Would you like to increase productivity at work and home and get more done? What could you do with an extra few hours in your day? We all wish we had more time in a day, but no matter what we do 24 hours is what we have each day. What we can change is how we use the time we have each day. If we can increase efficiency and use our time more productively, we can get more done. This will give you the feeling of having more time in your day. All it takes to increase productivity and efficiency is a few tweaks and minor changes.
How to Define Productivity
Oxford dictionary defines productivity as “the effectiveness of productive effort, especially in industry, as measured in terms of the rate of output per unit of input.” I define productivity as how much I get done in a finite amount of time. In this equation, we can’t really add more time but we can find ways to increase efficiency and get more done in the time we have.
There’s even an equation used to calculate employee productivity. Productivity = total output divided by total input. For example, if you have an employee working for 10 hours and they produce $1,000 worth of goods, productivity = $1,000 divided by 10 or $100 an hour. Although the productivity equation can be useful in some instances, it doesn’t always take all factors into account so be careful basing decisions soely on it.
Tips to Increase Productivity and Efficiency
1. Use Technology to Your Advantage
I know technology can sometimes hurt productivity, but if used correctly it can be a great tool to help increase efficiency. There are lots of apps and programs out there to help people increase efficiency. Microsoft outlook has a calendar that you can put important meetings and deadlines on, to-do lists that you can track all your tasks on, and reminders that let you know you have something coming due.
There are also many productivity apps that you can download to your phone that can be very helpful. Trello is a great app used to increase productivity and project management. You can even share tasks with team members. There are apps for all different kinds of ways to increase efficiency like do not disturb apps to turn off notifications on your phone, email organizers to help manage your inbox, timers to help get the work/break ratio right, and so many more.
Additional Productivity Apps
- Todoist – Task management tool for individuals.
- Wunderlist – Task management software for teams or individuals.
- Slack – This is a messaging app where members can have multiple channels with various team members.
- Taskade – Project management/collaboration tool.
- Doodle – Collaborative scheduling/calendar app.
- Toggl – Time tracking app for finding deficiencies in your time management.
- Zapier – A useful tool for automating tasks. For example, you can set it up to send an email out to everybody on the team when something is updated in Trello.
- Notion – A collaborative note/document tool.
- Serene – A tool for breaking the work on tasks into short power sessions to prevent mental fatigue.
2. Limit Distractions
There’s nothing worse than being in the groove, really knocking stuff out then the phone rings and your attention gets pulled away to something else. Distractions can severely impact productivity. Distraction comes in many different forms, coworkers or subordinates, emails, friends, bosses, and just about anything else that pulls your attention away from the task at hand. Eliminating or minimizing the effects of these distractions will increase productivity and efficiency.
You can’t just tell your boss not to bother you but many other distractions can be minimized or eliminated. Avoid constantly checking emails. Set times to check your emails like every 30 minutes. Save social media for break times. When you are trying to get something done Facebook or Instagram can be a huge distraction. Putting your phone on do not disturb will greatly increase efficiency while working.
Know what times you are normally most productive and try to schedule meetings outside of that time. Use these high productivity times to get the tasks that require your focus completed. Knowing and correctly using your times of high efficiency will increase productivity.
3. Take Breaks
If you are plugging away too long with your work, your work quality will begin to suffer, and it becomes easier for you to get distracted and lose focus. Sometimes you must force yourself to take a break even if it’s a short one. Working for 45 minutes then taking a 5-10-minute break can be very advantageous. Just that short break can increase efficiency significantly.
Get up and stretch, take a walk, do some pushups, check your phone, get on social media, or go get a coffee. Whatever you do make sure it gets your mind off your job. It’s best if you can leave the work area just to get your mind off it for a few minutes.
4. Make a To-Do List
To-do lists are a great tool to increase productivity and efficiency, ultimately increasing the amount of work you get done. Lists not only help you remember tasks that need to be done but also make it easier to prioritize tasks. Taking the five minutes to make a to-do list can save you a ton of time in the long run.
A great time to make a to-do list is either at night or first thing in the morning. That way you start your day off with a game plan. Having a game plan will help your day progress smoothly instead of finishing a task and having to think about what task you must do next.
For a great to do list program and app check out Clockify.
5. Track Time Spent on Tasks
Tracking the time spent on tasks can help you see where you are spending your time. This can be very useful for figuring out which tasks are wasting a lot of your time without giving you much payoff. This is useful to track how much time you are wasting not being productive. This can open your eyes, revealing how you spend your time. Eliminating waste will increase efficiency and productivity. You track your time the old-fashioned way by using a clock and notebook but there are apps out there that will do a lot of the work for you.
