We all want to be more productive, but for many of us, that’s easier said than done. We’re tired, we’re distracted, and we get burned out from feeling mired in mundane tasks for too long. However, improving productivity isn’t just a pipe dream. By paying extra attention to a few things, you can drastically improve your output, accomplish a lot more, and feel better about how you spend your time. Here are five tips to get you started.
1. Make a To-Do List
We’ve all been there: we sit down to get some work done, only to forget what we need to do and waste time trying to remember it. Making a list of things we want to accomplish eliminates surprises and forgotten tasks. Keep it on paper, on your computer, with an app on your mobile device — the method that will work best for you is the method you should use. Be sure to keep your items broken down into manageable tasks rather than bigger, overwhelming things to do, and be specific so you can stick to it. The best part of a to-do list, though, may be the sense of accomplishment you feel as you cross off the things you finish.
2. Keep Social Media Time to Sanctioned Breaks
Social media is fun, and it’s become a huge part of our lives. Unfortunately, when you’re trying to work, it’s also a huge distraction. However, there is time for social media and high productivity. Here’s how: taking breaks is important to staying motivated and productive. By taking social media breaks a few times a day, you’ll still feel like you’re connected with friends and hot-button topics, but you’ll also get a lot of work done because you won’t be checking your Facebook updates or your Twitter feed every five minutes. Try taking a 15 minute social media break every two hours or so, and then get back on task.
3. Take Advantage of Your First Energy
Many of us are at our peak productivity first thing in the morning. It’s a perfectly quiet time to get things done before all the distractions of the day creep in. Try waking up an hour earlier than normal and getting right to work. Of course, this means getting to sleep a bit earlier, but you may find that you get a ton of things done in the day’s first 60 minutes. Not a morning person? No problem — pay attention to your own productivity peaks to figure out when you’re getting the most done, and take advantage by planning to work during that time. For some it’s just after lunch, while for others it’s late at night. Whatever time is best for you, use it to your advantage.
4. Dangle the Carrot
It’s important to work hard, but it’s also important to reward yourself. Promise yourself something good for accomplishing certain tasks, or for crossing a certain number of items off your to-do list. You probably can’t promise yourself a new car, of course, but things like going out to a movie, picking up some Thai take-out, or even opening a great bottle of wine are perfect things to look forward to and help you visualize the end of a productive day.
5. Get a Good Night’s Sleep
This may sound basic, but it’s easy to forget how important it is to get enough rest. When you’re tired, it’s hard to focus. When you’re well rested, you’re on top of your game and ready to knock out any tasks that come your way. Of course, a little coffee may help, but all the coffee in the world can’t replace the productive energy that comes from quality shut-eye. Set a bed time, stick to it, and wake up feeling great and ready to go.