We all have that one friend or family member who seems to move mountains in their spare time. They have it all together. They’re so productive that they’re productive even in their free time.
Maybe you've put "Be more productive" on your new year resolution list for a few years now.
You probably have someone in mind right now. They always seem to have their work completed on time or early, and they never seem overwhelmed by large tasks. They just get them done.
What’s their secret? How are they able to be so productive? Is there any way that you can tap into their secret and be the person other people think of when they picture the productive person in their lives?
Before you can learn to be productive, it’s important that you learn what’s stopping you from achieving it already.
Distractions That Affect Productivity
Productivity is the efficiency of your effort. Don’t tell yourself that you’re not trying or you’re not trying hard enough because that simply might not be true. You probably are trying, but your effort may not be as efficient as you would like.
This could be because your expectations of yourself are too high, or you could be unaware of the productivity destroyers in your life, also known as distractions.
Here are some common distractions that affect productivity:
- Mobile phone/texting
- Social Media like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook
- Gossiping / Side conversations
- Snack breaks or smoke breaks
- Unexpected visits or phone calls
- Email checks
- Binge-watching movie after movie
- Mindless searching on your laptop
- Constantly checking notifications or your inbox
- Thinking about other stress in your life
- Being overly tired
Not all distractions are bad, and it’s not likely that you can avoid them all. Sometimes you even need a distraction to help refresh you. Some people may not realize the amount of time they spend doing the above tasks, as it can become addictive.
While there are ways to monitor these distractions, especially in the workspace environment, sometimes even that may seem like a stretch.
However, being conscious of what could potentially be distracting you to the point of interfering with your productivity may help you make more efficient use of your time.
Challenges That Affect Productivity
Outside of distractions, other challenges can limit or prohibit you from being productive. There could be many reasons why you spend less time on important tasks and more time on distractions. Consider your daily life tasks and examine what challenges might be impacting you. Here are some common challenges:
- Responding to outside interference
- Lack of motivation
- Lack of energy
- Inability to focus
- Trouble completing tasks
- Less effort put into important tasks
Just because these challenges may get in your way, you don’t have to feel bad. We all struggle with these challenges from time to time, and it’s important to remember that there are more factors at play in real life besides our efforts.
You can’t control the other variables, and even the most productive people can only control their actions.
Tips and Tricks of Productive People
It would be easy to assume that productive people just have it easier than the rest of us. Maybe they got lucky, and they don’t know the same challenges that everyone else faces.
That’s simply not the case. Productive people are humans just like the rest of us, and they have challenges, distractions, and difficulties.
Productive people have learned to master the distractions in their lives. They know how to be productive and make efficient use of the effort they put into things. Here are some of the tips and tricks to help increase your productivity.
1. Focus First
Determine what is most important and focus on those things first. When you prioritize the most important things, they will be finished first, and you can move on to secondary tasks.
To make this task easier, make a list of what you need to do. When your list is complete, evaluate the list for what’s most important to complete. You can rewrite your list to put it in order of importance.
If you have trouble focusing for long periods, set time aside for work blocks where you focus on easy or more difficult tasks without any distractions. Work blocks can be anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours.
When you choose to do a longer work block, take longer breaks to break up the long hours. If you do a shorter work block, taking minute breaks or short breaks can give you an extra boost to your overall focus whether you are working on assignments, blogs, setting deadlines, etc.
Taking breaks overall is essential for resetting your brain so you can focus better throughout your day.
2. Keep A Running List For Distractions
One reason distractions are so good at halting productivity is that we give them immediate attention. Keeping a running list of distractions will allow you to jot down things that need your attention later.
Grab a notebook to write down any distractions you think you may have, how often it has you distracted, what mood it may put you in, and any other notes you find are important to write down. Keeping a notebook is one of many hacks to keeping yourself accountable when it comes to productivity. Having a reflection period of reviewing your distractions can also be helpful.
For example, if you’re in the middle of a project, instead of stopping to answer your phone, jot down that you need to call the person back. You’re allowing your brain to give the task enough attention to address the distraction, but you continue to work on what you were doing.