6. Set Your Own Deadlines
Everyone hates deadlines but they aren’t so bad when you set them for yourself. Self-imposed deadlines can help keep you on track and increase productivity. Everything on your to-do list should have a timeframe of when you are going to get it done. This helps you prioritize tasks that are due soon and things that may be able to be put off for a little while.
Just make sure you are not putting off tasks that will take some time until the last minute. Deadlines should be realistic because if you keep busting your deadlines it may become very frustrating.
7. Know and Use the Two Minute Rule
The two-minute rule can be useful in helping to not get overwhelmed and will increase productivity and efficiency by getting you in rhythm. Any task that takes less than two minutes, just go ahead and knock it out. This is a great way to increase efficiency instead of allowing tasks to pile up.
Anything that pops up and will take more than two minutes should be added to the to-do list unless the task is urgent. This can help you stay focused instead of switching between tasks every time something new pops up. Don’t be afraid to ignore the task until you finish the task at hand.
8. Focus on One Task at a Time
Many people believe they are good at multitasking, but multitasking can kill productivity. Even if you think you are good at multitasking, you have to stop one task to switch to another task. The brain can only really concentrate on one thing at a time. Even if you don’t notice it, once you stop a task it can be a lot harder to get started on that task again.
It is normally better to get one task fully completed than get five tasks started and none completed. The only time it may be better to switch tasks is when you get completely stuck on a task and taking a break doesn’t help you get unstuck. Focusing on one task at a time will increase efficiency on that task and will allow you to get more done.
9. Use Downtime Effectively
Find ways to use downtime effectively. I know what some of you are saying “I don’t have any downtime.” What about your daily commute? The morning is a great time to listen to an audiobook. The afternoon commute is a great time to reflect on how the day went. When you are waiting for a meeting to begin you can review your to-do list or use the time to check emails on your phone. Whether you realize it or not there is plenty of time to make yourself better or reflect on tasks and priorities.
For some great free online personal development resources click here.
10. Be Proactive not Reactive
Don’t just wait for deadlines to motivate you. Get on top of tasks and get them done before they are due. This will help you not become overwhelmed by deadlines. Don’t worry you won’t run out of work. There’s always work to be done. Once you can get caught up with all the tasks on your to-do list, start looking at what will be coming up in the future and start knocking that out.
11. Keep Your Work Area Clean and Organized
A messy and disorganized work area can hurt productivity. Not only can it be hard to find things, but it can also be a mental barrier. The more stuff in the work area the easier it is to get distracted. As discussed earlier distractions should be kept to a minimum for the highest productivity. If your work area is messy take the 10 to 15 minutes to clean it up. Once it’s clean keep it that way. A clean work area will increase productivity.
12. Quit Spending so Much Time on Tasks that Don’t Matter
We do a lot of tasks that have very little payoff. You can be more efficient by eliminating a lot of these tasks. These tasks can take a lot of time. While prioritizing tasks we need to determine if the tasks are worth our time.
What are the consequences if you don’t do this task? If it won’t affect you, your job, the company, or your team, then it might not be worth doing. Even if the task is something that must be done, it may not be worth putting in all the effort trying to make it perfect. It may just be something that you have to get done quickly so you can spend your valuable time on things that matter more.
13. Perfection can Kill Productivity
Being a perfectionist can hurt productivity. I’m not saying you should produce garbage. Just don’t spend a ton of time overanalyzing something trying to make it perfect. If you can get something to 98% in an hour but that last 2% takes you 4 hours, is it worth it? Sometimes the answer may be yes, it’s worth the extra time but typically it’s not. Especially if you have a lot of work on your plate. Many times, getting the work done and off your plate is better than spending a ton of time trying to make it perfect.
14. Avoid Unnecessary Meetings
Many times, we have meetings that last a long time and don’t have a lot of information or the information is only useful for a handful of the people in the meeting. If the same information can be passed on in an email or phone call it may be best to go that route if the option is available.
Not all meetings can be avoided but when you can avoid them, they can save you a ton of time. Typically, an hour-long meeting can be more than an hour of your time. You must quit working whatever you’re working on. Then show up a little early. Then it takes a little bit to get back into the grove of whatever you were working on before the meeting. When it’s all said and done the meeting can be more than two hours of your time.
Have a Productivity Plan
Utilize the tips in this article to create a productivity plan. Hopefully while reading you got many ideas where you can increase efficiency and productivity in your life. The best way to use these tips is to write them down into a productivity plan. Review your productivity plan often to make sure you are both sticking to your plan and to add new strategies to increase efficiency and productivity.
To be more productive many times just takes some minor tweaks. The most important part is looking at yourself and seeing where you need to improve. Use these tips to help you get out there and be the best you can be.
If you enjoyed this article on how to increase productivity, please check out my last The Truth About Leadership! 10 Leadership and Management Myths.
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