Updated: Dec 2, 2021
If you ever had moments at the end of the day when you stared at the clock wondering where the time has gone because you haven’t finished any tasks, you’re not alone.
You may be putting a lot of time into what you do, by you may struggle to see the finish line?
Do you find yourself at the end of the day wondering why is taking you so much time to finish a task?
Don’t worry, you’re not alone feeling this way. Feeling like you’re not being productive is a universal feeling.
Gone are the times when you got a brownie star for just showing up. Now you need to produce real results to get the recognition.
Yes, it’s true, we’re living in a high productivity age, but the balancing act is not to work harder, longer hours, wear busy as a badge of honour but it’s to work smarter.
And the good news is that there are hacks to get you to work smarter, not harder. So, let’s dive in.
And the priority #1 is?
The way to be super productive (and beat the overwhelm by the way) is to prioritize your tasks.
I used to have days when I put 15 or even 17 things on my to-do list. Because somehow miraculously I thought that I would do them all. But the truth was that I was standing in my own way of being productive.
Are you the same? Do you put a lot of tasks on your to-do list hoping you will do them all? Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure your intentions are sincere. Mine always were. But by building this illusion that you have an unlimited supply of time and energy is exactly what stills your focus.
The hack number one to being productive is to plan. Start with creating a priority list, list a few tasks for the day that need to be done. And then prioritize them in a way of importance. There are many methods as to how to prioritize, but one of the techniques is to look through the list of tasks you need to do and put them in either ‘A’, ‘B’, or ‘C’ column, depending on urgency. Divide them even further by making a note if you delegate any non-urgent task to somebody else who has perhaps more knowledge or skills to complete the task? By creating a priority list, you are selecting tasks that you will focus on.
And that’s how you become productive.
Focus on one task at a time
Now, when you have all your priorities for the day listed, it’s time to focus on one thing at a time.
You’re not going to like what I’m about to say, but we humans can’t multitask.
Unfortunately, the science is out there, and if you’re like me, it’s hard to swallow. The research shows that our brains consume a lot of energy when we are switching between tasks. It drains our brains, and we lose our precious energy way too fast. We’re able to sustain focus for a very short period of time and only if it is on one task at a time. When we multitask, we add additional stress on our brains which need to consume more energy to perform the task. Therefore, to stay productive, you need to focus on one task at a given time.
I know, it’s easier said than done. But creating time blocks for each task you need to perform, can give yourself that needed focus. This way you have a very specific timeframe when you need to complete your task. The added bonus for your productivity is the deadline when you need to have the task done by.
And the good news? Our brains like working towards deadlines.
Have a stress break
The third hack to be more productive is to schedule some stress breaks.
Our days are ruled by stress no matter if we have a well-developed coping mechanism or not. To be productive and sustain your energy throughout the day, you need to take some time out to recover.
Recent research shows that we can sustain focus for 90 minutes. That’s it. After that our brain needs a break to regain focus again. We can be very attentive and productive, but after 90min our levels drop. To stay productive, we need to break this pattern.
Therefore, take a stress break. Get up and walk away from your desk. Do some stretching, go for a brisk walk, dance around. Whatever you feel comfortable with doing but switch off for a moment.
After a short stress break, your brain will be refreshed and ready to go again. The quality of your work will stay high, you will be productive and get more things done.
You don’t need to dread another day of not being able to finish the tasks you wanted to finish. The stress and overwhelm can be paralysing, but with those quick three hacks you can become productive in no time.
Set priorities for the day, so you know what you need to focus on. Delegate what’s not important to do on another day or to somebody else who may be better suited to perform the task. Not everything on your list is urgent so complete tasks which are high on your list.
Focus on one task at a time. As science shows, our brains can’t multitask, so by jumping from task to task, you end up not finishing any and making your brain stress even more. Conserve the energy for tasks which you want to accomplish. By blocking time to do them you can stay focused.
Pencil in some well-deserved stress break. Take a break from what you’re doing and move your body. Take your mind off the task for a short period of time so your brain can get some relief, and R&R time. Once you’re back, you’ll be able to resume your high-intensity focus and win the day.
So, what are you going to do to stay productive today?
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