yourself the gift of a calm and clear mind by unloading everything in there and onto a list as now, you have all the tools you need for it to work. Knowledge is useless unless it is applied—how badly do you want more time?

To your success!

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Featured photo credit: Emma Matthews via unsplash.com

Reference

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