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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 17, 2018

How to Stop Multitasking and Become Way More Productive

How to Stop Multitasking and Become Way More Productive

Today we are expected to work in highly disruptive environments. We sit down at our desks, turn on our computer and immediately we are hit with hundreds of emails all vying for our attention.

Our phones are beeping and pinging with new alerts to messages, likes and comments and our colleagues are complaining about the latest company initiative is designed to get us to do more work and spend less time at home.

All these distractions result in us multitasking where our attention is switching between one crisis and the next.

Multitasking is a problem. But how to stop multitasking?

How bad really is multitasking?

It dilutes your focus and attention so even the easiest of tasks become much harder and take longer to complete.

Studies have shown that while you think you are multitasking, you are in fact task switching, which means your attention is switching between two or more pieces of work and that depletes the energy resources you have to do your work.

This is why, even though you may have done little to no physical activity, you arrive home at the end of the day feeling exhausted and not in the mood to do anything.

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We know it is not a good way to get quality work done, but the demands for out attention persist and rather than reduce, are likely to increase as the years go by.

So what to do about it?

Ways to stop multitasking and increase productivity

Now, forget about how to multitask!

Here are a few strategies on how to stop multitasking so you can get better quality and more work done in the time you have each working day:

1. Get enough rest

When you are tired, your brain has less strength to resist even the tiniest attention seeker. This is why when you find your mind wandering, it is a sign your brain is tired and time to take a break.

This does not just mean taking breaks throughout the day, it also means making sure you get enough sleep every day.

When you are well rested and take short regular breaks throughout the day your brain is fully refuelled and ready to focus in on the work that is important.

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2. Plan your day

When you don’t have a plan for the day, the day will create a plan for you. When you allow outside influences to take control of your day, it is very hard not to be dragged off in all directions.

When you have a plan for the day, when you arrive at work your brain knows exactly what it is you want to accomplish and will subconsciously have prepared itself for a sustained period of focused work.

Your resistance to distractions and other work will be high and you will focus much better on the work that needs doing.

3. Remove everything from your desk and screen except for the work you are doing

I learned this one a long time ago. In my previous work, I worked in a law office and I had case files to deal with. If I had more than one case file on my desk at any one time, I would find my eyes wandering over the other case files on my desk when I had something difficult to do.

I was looking for something easier. This meant often I was working on three or four cases at one time and that always led to mistakes and slower completion.

Now when I am working on something, I am in full-screen mode where all I can see is the work I am working on right now.

4. When at your desk, do work

We are creatures of habit. If we do our online shopping and news reading at our desks as well as our work, we will always have the temptation to be doing stuff that we should not be doing at that moment.

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Do your online shopping from another place—your home or from your phone when you are having a break—and only do your work when at your desk. This conditions your brain to focus in on your work and not other distractions.

5. Learn to say no

Whenever you hear the phrase “learn to say no,” it does not mean going about being rude to everyone. What it does mean is delay saying yes.

Most problems occur when we say “yes” immediately. We then have to spend an inordinate amount of energy thinking of ways to get ourselves out of the commitment we made.

By saying “let me think about it” or “can I let you know later” gives you time to evaluate the offer and allows you to get back to what you were doing quicker.

6. Turn off notifications on your computer

For most of us, we still use computers to do our work. When you have email alert pop-ups and other notifications turned on, they will distract you no matter how strong you feel.

Turn them off and schedule email reviewing for times between doing your focused work. Doing this will give you a lot of time back because you will be able to remain focused on the work in front of you.

7. Find a quiet place to do your most important work

Most workplaces have meeting rooms that are vacant. If you do have important work to get done, ask if you can use one of those rooms and do your work there.

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You can close the door, put on your headphones and just focus on what is important. This is a great way to remove all the other, non-important, tasks demanding your attention and just focus on one piece of work.

The bottom line

Focusing on one piece of work at a time can be hard but the benefits to the amount of work you get done are worth it. You will make fewer mistakes, you will get more done and will feel a lot less tired at the end of the day.

Make a list of the four or five things you want to get done the next day before you finish your work for the day and when you start the day, begin at the top of the list with the first item.

Don’t start anything else until you have finished the first one and then move on to the second one. This one trick will help you to become way more productive.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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