We all want to be that one person who manages to finish long tasks fast and gets the rest of the day to enjoy. We all want to know how to be productive.
When you change work environments -either by working from home or working from different places- eliminating the distractions and staying productive can be challenging. You aren’t forced to keep the pace of your tasks like you do when sitting at an office eight hours a day.
The good news is; your maximum capacity has to do with the decision to set your mind on the task. The specific hour of the day you’ll start will be efficient as long as you have discipline. I’ve seen many people (including myself and colleagues) being 9-5 at the office and not reaching their maximum potential or productivity.
And yet, some people work remotely, at peak efficiency. What do these productive people do and achieve that work-life balance? What are the productivity tips that help them do it, and in what ways can those teach you how to be productive at home?
In a nutshell, here are the best 12 best tips on how to be more productive:
- Figure out your peak hours
- Make a daily to-do list.
- Eliminate distractions
- Stick to the same working environment
- Create a focus playlist
- Take small breaks
- Get sunlight and exercise.
- Outsource tedious tasks
- Turn off notifications
- Identify priorities
- Eliminate anything nin-essential
- Fix deadlines
Let’s examine each one.
1) Figure out the time of the day that your mind works best (peak hours)
I’m a night owl. Since I was a student, my brain was at its best during the night, finishing homework and making thoughts rapidly. I couldn’t wake up at 6:00 am completing tasks or going to the gym, and I struggled a lot during the first hours at school to increase productivity.
However, I had friends who were morning birds, completely unable to perform after 6:00 pm. Find your ideal hour and pace, and commit to finishing anything you’ll start during that time.
2) Make a to-do list every day
That’s probably the most crucial thing you’ll do to reach specific results. People keep forgetting tedious tasks, and eventually, they end up overflowing with things they should have finished weeks ago.
I use the business planner from Dailygreatness (Get 10% if you choose to purchase by using my coupon code here) to make a task list for the whole week -with both work and routine tasks, like cooking, shopping, cleaning- and edit it every day, either by highlighting what I complete or adding stuff.
I try to start with the things I don’t particularly enjoy because chances are, I will keep procrastinating. If I complete the “boring” part first, it’s much easier for me to follow up with the list more efficiently and usually finish earlier than expected.
3) Eliminate distractions by choosing a “productive-friendly” environment
Don’t sit under your blankets with your laptop and pajamas. Get up, get dressed, like you would do if you were going to the office. Make space at your desk or table and sit in a comfortable chair.
You can also choose noise-canceling headphones and correct light (not too much nor too soft). Try to opt for the daylight and sit close to the window.
Decluttering and organizing your desk while making it as appealing as possible will motivate you to start your work and focus.
4) If you’re staying at a place for more than a day, stick to the same working environment
Following the step above, try to set your working space (whether it is a cafe, library, or kitchen table) and stick to it. Eliminating the changes between areas will help you create a “mini-routine,” which will eventually become a habit.
5) Create a focus playlist to increase your work productivity
Whoever thinks that music can be distracting is wrong. Music can relax, motivate you, and thus lead to faster accomplishments. I have specific playlists for working and reading, with songs that I particularly enjoy listening to without evoking any thoughts that will distract me.
6) Rather take small breaks than a long one
Focusing and being productive for eight hours straight on something is merely impossible. Nobody can complete distraction-free work for that long.
That’s why taking small breaks is crucial (research shows it makes people more efficient).
Even breaks that are a few minutes long can recharge your batteries and develop new ideas.
Be proactive about taking breaks. When you take breaks, it’s essential to make them specific and deliberate. It’s easy to see distractions as breaks
and if you don’t have that time specified, you may be just getting distracted.
A suitable method is to work intensely for some time (let’s say half an hour), followed by five minutes scheduled break that will help you recharge. (Pomodoro technique)
7) Get sunlight, walk or exercise
When you’re working from home, it is tempting to finish work and stay inside to watch Netflix, relax, eat, or do any other home-related activity.
Finish your tasks, but instead of maintaining your “staycation” routine, go to the gym, walk in the park, and get as much fresh air as possible.
According to Live Strong, when you’re exercising, you’re more alert and have enhanced your energy as you increase your blood flow to the brain.
8) Outsource tedious tasks that occupy time
One of the books that completely changed my way of thinking regarding how I perceive tasks at work is “4 hours work-week” by Tim Ferriss.
Staying occupied doesn’t necessarily mean you’re efficient or you achieve results.
One of the book’s best suggestions was to discriminate the automated tasks that occupy time and effort on your side by either outsourcing them to a virtual assistant or asking for help in general.
Having someone to help you online can sound like a luxury, but it can completely change your life for the better (and it’s cheaper than you think).
You can hire your virtual assistant cheaply from services like Fiverr.
9) Turn off social media notifications and sound
Whether we like it or not, notifications are addictive. When we perform a tedious task, a notification that displays “likes” to our pictures or texts from our crush can release dopamine, which is the antidote to boredom. When I stop my workflow to answer a text or check my Instagram, I enter a loop that can cost me five or ten productive minutes.
Don’t fall into that trap. Put your phone away and in silent mode. It will be there waiting for you at your break.
10) Identify priorities using Eisenhower Matrix and organize your to-do list accordingly
One of the main reasons for low productivity is a focus on non-essential.
“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”
It’s easy to waste time on things that seem important at the moment on any given workday.
The Eisenhower Matrix, which Dwight Eisenhower used to make decisions, is known in Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
It’s a great way to quickly determine what you should prioritize and what you should eliminate. James Clear, the famous author of my favorite book; Atomic Habits, show us how the Eisenhower matrix looks like:
Organizing your to-do list based on each task’s importance and urgency can help you manage your time and see what matters and what doesn’t.
11) Eliminate anything not essential and create a separate list for crucial long-term projects
According to the matrix above, you can look for ways to delegate, automate, or eliminate.
If you are spending most of your day doing urgent but not important things, you can outsource or ask for help.
When you’re spending time on things that aren’t important or urgent, you should ignore or eliminate them.
Last but not least, if you catch yourself working on important but not urgent things, you should know that most of us do.
An excellent hack is to create a separate list for the “important but not urgent” things you can check later on and after you’ve finished with the important and urgent.
12) Fix deadlines for every task
Even those “important but not urgent” list of things deserves a proper deadline. I opt to give a week deadline for the critical and urgent tasks and around a month for the “important but not urgent.”
Deadlines can help boost your attention, give you the urge to follow through, and not wholly neglect your secondary list.
Conclusion: How to be more productive
So, we examined 12 different ways on how to increase productivity. However, peak performance and productivity are highly personalized cases that might differ from person to person. I would opt for some tips or test a combination and finalize those that work best for me. Remember, most of the people who manage to finish everything in a short period of time are those who found strategies and tricks on how to be more productive.