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How to be Productive and Counteract Low Productivity

How to be Productive and Counteract Low Productivity

There you are, sitting at your desk and feeling tired: it has been a long week and you’d like to stop working and relax a bit, but at the same time, you know you can’t do this since you have still work to do. In a way you are stuck: no matter how hard you work, you don’t seem to make any noticeable progress, which makes you even more frustrated and tired and you finally feel like giving up the project you have been working on.

You may be thinking that there has to be a better way to do things, rather than banging your head against the wall, and you are absolutely right!

be productive

    Are you taking the right action at the right time?

    There can be many reason behind your frustrations:

    First and foremost, are you sure you are focusing on the right action steps? If this is not the case, then it’s time to stop for a moment, see the bigger picture and redefine the tasks you should be doing right now. Could it be that perhaps you didn’t prepare in advance for the tasks you are doing? This could happen when you are dependent on other people’s input before you can continue your project for instance—if you didn’t see this situation coming, you could be wasting your time because you don’t have any backup plan for these situations.

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    It could also be that you just have too much work to do. Ask yourself whether you are optimizing and automating everything already, or are there processes or tasks that could be eliminated by those two methods. If the answer to the latter part of the question is “yes,” it’s time to take action on improving the processes. The sooner you do this, the sooner your workload will decrease and the less chance there is for unproductivity.

    Finding the source of low productivity

    It’s time to take a closer look at your situation, so that we can see the sources behind unproductive action.

    To do this, it’s time to do some checks.

    The first check is related to your mindset: do you feel that the time is lost if you spend time on planning your tasks? If this is so, then it’s no wonder that you are wasting time on something unproductive.

    Next, check your environment: does it allow you to work in a focused manner? If you are getting easily distracted because of the environment, it’s time to start finding alternative locations for doing the work.

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    Finally, make sure that your project isn’t too big to handle. If you are trying to tackle it all by yourself, it’s no wonder if you are feeling frustrated and tired. Additionally, if you find the tasks are too big in size, then this could be another reason for the stress you are experiencing right now.

    Destroy the unproductive action with a right mindset

    To fix the situation, I suggest developing a mindset that you can start using from this project and onward. This mindset consists of the following six cornerstones:

    • Stop rushing into things by planning them first
    • Know what you are doing and understand the importance of doing so
    • Pick the right location
    • Break the project into smaller pieces
    • Don’t try to handle it all by yourself
    • Review your progress and take corrective action if needed

    If you implement this productive mindset, then there is a much bigger chance of completing tasks in time and finishing your projects sooner than later.

    Get your true productivity back with these 6 steps

    1. Stop rushing. I know that you’d like to take action as soon as possible, but don’t make this mistake! Instead, spend a little time by creating a plan to follow. Know your next action steps, as well as your outcomes and keep them clearly in your head. If you understand what they are, then you are already on a better track of keeping things in control and reducing your workload at the same time.

    2. Know what you are doing. Ask yourself what you are supposed to be doing next and why you should be doing it—when you can answer to these two questions, then you are on the right path. Keep asking these questions all the time. They are a great way to make you aware of what you are doing. They also prevent you from taking the wrong action, if you can’t see the value of the task.

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    3. Pick the right location for your work. It’s of the utmost important to pick the right location for your work. If you can’t work at home, then take your laptop with you and go somewhere else. Go outside (if the weather permits), to a public library or to a coffee shop. You can also rent a co-working space, or if money is not an issue, even a separate office to get your work done.

    4. Break the project into smaller pieces. Take your project and break it into smaller pieces. Focus on one piece at a time and then move on to the next one. For instance, if you are developing a piece of software, one task would be getting the user interface to be more compelling. Then, you could decide on different subsections that specifically create that great user experience, like setting the right fonts or defining the right color theme. When you have finished one area, you can move to the next one (like improving the performance of your application) and so on.

    5. Gather a team. It’s easy to think that only you can do the tasks and that you are irreplaceable: you aren’t! There is always someone who can do the task faster and better than you.

    For instance, when I’m building my blog, I have a virtual team doing various things for me: a designer and a developer for creating new functionality for my blog; a coach for telling me what things to focus on; maintenance guys for keeping my blog updated; and a proofreader for checking my written content before it’s published. Doing these things myself would be just madness and I would have quit blogging a long time ago, if I was still trying to do everything by myself.

    6. Review your progress and analyze. This is perhaps the most common thing that people forget to do: Reviewing progress.

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    You need to do this so that you can avoid mistakes or prevent taking action on things, which are not getting any results. I suggest doing the review at least on a weekly basis, where you reflect what you have done, how it went and what you are doing next. Even if this might feel like just a waste of time, you are wasting much more time when you end up taking unproductive actions later on.

    In conclusion

    As you now know, there are many reasons for taking unproductive actions. When you focus on things like planning, the right environment and breaking the project into smaller pieces, you can cut down your workload a lot and the chances for unproductive action decreases. A little bit of pro-activity can save you from unnecessary work later on.

    Over to you: How do you make sure you are not taking unproductive action?

    Featured photo credit:  Empire state building – new york city via Shutterstock

    More by this author

    Timo Kiander

    Productivity Author and Founder of Productive Superdad

    What Is FOMO (And How to Get Over It) Do You Do This Common Mistake When You Start Working on Your Tasks? 9 Valuable Lessons Learned After Writing My First Book How to Create a To-Do List that Makes You Smile Agreeing on Deadlines With Yourself Just Doesn’t Work: Here’s What Does

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    Last Updated on November 18, 2019

    How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

    How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

    Everyone of my team members has a bucketload of tasks that they need to deal with every working day. On top of that, most of their tasks are either creativity tasks or problem solving tasks.

