I don’t know about you, but I would kill to have just a few more hours each day. Right? My to-do list feels never-ending, and on most days I find myself working up until the very end to get everything done.
I’ve spent a lot of time figuring out the best way to increase my productivity, and I’ve finally found my groove. With these 5 tips, my work days have gone from rushed and stressful to surprisingly relaxing and more productive. Want to get more done and decrease your anxiety? Follow these 5 tips to productive bliss:
Tip #1: Batch your work.
I feel like batching your work has become the “it” trend now and there’s a good reason for that. From famous CEOs to mommy bloggers, batching work is so talked about because it works.
What do I mean by batching your work? Simply put, it’s the act of grouping similar tasks that require similar resources. The result is that you are more focused and therefore more productive.
So how do I use batch work to my advantage? Every Sunday, I make a list of everything I need to get done that week, and then I organize it by category. My categories might consist of things like website updates, emails, podcast interviews, product research, graphics creation, etc. Then, I take each category and make a rough estimate of how long I think it will take to complete all of the tasks in that category. Finally, I assign each category to a certain time period on a specific day.
This way, going into my week I have a concrete plan of when I’m going to do what. The benefit is that I know what I’m going to do at every point so I don’t waste any time trying to figure out what I should do, and I’m more focused because I’m working on similar tasks instead of jumping all over the place.
Tip #2: Figure out your productivity cycle.
When I worked in corporate, I found myself slumping every afternoon from 3-5pm; I assumed this was because I wasn’t happy in my job and just couldn’t wait to go home. I never thought much about this until I started my own company and my original plan was to work every day from 9-6. However, I found that even though I was now doing work I loved, the same thing was happening – every day at about 3 p.m. I’d start to slump. What was happening?
It wasn’t until I read “The Power of When” by Michael Breus, PhD, that I realized what was going on. Every person’s biological clock is tuned a bit differently and mine, as it turns out, is a bit of a morning person. After some observation, I learned that my most productive hours are between 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. and that my least productive hours are, not surprisingly, in the late afternoon. In fact, I’m much better at being social during those hours than I am at being productive.
Now, my work hours look a bit different and I’m all the better for it. I’m typically in my office by 9 a.m. each day and I work non-stop until 1 p.m., when I break for a quick lunch and then another hour of work before I stop around 2 p.m. Thanks to learning more about myself and my chronotype in Michael’s book, I now take a nap at 2 p.m. every day, and while I may schedule social or networking activities between 3 – 5 p.m., I completely shut down my work by 6 p.m. The result? Even though my work hours have shortened, I am more productive and feel healthier than I did before. The result of doing things at the right time for you? You’ll do them that much better.
Tip #3: Turn off email/distractions.
I used to keep my email on all day when I worked in corporate. It was partly because I worked in an environment where you were expected to respond to emails instantly, but also because I liked the connection I felt when someone emailed me (I am a social creature by nature). But when I started my own company, I quickly realized that I wasn’t going to get anything done if I stuck to my old habits.
The first change I made was to turn off my email during the majority of working hours. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s made me so much more productive. Now, instead of checking emails the minute they come in, I check them three times each day – a quick scan in the morning for any fire drills (I don’t respond to anything unless it’s urgent), an hour in the early afternoon reading and responding to mostly everything, and then another quick scan in the early evening before I shut down for the night. Otherwise, my email is shut down.
I’ve taken this one step further – I don’t keep my phone next to me when I work. I’ll leave it across my desk and upside down so that I don’t see any notifications that come through. Because my text messages are usually limited to those from my husband, parents or close group of friends, and they don’t come in nonstop, I’ll keep my Messages app up on my computer, but if I ever feel like those are distracting me, I’ll shut it down too.
For anyone feeling anxiety from the thought of putting your phone away or shutting your email off, spend one day observing how often you check your email or text messages (or, gasp!, Facebook or Instagram). Try to notice the time when you did these things the most, and then for just one hour, turn them all off. Start small with that one hour and increase from there. I think you’ll find it’s nice to get rid of those distractions.
Tip #4: Create a productive work space.
This one’s a lot of fun (I think). One of my tricks to a productive day is to make sure that the space I’m working in works for me. Everyone’s different, so you’ll have to figure out what works best for you, but incorporating these five things has made my space feel more comfortable and amenable to productivity than ever before:
A comfortable (but not too comfortable) chair – make sure you can sit in it for many hours and be comfortable, but that it’s not so comfortable you won’t focus
An inspiration board – I like to keep a reminder of what I’m working for in my office. My inspiration board features pictures of trips I want to take, my dream house and other reminders of what I’m building my business for.
A big workspace – I like to spread things out, so a huge desk was key for me. Even if your small on space and/or budget, I’ve found that places like IKEA have compact and affordable options that give you a lot of bang for your buck.
Good light – Coming from a corporate environment, I don’t ever want to see a fluorescent light ever again. That’s why I’ve made sure the light in my office is bright but soft, and I have a few different lighting options (ceiling, lamp, etc.) so that I can adjust the lighting as the weather, and my mood, changes.
A good smell – I like to keep plants in my office to keep the air clean, but I also love a good room spray. My current favorite? From Molly With Love’s White Sage Smudge Spray, which you can find here.
Tip #5: Schedule in breaks.
No matter what your perfect work schedule looks like, taking breaks is absolutely crucial. Some people are a huge fan of the Pomodoro Method, where you work for 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break, and then repeat (with longer breaks as you go on).
Personally, I’ve found that doesn’t work for me, because I get too distracted and unmotivated on my breaks. I find that working non-stop from 9-1 is perfect for me because I stay very focused and can power through. But I make sure to take a 15-minute break when I stop at 1 to make lunch and get some fresh air.
Our minds are not designed to work 24/7 and in order to be more productive, we need to be more respectful of their abilities and needs. Taking short breaks, or longer breaks after long periods of work, are critical to decompress, restore brain function and maintain overall calm.