By Noma Nazish
If there’s anything people struggle to achieve as much as, if not more than, the elusive happiness, it’s better productivity.
However, just like the art of happiness, being more productive isn’t rocket science either.
The key is to work smarter, not harder. As the saying goes, “it’s not the number of hours you put into work, it is the amount of work you put in those hours.”
So, if you want to maximize your productivity, don’t resolve to put in long hours at work; and try these tried-and-tested tips instead:
- Take regular breaks.
You might think it’s counterintuitive, but taking short breaks between work actually boosts concentration, creativity and memory. Continuously working for long stretches of time leads to stress, exhaustion and decision fatigue. Maximize your efficiency at work by taking frequent breaks to refresh and refuel your mind.
- Eat the frog:
Mark Twain once said, “eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” Brian Tracy’s famous ‘eat the frog’ technique is based on this quote. The ‘frog’ here being the most crucial task on your to-do list. The one you are most likely to procrastinate on if you don’t do something about it. The key to reaching high levels of performance and productivity, Tracy says, is to develop the lifelong habit of tackling your major task first thing each morning. But what do you do if you have more than one task on your plate? “Eat the ugliest frog first,” suggests the author. Meaning if you’ve more than one important task before you, start with the most challenging one. “Discipline yourself to begin immediately and then to persist until the task is complete,” adds the motivational speaker.
- Learn to single-task.
The human brain isn’t wired to multitask. In fact, according to research, multitasking reduces productivity by as much as 40%. This is because toggling between multiple tasks limits your focus, hampers working memory and increase stress and mental fatigue. So boost your productivity by focusing on only one task at a time. You can also use tools like RescueTime or Timeular to make sure that you don’t lose sight of time in the process. In addition, avoid over-committing and assess your priorities regularly to prevent burnout.
- Follow the ‘two-minute rule.’
In his bestselling book Getting Things Done, author and productivity consultant David Allen talked about his ‘two-minute rule.’ The gist is — if you have a pending task that can be completed in two minutes, you should do it right away as it’ll take longer to review and finish it later. Think about daily chores like answering emails, making your bed, doing the dishes, etc. This time-management strategy can drastically improve your productivity by eliminating procrastination and helping you accomplish more tasks in a day.
- Plan each day the night before.
To-do lists, as you might already know, are a great productivity tool. They help you stay organized and focused. Even Kenneth Chenault swears by them. Every evening, the General Catalyst Chairman and former American Express CEO jots down three things he wants to accomplish the following day. Creating a to-do list before going to bed gives you a head start on your morning as you’ve already planned what needs to be done in a day. However, it’s important to note that your to-do list shouldn’t include more than two or three items. Keep it realistic and simple. Cramming numerous items on your list will only make you feel disoriented and overwhelmed.
- Take advantage of your commute.
Instead of whiling away your time on social media, use those precious hours to gain more knowledge. Read thought-provoking books and articles or listen to a good podcast. You can also use apps like Curious and Lingvist to learn something new and constructive. Or, use that time to plan important tasks and respond to emails.
- Get organized.
Science says that people with a messy workspace are less efficient and more frustrated than those who have an organized work desk. Clutter limits your brain’s ability to concentrate and process information. This, in turn, contributes to stress and fatigue. So improve your mental health and work efficiency by decluttering your workspace. Start by getting rid of all the non-essential items and assigning a proper place to everything. The best way to keep things organized without feeling overwhelmed or exhausted is to clean up your work desk every day before you go home. In addition, check out these useful tips on getting and staying organized.
- Eliminate digital distractions.
The average American spends nearly one-quarter of their workday browsing social media for non-work related activities. While occasionally browsing through your Twitter or Instagram feed in a day isn’t a bad thing, constantly checking your phone for social media updates is a big productivity no-go. Set a limit on the amount of time you spend on the Internet. Also, disable app notifications or keep your phone on silent mode while working so that the constant updates won’t distract you.
- Make a not-to-do list.
While we have already discussed the benefits of creating a to-do list, a not-to-do list is also a productivity game-changer. The idea is to create a list of all of those activities you’re planning to stop doing in order to become more productive. Take some time to analyze the things you could have done differently or more efficiently, tasks that aren’t contributing to your personal and professional goals, any unproductive habits that you need to ditch, etc. Now prepare a not-to-do list based on that self-analysis and work on incorporating those changes in your daily routine.
- Get enough zzz’s:
Getting seven to nine hours of sleep each night is crucial for your physical and mental well-being. The American Sleep Association notes that over 30% people aged 20 to 39 and 40% of those aged between 40 and 59 reported getting less than the recommended amount of sleep. According to a 2007 Harvard report, sleep deprivation reduces efficiency and makes you more prone to making errors. Being well-rested elevates mood, boosts creativity, reduces stress and improves memory. It also sharpens your focus and enhances your ability to accurately take split-second decisions. In addition, establishing a healthy morning routine is also an important step to set yourself up for a more productivity day.
Start implementing these effective productivity-oriented strategies today and see your life transform.
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This content was originally published by Forbes Magazine. Original publishers retain all rights. It appears here for a limited time before automated archiving. By Forbes Magazine