    Despite having loads of tasks to handle, our team is able to stay creative and work towards our goals consistently.

    How do we manage that?

    I’m going to reveal to you how I helped my team get more things done in less time through the power of correct prioritization. A few minutes spent reading this article could literally save you thousands of hours over the long term. So, let’s get started with my method on how to prioritize:

    The Scales Method – a productivity method I created several years ago.

    How to Prioritize with the Scales Method

      One of our new editors came to me the other day and told me how she was struggling to keep up with the many tasks she needed to handle and the deadlines she constantly needed to stick to.

      At the end of each day, she felt like she had done a lot of things but often failed to come up with creative ideas and to get articles successfully published. From what she told me, it was obvious that she felt overwhelmed and was growing increasingly frustrated about failing to achieve her targets despite putting in extra hours most days.

      After she listened to my advice – and I introduced her to the Scales Method – she immediately experienced a dramatic rise in productivity, which looked like this:

      • She could produce three times more creative ideas for blog articles
      • She could publish all her articles on time
      • And she could finish all her work on time every day (no more overtime!)

      Curious to find out how she did it? Read on for the step-by-step guide:

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      1. Set Aside 10 Minutes for Planning

      When it comes to tackling productivity issues, it makes sense to plan before taking action. However, don’t become so involved in planning that you become trapped in it and never move beyond first base.

      My recommendation is to give yourself a specific time period for planning – but keep it short. Ideally, 10 or 15 minutes. This should be adequate to think about your plan.

      Use this time to:

      • Look at the big picture.
      • Think about the current goal and target that you need/want to achieve.
      • Lay out all the tasks you need to do.

      2. Align Your Tasks with Your Goal

      This is the core component that makes the Scales Method effective.

      It works like this:

      Take a look at all the tasks you’re doing, and review the importance of each of them. Specifically, measure a task’s importance by its cost and benefit.

      By cost, I am referring to the effort needed per task (including time, money and other resources). The benefit is how closely the task can contribute to your goal.

        To make this easier for you, I’ve listed below four combinations that will enable you to quickly and easily determine the priority of each of your tasks:

        Low Cost + High Benefit

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        Do these tasks first because they’re the simple ones to complete, yet help you get closer to your goal.

        Approving artwork created for a sales brochure would likely fit this category. You could easily decide on whether you liked the artwork/layout, but your decision to approve would trigger the production of the leaflet and the subsequent sales benefits of sending it out to potential customers.

        High Cost + High Benefit

        Break the high cost task down into smaller ones. In other words, break the big task into mini ones that take less than an hour to complete. And then re-evaluate these small tasks and set their correct priority level.

        Imagine if you were asked to write a product launch plan for a new diary-free protein powder supplement. Instead of trying to write the plan in one sitting – aim to write the different sections at different times (e.g., spend 30 minutes writing the introduction, one hour writing the body text, and 30 minutes writing the conclusion).

        Low Cost + Low Benefit

        This combination should be your lowest priority. Either give yourself 10-15 minutes to handle this task, or put these kind of tasks in between valuable tasks as a useful break.

        These are probably necessary tasks (e.g., routine tasks like checking emails) but they don’t contribute much towards reaching your desired goal. Keep them way down your priority list.

        High Cost + Low Benefit

        Review if these tasks are really necessary. Think of ways to reduce the cost if you decide that the completion of the task is required.

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        For instance, can any tools or systems help to speed up doing the task? In this category, you’re likely to find things like checking and updating sales contacts spreadsheets. This can be a fiddly and time-consuming thing to do without making mistakes. However, there are plenty of apps out there they can make this process instant and seamless.

        Now, coming back to the editor who I referred to earlier, let’s take a look at her typical daily task list:

          After listening to my advice, she broke down the High cost+ High benefit task into smaller ones. Her tasks then looked like this (in order of priority):

            And for the task about promoting articles to different platforms, after reviewing its benefits, we decided to focus on the most effective platform only – thereby significantly lowering the associated time cost.

            Bonus Tip: Tackling Tasks with Deadlines

            Once you’ve evaluated your tasks, you’ll know the importance of each of them. This will immediately give you a crystal-clear picture on which tasks would help you to achieve more (in terms of achieving your goals). Sometimes, however, you won’t be able to decide every task’s priority because there’ll be deadlines set by external parties such as managers and agencies.

            What to do in these cases?

            Well, I suggest that after considering the importance and values of your current tasks, align the list with the deadlines and adjust the priorities accordingly.

            For example, let’s dip into the editor’s world again.

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            Some of the articles she edited needed to be published by specific dates. The Scales Method allows for this, and in this case, her amended task list would look something like this:

              Hopefully, you can now see how easy it is to evaluate the importance of tasks and how to order them in lists of priority.

              The Scales Method Is Different from Anything Else You’ve Tried

              By adopting the Scales Method, you’ll begin to correctly prioritize your work, and most importantly – boost your productivity by up to 10 times!

              And unlike other methods that don’t really explain how to decide the importance of a task, my method will help you break down each of your tasks into two parts: cost and benefits. My method will also help you to take follow-up action based on different cost and benefits combinations.

              Start right now by spending 10 minutes to evaluate your common daily tasks and how they align with your goal(s). Once you have this information, it’ll be super-easy to put your tasks into a priority list. All that remains, is that you kick off your next working day by following your new list.

              Trust me, once you begin using the Scales Method – you’ll never want to go back to your old ways of working.

              More to Boost Productivity

              Featured photo credit: Vector Stock via vectorstock.com

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