We all have our daily / weekly checklists that we have to move forward. Whether it’s in our role as a parent, a spouse, a co-worker or a friend, being on-the-go and rising up to the demands of the role is a feature and expectation of modern life.
Productivity is key and while most of us have adapted our lifestyles to accomplish what’s needed, yet occasionally, we do find that we are running to catch up and failing on multiple fronts. This is when stress sets in, which only compounds the issues at hand. On such occasions, it’s helpful to reflect on how best to boost productivity to give ourselves the best shot of completing the tasks at hand.
Here are some simple and time-tested ways to improve your daily productivity.
Our daily efficiency and energy starts with our physical and mental well being.
Monitor your health – Are you eating well? Did you get enough sleep? Do you have any issues that affect your ability to focus or work effectively? Vitamin or iron deficiency can cause fatigue or brain fog that takes away the joy from performing even your favourite tasks. Make your health a priority as a first step to achieving your best.
Move – Make movement a part of your routine. Whether it’s a simple 30-minute walk or a rigorous work-out routine, allocate a part of your day to exercising, improving your blood circulation, and to boost your energy levels. Performing activities that involve balance, such as cycling or skating, are highly effective in improving your focus. Physical balance is known to promote mental and emotional balance.
Relax – Signing off from work is just as important as signing in. Leave all your work-related worries in your office when you sign out. Once you are home, relax, indulge in your favourite hobby, spend time with your family, and sleep well. This way, when you get back to work, you will have a clear mind to tackle new challenges or resolve outstanding issues with a new perspective.
Prioritize – It is easy to fall into the loop of doing what ought to be done instead of what must be done when we have multiple tasks to complete. Spend a few minutes to prioritise your tasks. Should you be answering an urgent customer complaint or launching a new product campaign mailer first? Prioritize which emails to answer immediately and which meetings to attend.
Plan – What must be done today? Based on your priority assessment, write your plan for today’s tasks along with your rough estimate of how long each task will take. Of course, your planned tasks may take longer than your estimates. But when you keep a schedule, you are giving yourself a goal and a deadline to complete the tasks. When this becomes a habit, your self-prescribed deadline will motivate you to work within a time limit and keep you off distractions.
Organize – Organization is not just about keeping your desk free of clutter. It is also about arranging your physical files and virtual data so efficiently that you know exactly where you can access them, so there is no time wasted searching. Techniques such as Five-S and Kaizen give you specific steps to organize your workplace in a way that motivates you and allows you a seamless flow of work.
Avoid– Often, productivity depends on what we must not do rather than what we must. Giving in to distractions can drain time and energy, leaving us in a position where we aren’t able to give our best effort to the task because of time constraints. Key distractions include social media, being hostage to the 24/7 news (noise) cycle, chatty colleagues, emails, and the urge to take breaks for a smoke or a snack.
The office environment can have multiple distractions keeping you from getting things done! Endless meetings for meetings sake and our impulse to multitask instead of concentrating on completing our priorities, can hinder productivity without our knowledge.
Here are specific steps to overcome these distractions –
Time-blocking is a technique that allows us to focus on the task at hand without giving in to the above temptations. In this method, also called the Pomodoro method, one allocates a specific block of time to focus on one task alone, then take a break, and again block your time for the next task. This is a time-tested method that allows you to work and take time off to relax.
Set an end time for your meetings – This is as important as starting meetings at the scheduled time. This way, all participants are compelled to discuss what is relevant within the time.
Stick to a routine – In a highly competitive environment, it’s common for people to get carried away by work, so much so that they don’t get time to eat lunch or breakfast. Though you feel fuelled by the adrenaline, your hidden hunger can disrupt your work, affect your ability to perform optimally, and make you feel moody. Stick to a daily routine with adequate time in between for meal breaks, stretching your legs or even taking a power nap, so that you can get back to work, refreshed.
Go offline – Though this is tough now with smartphones always keeping you connected, going offline when you focus on your work can be highly effective in getting your work done on time. This is especially helpful when you follow the time-blocking method to boost productivity.
Wear headphones – There are factors beyond all these distractions that are tough to control. When you have colleagues who love to talk, for instance, or must work in a noisy office, it is difficult to concentrate on your task. In such cases, try using noise-cancelling headphones. This would send a message to your co-workers that you need to focus, and also protect you from noisy distractions.