The only article you need to read about Productivity
Internet is scattered with articles about productivity so why should this be the last and the only one you should read? Because I'm going to try include every piece of advice, tips and tricks in one article so you can bookmark it and never have to go search for it again.
A word of caution - Just because you'll find every piece of advice in this article doesn't mean you should implement all of them. Ideally you should start with one and work on perfecting it in the sprint of 2 weeks. Once you've established any given productivity hack into your habit, choose the next one from the list and start another sprint while keeping the first one intact.
Let's jump right in…
Being busy does not mean being productiveI had to get this myth out of the way. Most people think they are being productive when actually they are just being busy. There is a reason why 40 hours week came into existence. Find out your optimum time of productivity and work accordingly. 5 productive hours are much better than 10 unproductive hours.
Multitasking does not make you productive eitherA stanford study showed that people who multitask are worse than people who do a single task at once. Every time you think of jumping from one task to another, take a step back and ask yourself - is it urgent to take this up this right away? Most of the times it won't be and you should try to focus on what you were doing.
Turn off all distractionsWe like to stay connected all the time which makes it even more difficult to switch off distracting elements. But doing so would help you avoid multitasking and make you more attentive to details. Try to work in short sessions of 30-60 mins so you can still go back and check on your distracting elements after.
Know your tools inside outIf you work on a computer try using keyboard for most of the tasks. Every time you reach for your mouse, you're losing a tiny bit of time. Compounded over time this could mean wasted hours. Similarly, find out how to use your other tools effectively.
Find your superman timeEvery person has a different energy level throughout the day but usually we are more creative and energetic early in the day and our productivity reduces towards the evening. Using this powerful insight in building your daily schedule can help you be a lot more productive than you already are. Also, if you're interested in finding your superman time, here is how you can find it.
Don't try to be a perfectionistIf you're working on a creative task, it is highly unlikely that you'll nail it in the first attempt. It's always better to throw in all your ideas and then work on refining them. If you're trying to be a perfectionist, you'll end up taking more time to complete the task.
You can beat procrastinationThere is a structured way of beating procrastination by reorganizing your task list with more important tasks so you try to avoid them for a less important one which should actually be your priority at the moment. Another way of beating procrastination is to get started. Most of the time we fail to even start working on a task. Get started and do it for 5 minutes and chances are you'll continue working on it.
Pomodoro techniqueWork in the sprint of 25 minutes followed by a 5 minute break. These short cycles of work and essential breaks would help you avoid stress. Make sure to use the 5 minute break to do something fun which is not related to work. Forget about work for those 5 minutes. You can also use an app like this to keep a track.
Use automationThink of automating the repetitive tasks you see with task and email management or even financial management. You will not only save time but you shall be able to focus on other important tasks. Not everything can be automated but aim to automate as much as possible. As a general rule of thumb make sure the time used in automating a task will save you at least 5x time in future. Also look at services like IFTTT for automation.
Constant reminderDon't lose focus of the bigger picture and constantly ask yourself one of the following questions:
- Is this the best use of time to be productive?
- Is this the best way of doing the task?
- What am I working on right now? Will it make the biggest impact on my main goal?
ExerciseContrary to what people think, exercise energizes you rather than exhausting you out. Most of us procrastinate about it and the easiest way to do it is to put on some good music and start a 7 minute workout. The trick is to get started and it will be over before you know it.
Drink a lot of waterHydrate yourself and drink a lot of water which not only helps your body but also gets you up from the chair for frequent bathroom breaks. A win-win in every way.
Learn to say NoWe don't usually say No to avoid conflict or to please someone which ends up getting you in over your head. Would you rather say No upfront or take too much work, not finish it on time and disappoint others? Don't forget you're human and there is always a polite way to say No. Moreover, if you know about Pareto principle or the 80-20 rule, you should focus on the 20% stuff that would get you 80% results.
Turn your wasted hours to productive onesFor my first job I use to commute 3 hours in a crowded metro. Instead of wasting those hours I started loading my mobile phone with podcasts and listen to them during commute. You can use these wasted hours in multiple ways like taking work calls, talking to customers, planning your week, reading a book etc. If nothing else take this time to call your family and friends you haven't been in touch with lately.
Crush it with the 2 minute ruleThe rule says if something can be finished in less than 2 minutes, you should do it now! Even though it makes total sense it can interfere with work as it gives rise to multitasking. Make sure to not do it when you're on a focused Pomodoro session.
Nothing like a good night sleepIt can't be emphasized enough how important it is to have a good sleep. A study by BBC says -
If you are getting less than seven hours' sleep a night and can alter your sleep habits, even just a little bit, it could make you healthier.Why you may ask? The study notes -
Deep sleep sounds restful, but during it our brains are actually working hard. One of the main things the brain is doing is moving memories from short-term storage into long-term storage, allowing us more short-term memory space for the next day. If you don't get adequate deep sleep then these memories will be lost.
Make realistic goalsIt is easy to set high goals but often times when you don't achieve them, you end up demotivated. It is crucial to assess and set realistic goals. Go a step ahead and break those goals into smaller, easy to measure tasks so you're not overwhelmed at once. It is easier to finish up 5 smaller tasks than a big one.
Buddy upCollaborating with a partner is a great way to reduce the time required to finish a big, complex task and also helps in opening your mind to new ideas. This is specially true for software programmers. It also helps when you're not sure how to approach the problem. A mentor could significantly reduce your planning time by guiding you in the right direction. If you're unable to find a partner you can have a conversation with yourself by writing everything down. Many people write a diary, some keep journals, you can choose a format that works for you and get your thoughts on paper. However, the trick is to be free flowing, you shouldn't focus as much on writing correctly as you do on getting those thoughts on paper.
Track and optimizeTrack everything in your life from your to-do list to your sleeping pattern, eating habits etc. Next step is to optimize them. There are plenty of tools available to get the job done:
- Time/task tracking - Time Doctor, Asana, Toggl
- Health - Fitbit, Up by Jawbone
- Email - Email Game (Only for Gmail and google apps)