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Pump up your Productivity – 4 Tricks to Smash your To-Do List

Posted: 03 May 2018

Your to-do list is ever-growing, jobs are stacking up, your boss and colleagues and clients all demanding a piece of your precious time. When everything needs to be done – like, yesterday – the pressure mounts up and it’s hard to know where to even begin to tackle your list of tasks. It’s not always a case of needing more hours in the day, but making the most of the time you do have – planning and organisation can make all the difference to your productivity at work.

The curse of constantly being ‘connected’

The day begins: you review your workload and eventually make a start on something; you get stuck in and start to feel like you’re making progress – but then an email flies into your inbox, and your brain goes ‘oh look, a distraction!’, so you tell yourself a quick read and maybe a short reply won’t hurt. Then you get back to what you were working on before, and it takes you 5–10 minutes to get your brain back on track and regain your focus.

We live in an age where we’re always ‘on’, checking our emails, social media and answering calls day and night. Whilst this digital cornucopia in theory helps us to be more connected and involved with each other, the internet serves as a huge distraction. 

Constantly flitting between tasks can seriously impact your productivity, causing unnecessary stress at work which can lead to creative burnout. If any of this is sounding familiar to you, then you may need to tackle the three Ps to break through your productivity barrier – Planning, Prioritising, and Procrastinating are the areas you’ll need to take control of to boost your output.

Take some time to make the most of your time

Whilst it may be tempting to throw yourself into your work each day and just get cracking, that may not be the best approach to getting the most out of your workday. By spending a small amount of time before you start your day on planning out your time, it can help you be more productive and focused, meaning you’ll meet your goals more effectively. We’ve got some great ways to help you stay on track and work smarter, not harder.

4 Tricks for Boosting Productivity

1. Create a schedule, keep a diary or use a planner

Planning out your time will help you organise yourself and see what you can realistically achieve in the time you have. Finding a medium which works for you personally is key – here’s a few options to consider:

  • Some people love hand-written lists or post-it notes that you can scribble on – the physical action of ticking off items or scrunching up the paper once completed can be wholly satisfying and make you feel like you’re actually accomplishing things.
  • Project management software such as Asana, Freedcamp, and Trello are great for managing multiple projects, with the added bonus that your team can see how things are progressing.
  • Using a planner or calendar, with space to write out daily tasks, is a great visual way to divide up your time across the week.

2. Minimise digital distractions

As we’ve already touched on, digital communications are a huge source of distraction – time spent scrolling through social media and compulsively checking our emails eats into our productivity every day. To remain focused and resist procrastinating:

  • Set aside designated time to check social media on your downtime, rather than checking it regularly throughout the day. 
  • Turn off push notifications for emails and social media on your mobile whilst you’re at work. Sometimes even removing social apps entirely from your phone is worth doing – anything that makes it harder for you to access it will help deter you from looking.
  • To reduce the temptation to check your phone so much, put it on silent, and consider an app that monitors how much time you spend looking at your screen, like Moment – being more conscious of just how much time each ‘quick look’ adds up to can help you tackle it.
  • If you find it hard to drown out office chatter and struggle to focus, try zoning out with some headphones on listening to ambient music.

3. Work out which priority is more of a priority

When everything seems like a priority, picking a starting point can be hard-going. Breaking your workload up into more manageable chunks can help you feel more in control and able to cope when the pressure’s on. 

  • Take some time for self-reflection to understand when your peak performance time is. Plan the more in-depth and creative work for when you’re at your best and feeling fresh – the 2pm after-lunch-slump might not be ideal!
  • Estimate how much time each task will take to help plan your day. If there’s a big, challenging project that you’ve been putting off this is probably the one you need to tackle first. Having a hard project looming over you can distract you from other things, so getting this out the way will help you be more focused with the other tasks.
  • If you’re stuck, ask your manager or a more senior colleague within your team to help you decide what needs working on first. It’s far better to seek help sooner, rather than getting stressed about it and struggling on.

4. Goals are good, but process is better

Writing down or visualising what you want to achieve helps to focus your mind and holds you accountable to your own actions. By setting yourself intentions before you start the day, you’re activating the determination and mindset needed for success. Whilst goal setting can be a powerful way to increase your productivity, focusing on the process needed to meet these goals will help you do more, and do it well.

  • Too often, people are so fixated on the end result that it can stifle creativity, and become an exercise in ticking boxes, going through the motions and doing things for the sake of doing them. Shifting the focus from result to the method that gets you there means you’ll pay more attention to the craft itself, seeing the intrinsic value of an activity.
  • By paying more attention to the steps needed to achieve your goals, you can ensure that process is as effective and productive as possible. Being able to identify any parts of the process that could be improved will help you to be better at what you do, and exceed expectations – rather than just going through the motions and ticking things off.

Work is called ‘work’ for a reason – it takes effort and commitment to get good results. But by planning out your time, reducing distractions, prioritising your workload and focusing more on process you can increase your productivity and make every day a successful one.

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