3. Learn the Eisenhower Matrix
The Eisenhower Matrix is a decision-making plan that helps you segment your tasks into what tasks are urgent, not urgent, important, or not important. This can help you make decisions and prioritize even your long-term goals.
For example, grocery shopping is important if you’re running low on your staple items, but it’s not very urgent at the beginning of your day if you have other work to do.
The matrix tells us that we should do the important and urgent things, schedule what’s important but not urgent, delegate to others what’s important but not important, and delete what’s not necessary and urgent.
When you apply the matrix to your to-do list, you may have less on your plate than you thought, and you can be more productive.
4. Prioritize Yourself
You need the energy to accomplish tasks and sustain that energy; you have to prioritize yourself. You’re the most important component of your own productivity.
If you don’t feel good, there are steps that you can take to improve your energy levels and, in turn, improve productivity and avoid burnout.
- Aim to get enough sleep each night so you can recharge for the following day
- Make a point to get some exercise every day
- Stay hydrated
- Eat a healthy diet
- Keep your daily routines consistent
- Go outside and get some natural light
There’s a reason the productive people in your life seem to have it all together. Healthy lifestyle choices lead to an enhanced ability to balance. Prioritizing your own well-being can also help you learn how to weigh the importance of tasks and gauge the time they will take.
Even the healthiest people have gaps in their vitamins and mineral levels, so thankfully, there are supplements like Superhuman Supplements designed to help enhance your best efforts to make you sharper, more energetic, calmer, and by extension, more productive.
5. Don’t Wait For Motivation
If you were to wait on intrinsic motivation - the motivation to do something for your own satisfaction rather than a consequence - the filing you need to do at work is probably not getting done for a while.
The truth is that sometimes we just aren’t motivated. Even the things we want to do can be put on the back burner. However, our to-do lists won’t wait for us to find the motivation. While we all may look for an excuse foressentialren't motivated, there are plenty of ways to get our heads out of the clouds.
When it comes to productivity, it’s important to remember that sometimes you just have to do it. After you’ve prioritized, learned to manage your distractions, and you’re physically well-prepared for the day, there’s not much left to do but to do it.
Productive people don’t wait for motivation to get to work, and you shouldn’t either.
6. Expect The Unexpected
In a scenario where two people work on the same tasks, a supervisor can enter the situation, announce that the time allotted has changed, and get two very different reactions.
One person responds to the new deadline with frustration or anxiousness. Regardless of how they express their feelings or emotional response, the person is clearly taken off guard. Their productivity begins to suffer, and sometimes, even the quality of the work their performing can decline.
The other person processes the new information into the work ahead of them and makes adjustments accordingly. It would be unusual to see a response from this person, and their productivity and quality remain consistent.
What’s different? What do we not see that makes the situations so vastly different?
Both people were given the same tasks and the same surprise deadline change. The more productive person works efficiently regardless of the deadline from the start.
When you work with the expectation of the unexpected, you can be more productive when unplanned events, like a changed deadline, happen.
7. Learn Your Limits
Just because you’re not reaching your goals doesn’t mean you’re not already productive. You may just be a victim of your own expectations.
People say that you can’t be all things to everyone, but it doesn’t stop many people from trying.
Examine your daily tasks or never-ending to-do list. Are there things that you are committed to doing that you should let go of doing?
You’d be amazed at how much other people are willing to do to help, and learning your own limits can help you learn to have a more manageable workload. When your workload is manageable, you can be more productive.
Productive people aren’t secretly machines that are designed to get more done. Productive people are just people who have figured out how to master the challenges and distractions that get in the way of accomplishing their tasks.
Your best work can be completed while you are productive. While our agendas might seem long sometimes, deep work will pay off in the long run, all thanks to productivity. Dopamine, anyone?
The good news is that with a few tips, you can take the same level of effort and make more efficient use of your energy to get more done in a day.
Meet our Experts
This article has been reviewed by members of our Scientific Advisory Board.
Former Olympic Athlete, Founder, B2ten Foundation (coach to multiple Olympic Champions)
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