Confession: I've been holding back. But now I'm going to share with you the big (and little) secrets to increased productivity. Ready for the final piece of the puzzle?
If you haven't already, make sure you check out Parts 1 and 2 of this How To Be More Productive blog series so that you have all the apps you need under your belt and the mindset nailed. Here, in Part 3, I'll give you what you need to put it all into practice with this one simple method, as well as many suggestions. The Pomodoro Technique is really the game-changer and the other tips and tricks are super handy but more like pick n' mix fodder depending on what works for you. Let's get cracking then...
The Pomodoro Technique:
I know I have been singing this method's praises in Parts 1 and 2, but I am actually going to tell you what it is this time! At it's most basic it involves setting a timer (traditionally a kitchen timer) to 25 minutes and working solidly/completing that given task within the time. These time intervals (or pomodori) are broken up by 5 minute breaks. After completing 4 pomodori you can then take a longer break of 15-30 minutes. Of course, you can change the length of the time intervals but the advantage of shorter pomodori is that they reduce distractions and interruptions (that can't wait until the end of that pomodoro), improving your flow of work. It's so simple and easy to implement that you'll actually stick to it if you give it a shot. Plus, 25 minutes of work is so much more doable and less daunting that 5 hours straight.
Hot tip: In order to make the best use of this technique it really helps to plan what you will do in the breaks by writing a list of possible things to do on a post-it and sticking it to your laptop or desk. That way you make full use of your break without wasting any of it thinking of what to do. Some ideas include a quick stretch, making a cup of tea, going for a quick walk outside, grabbing a bite to eat etc. The key is that it is completely unrelated to the work/task you are doing, feels good and preferably gets you away from your desk briefly. Also, I seriously recommend that you use the app I mentioned in Part 1 that rolls from one round to the next after the buzzer goes off.
Other Tips + Tricks:
Declare an intention
This is Motivation 101. Why are you writing the eBook/essay/answering those emails/reading a boring academic article etc?. Maybe because you want those extra letters after your name, to increase your earnings or to get one one step closer to that dream job.Centralise Write it down and keep it in front of you.
This is pretty fundamental. Write a big list of all your to-do's then whittle it down. Keep it to 3 or 4 priorities each day to avoid overwhelm and keep it doable.
Aside from the fact that that it is actually neurologically impossible to focus on two tasks at the same time (you're attention is actually just flicking between the two), it's also not nearly as productive as focussing on one task at a time. I know it feels as though you are exercising some kind of super-hero power by doing two tasks at once, but this usually just results in both tasks taking more time than had they been done one at a time. Focus on one thing at a time.
Batch tasks into groups and do them all in one hit. Set a time each week where you do similar tasks all at once,.e.g. Mondays for writing blog posts, Tuesdays for essay writing, Fridays for reading and research. For instance, I like to schedule all of the social media posts for my blog at the beginning of the week. This way there is less time spent getting into a task each time. Emails are the perfect example of this, speaking of which...
Create boundaries for emails.
And stick to them. i.e. create an email policy. Check it once/twice a day? If it takes less than 5 minutes to answer, reply there and then, otherwise index/file it appropriately (e.g. into a 'Reply' folder on your computer) and then get back to it later that day or the next (wight the rest of the batch). What is your turn-around time? 24 hours/3-5 days? Let people know on your contact page or with an auto-responder so they know what to expect from you.
Set tight deadlines
Maybe you've heard of Parkinson's Law? It's the theory that tasks will expand into the time you allow them. This is how you can managed to write an entire assignment that was supposed to take 3 weeks to complete the night before it is due in. Even if it is a self-imposed deadline you can give it some solidity by scheduling in something else so that you have to do it before hand. e.g. set a deadline of Friday and book up my weekend so that you don't have to work on the weekend and I actually get to enjoy it. I always work much better under pressure, even artificial pressure if it has some solidity attached to it.
Automate repetitive tasks
Stop wasting time on repetitive tasks by using online scheduling platforms (I love Buffer) and other technology. Create a repetitive tasks to-do list for things that need to be done each week. Keep this list in Evernote or in a pretty PDF that you can print off each week for those jobs that can't be automated. If you repeat a task more than 5 times a day/25 times a week or your Rescue Time report is showing you are spending ages on a certain task then look seriously into finding ways of streamlining the process, for instance...
Whip up a couple of templates for essays, blog posts, interviews or email responses to FAQs in Word or Evernote in advance in order to streamline your process and save you hours in the future. As I mentioned in Part 1, Evernote is great because I have my notes with me wherever I go on my phone, laptop and the internet. But remember to tweak them each time to add that personal touch to every email response, interview answer or to meet different assignment requirements.
Centralise + Keep it all in one place
Create a cohesive organisation system that works well together (and one that preferably syncs). You can do this using the apps I have already suggested but try to keep it to as few as possible so that there is no need for hundreds of programmes/windows/tabs open. This helps to focus a scattered mind, keeps you on top of things and can save you time and money.
If it can be done in 2 minutes or less do it immediately
Those little tasks that keep adding to the length of your to-do list? Do them straight away or you'll just keep pushing them into the future and they'll never be done (and will ,quite frankly, just make looking at your to-do list depressing). Give yourself the satisfaction of being able to tick off one more thing by doing it as soon as you get it.
Finally, create a wind-down routine and a rock-solid finish time.
It’s important that you can relax and switch off, rather than working into the night. Remember that I mentioned how important looking after yourself was in Part 2? Well, it's worth repeating. Fortunately, when you're more productive during the day this becomes easier to stick to.
There you have it - everything you need to be more productive and boss your work. Summary: it's about streamlining processes, managing your energy and creating habits to get to to start working (or trick yourself into it if necessary!).
Have you tried any of these productivity hacks before? Feel free to declare your love for them in the comments, I'd love to hear your input :)
P.S. I love to sharing more wellness-related tips like these with on the Facebook page so don't forget to like it to catch them all: