6 techniques for maximizing your productivity

How many times have you been distracted while working?

If you have access to a computer, then I’m guessing a lot. If not, then… lucky you? Maybe your productivity is better than ours, but for most of us productivity is tough.Featured-image

Real tough.

There’s social media, with its never ending influx of status updates. There’s flash games, with its fun and time-consuming nature.

And there’s buzz feed.
And there’s reddit.

And so on, and so on…

…More distractions than I could possibly list.

But even with all of those distractions, you don’t need to be subject to them. You can maintain your productivity, and all it takes is that you keep on reading.

You have too many distracting options

The fact that you’re reading this blog post means you have internet, and if you have internet then you’ve got tens of thousands of distractions at your fingertips. And if you look around, I’m sure you can find many more things to distract yourself with.

You haven’t created a productive environment to work in

Fighting the urge to resist distractions is a losing battle. We have limited willpower, and it’s very easy to use it all up. If you approach your work sessions without removing distractions beforehand, then you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.

6 tips to maximize your productivity

Productivity is as much preparation as it is focus and concentration. The tips here combine a little bit of both, giving an “attack on all fronts” type approach.

Some tips work for some and suck for others, so it’s up to you to give them all a shot, pick your favorites, and integrate them for maximum productivity.

1. Create an actions list

An actions list is like a to-do list, except it focuses on the tiny actions needed to accomplish tasks.

For instance, a regular to-do lists might look like this:

  • Buy car insurance
  • Workout

And this is what an actions list might look like:

  • Pick 3 car insurance providers
  • Compare their prices
  • Pick one
  • Go to gym
  • Do bench press
  • Do shoulder press
  • Do pullups

See the difference? See how much more actionable that second list is? There’s no delay to think of what you’re supposed to do, you just do it.

If you make your to-do lists as actionable as that, you’ll definitely improve your productivity.

2. Batch similar work together

Whenever you can, batch similar work together.

Why? Because similar work can be completed with the same mindset. For instance, when you clean your place up isn’t easier to just clean without doing something else in the middle? It’d probably break your flow to suddenly write in your journal or make that important phone call while cleaning the kitchen.

So batch like tasks together whenever you can.

If you’re cleaning, just clean. If you’re responding to messages, batch all forms of messaging together (email, voicemail, social media, etc.).

In the long run, it’ll conserve your willpower so you can remain more productive.

3. Create routines/schedules to work with

Routines are a fantastic way to improve your productivity.

Why? Because routines take feelings out of the equation.

Think about it, how many times have you procrastinated because you “didn’t feel like it?” Probably a lot, right? With routines though, you don’t think about how you feel – you just do it.

Here’s how you set a routine up for success:

  1. Pick a day and time to do your routine
  2. Pick the habit you want to have (e.g. write your novel, play guitar, read more, etc.)
  3. Pick a small – and I repeat, SMALL – task that your habit involves (e.g. write 100 words, play guitar for 5 minutes, read 2 pages, etc.)

And then you do that small task each day/time that you’ve selected.

This works because you’re starting with such a small task. If it were bigger then you’d preemptively procrastinate on it, probably with a thought like “Aaah, I don’t feel like doing all that…” But if it’s a tiny task, as in so tiny it’s dumb not to do it, then can build up from it as the habit gets more ingrained.

Eventually you’ll start writing 200 words per session instead of 100; playing guitar for 20 minutes instead of 10; reading 4 pages instead of two pages, and so on.

Makes sense, right?

And you don’t have to do the smallest part of your task, you can do more if you feel like it. The idea is that the tiny task is the minimum amount of work you need to do, so as long as you hit that minimum regularly that ‘s all that matters.

4. Use a single-task focus

You probably know what multitasking is, right? Well this is the exact opposite of that.

Instead of hopping around from task to task, you stick with one till completion.

Why? Well for one, multitasking has been shown to reduce productivity. Secondly, learning to stick with one task at a time improves your ability to focus. This means you’re better able to get “in the zone,” making work fly by.

Here’s a couple tips to make this work for you:

  1. Look at only ONE task on your to-do list at a time, this prevents other tasks from distracting you
  2. Use the pomodoro method to keep you on task and more focused
  3. Block off all alerts (social media alerts, text alerts, etc.), this prevents your focus from breaking

Give this tip a shot and you’re productivity will soar.

5. Listen to music

Music is a great way to improve productivity, but what kind of music works best?

While some people work well with music they can jam along with, I think the best music isn’t distracting at all.

A great example of this is the site Focus@Will.

What’s so great about Focus@Will? It uses research driven music to improve your focus and concentration skills. The music is designed to be non-engaging so you’re not distracted by it. At the same time, it helps keep you locked on to the duty at hand.

And I can personally attest to its effectiveness.

Another option is in the form of white noise, and it’s called coffitivity.

Research shows that background noise, specifically the chatter of a coffee shop, can improve concentration. It’s a pretty nice alternative if find music to be distracting.

6. Get new tasks scheduled immediately

Ever since I’ve begun integrating GettingThingsDone (GTD) into my lifestyle, I’ve learned how important it is to not let tasks drift around in your head.

GTD handles this with a “brain dump.”

All this means is that you spend a day or so writing out every task you can think of and get them all out of your head. In addition, any new tasks are immediately written out and placed wherever you do your task management.

This is a HUGE relief on the brain. Why? Because you can focus 100% on work.

This could become overwhelming for you, so once a week go over this “brain dump” of tasks and organize it from most to least important. I personally use a tool called “toodledo” to do this, making it nice and easy.

And from there, you just pick the most important tasks for the day and do them.

Over to you

What productivity tips do you love to use? Leave your answer below because I’d love to hear it 🙂

Image – via Flickr (Conor) and (Rennet Stowe)

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