Can changing the way we think make us more productive? - 24 January 2019

Can changing the way we think make us more productive?

Is your work life a daily struggle? It's not at all uncommon for people to end their working day unsatisfied and feeling as if they have achieved very little, despite the actual reality.

Our fast-paced digital world has created an idea that to be productive we have to fill every minute of every day with as much activity as possible, we need to be 'busy'! But are we as busy as we think and can changing the way we think make us all more productive at work?

Do you get bogged down in your ever-expanding email inbox or have a to-do list that never seems to get completed?

Our fixation on 'productivity' often means we get less achieved. 'Busyness' is not necessarily a marker of success and is thought to be a barrier to meeting work goals. Perhaps, as we're all assessing how unfit we are, it could be a great time to take another step back and re-evaluate how we work, to achieve more.

To start with ........

1. Define what productivity mean for you

Often , workload and how you work better than you, especially those who've never actually done the job.

So it's important to define what you see as a productive day, and set yourself realistic goals inside that framework. This will allow you to set personal expectations that can leave you have achieved your goals. Regardless of meeting their expectations, colleagues and managers will also align with your idea of productivity if it is producing better results.

2. Break the to-do list into digestible chunks

Might seem overly simplistic but achieving goals is a huge motivator and boost for productivity. So, drawing up a to-do list packed with all-encompassing goals such as 'make the new website' will leave you with a long period without hitting the goal. A project such as this has many different elements such as planning, designing, coding, content and launching.

Break down your large projects into micro goals such as 'complete the design first draft' and 'sign off on design'. Setting micro goals will give you a sense of achievement as the project unfolds and, importantly, a much stronger idea of a realistic timeline for completing your project.

3. Follow the two-second rule

It's been found that completing tasks that take two minutes or less actually saves you time! So, when you have a little gap in your workday, don't delay, complete one of these immediately.

On top of this, this also applies to any goal or new habit that can be started in under two minutes (not completed). Getting started is the first step in achieving them.

4. Question everything

Every day you should be asking, "can I do this better? and "is there a better way to do this?" It's very easy, individually or across an entire department or company, to become embroiled in processes and ways of doing things because that's how you have always done it.

Constantly questioning and reappraising how you work could open up time-saving and more productive ways of work.

5. Forget multi-tasking

When it comes to productivity, successful multitasking is largely a myth. Choose a task and focus on that completely, you'll complete it quicker and to a higher standard.

If you have many tasks needing to be completed concurrently, you can break up your day by allocating time-slots to solely doing certain tasks. Organising yourself in this manner will allow you to effectively plan your time and create realistic expectations for work completion.

6. Do your most important tasks when you are most alert

If you are feeling fatigued or no in the best frame of mind, acknowledge this and focus on less important or taxing pieces of work. Work on the biggest and most important tasks when you are most alert and engaged, the quality of work will be higher, and you'll complete the task with less effort.

7. Plan ahead

Before leaving the office for the day, unpack the achievements of the day and create your to-do list for the next day. This will allow you to reflect on the day's successes and create a solid plan going forward, allowing you to leave all your work focus at work, making it easier to focus on the next tip.

8. Take time out

This applies both at work and at home. At work, take breaks whenever you feel you need them. We're not talking big breaks but a walk across the office, making a cup of tea or moving onto a smaller task. This will help your brain refocus on the big task at hand. You know your body and how your mind works, take the lead from how you physically feel so you can be the most productive you can be.

Our modern fixation with productivity has also seeped into our home lives. We often feel we need to be being productive at home – writing a novel, completing a DIY project, re-training with a new skill. But it is important to take time to relax when not at work. Taking leisure time is absolutely essential to being bright and productive in our working hours.

9. Take care of yourself

Your physical and mental wellbeing is essential to your productivity – take care of yourself. Try and eat healthily, exercise and get enough sleep, as all this will create the most productive version of yourself.

10. Realise you can't do everything

Worrying about getting everything done is one of the biggest hurdles to productivity. Be realistic with yourself about what can be achieved each day and don't burden yourself with thoughts about what you haven't done. Tomorrow is another day, and few tasks are so important that they can't wait.

Ask for help where it is needed and provide realistic timeframes to managers that align with your understanding of what can be achieved.

It's a given that not every day will be perfectly productive, and you shouldn't expect them to be. Take a little step back and make some simple changes to the way you work. You may be surprised at what a difference it can make.

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