When it comes to productivity, we’d all like more of it. More focus, more drive, and more getting $h!t done. However, if you’re anything like the rest of us, boosting your productivity can be an uphill battle. Sometimes, it’s difficult to know where to start. You might have read all the books, attended the odd seminar, curated yourself a killer TED playlist, and kept up with the Spike blog, but you’re still stuck in the same old routines, constantly struggling to focus and turn out quality work.
Identifying and fostering productive habits should be your priority. Ones that boost your output and actually, you know, give you a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. We’ve put together the top 15 tips to form productive habits so you can start making the most of each and every day, and not just in the workplace!
To kick things off, let’s look at some top tips for general productivity. These highly effective habits will help in every aspect of your life, not just the office, so you can start spending your time the way you want to rather than procrastinating.
When You Wake Up, Get Up
Try to get up when you wake up rather than sticking to when you “should” wake up. During the night, our bodies go through sleep cycles that, ideally, ensure you are in the lightest stage of sleep when you wake up.
That means if you naturally wake up 10 minutes before your alarm, rather than rolling back over, get up! You are at the lightest part of your sleep cycle, and when that alarm goes off in 10 minutes’ time, you’ll probably wake up feeling more tired than before.
That said, your morning call should be part of a broader schedule that works for you.
Find a Schedule that Works for You
Beyond just getting up in the morning, you need to find a schedule that works for you to improve productivity. Some people work best in the morning, others in the afternoon. Either way is fine so long as you’re able to do what you need and maintain communication.
Finding your best way of working will help boost your productivity in all areas of your life because you’ll stop wasting energy trying to fit into a mold and instead direct that focus onto the actual tasks at hand.
Some highly productive people’s habits mean that they don’t sleep like the rest of us. Recently, research into biphasic sleep has shed light on how people used to spend the nighttime hours in the past. Most commonly, sleep was split into two, four-hour blocks. In between those blocks, there was time to work, eat, or pray.
It’s among the most common “skills” that everyone possesses these days. Multitasking. You won’t often find someone who hasn’t listed their ability to multitask on their resume. However, and just bear with us here, what if it was all an illusion? What if all of those people would be better served by focusing on a single task? According to research done at Stanford University, multitaskers almost always performed worse in simple memory tests, and they often had difficulty organizing their thoughts and filtering information. Put simply, multitasking stretches your gray matter too thinly, leaving you unable to complete a single task to standard—let alone two!
That’s why you should find your flow. It’s a habit that productive people cite time and again as crucial to their success. Finding your flow allows you to put all of your energy into the task at hand. It can make complex tasks seem simple, and it allows you to absorb information and be more creative than ever before.
Limit How Often You’re On Social Media
We get it. In fact, everyone does. That little dopamine hit you get each time you log into Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter is addictive. The problem is, however, that it creates a feedback loop. You begin to crave those micro-social interactions, so you log in. Only each time you do, you are effectively rewarding your brain with a chemical release, reinforcing a cognitive process that sends you right back to where you started.
We’re not saying that you should never use social media again, but the habits of highly productive people tend to limit exposure. Schedule a specific time of day and blast out all your social interactions. You might treat it as a reward for when you’ve finished work or jump online first thing in the morning to get ahead of the rest of the world. Alternatively, and assuming your job doesn’t require them, simply turning off notifications is a great way to keep social media distractions at bay. However you do it, kick the habit today and you’ll find a whole new world of productivity is waiting for you.
Don’t be Put off by Failure
Overanalyzing and wondering about “what ifs” is a sure-fire way to reduce your productivity. Worrying about failure will only hold you back, whether at work or home. Accept that there will be times when things don’t go to plan, and instead of treating them as setbacks, use them as opportunities to learn.
Productivity Tips for Work
With those productivity basics under your belt, let’s move on to some more specific productivity habits that can help you out at work.
Set Time Slots to Check Email and Messages
Most of our working days are now punctuated by constant notifications and irritating interruptions. Synchronous comms, that is, methods of communication that demand instant attention such as team messenger apps or even email (if you let it) are asking us to constantly switch our attention, causing us to lose concentration.
Email and instant messaging should be a means to an end and not the bulk of your day, which means setting aside specific time slots to deal with them, such as 20 minutes at the start and end of your workday. This stops emails and messages from interrupting you and ensures you deal with them in a timely way.
Break Big Projects Down into Smaller Parts
In order to stay productive, you need to break down more significant projects into individual tasks. When we are confronted with a large problem, it can be overwhelming, which inevitably leads to procrastination. Breaking it down into bite-size pieces makes it manageable. You can then work through the smaller pieces without being overwhelmed.
Get the Worst Job Out the Way First
You should try to tackle your hardest or most frustrating task first thing in the morning. This is when you’re likely to have the most energy and drive to do it and will result in the rest of the day’s tasks feeling like a breeze.
What’s more, getting your worst task out the way also ensures that you won’t just keep delaying it to the next day because you “just didn’t get round to it today.” We’ve all done it, and we all knew we were lying to ourselves.
Remove Unimportant Tasks From Your To-Do List
You’ve broken down bigger projects into smaller tasks and got the worst of them out of the way. The next vital productivity habit is learning to cut the unimportant ones completely. Try to focus only on the tasks that really matter to your workday while delegating, delaying, or deleting those that don’t.
This might mean ditching bits of pointless admin or time-wasting meetings. Cutting down tasks can be scary at first, but it’s a necessary step on the path to good productive habits at work.
Get the Right Tool For the Job
You can’t expect to be as productive as possible at work without giving yourself access to the right tools for the job. There are loads of productivity and collaboration apps out there to choose from, so find one that offers you the features you need to excel in the workplace.
Avoid using multiple platforms to get things done because swapping between those apps can work against your productivity.
Working from Home Productivity Tips
Working from home brings a whole new set of challenges, which means a whole new heap of productivity habits. Below are some of the best ways we’ve found to stay effective when working remotely.
Create a Physical Space at Home Just for Work
Creating a space at home that is just for your work is a great way to physically divide work and home life and helps put you in the mental space of being “at the office”. This can help reduce the distractions which proliferate when working from home.
If you can’t carve out an area only for work, then flip this on its head and set aside dedicated space where there will be no work. Your bedroom should already be in the no-go zone, but try to also block off areas you use to relax.
Take Regular Breaks
Productive habits aren’t about doing more work, but doing it more effectively and taking breaks is an essential part of that. When working at home, it can be easy to just power through the breaks you’ve set yourself, but doing so actually reduces productivity, as well as your overall wellbeing.
Set aside several breaks in your day and try to stick to them as rigidly as possible. Make sure to get up and away from your desk, preferably outside, for some fresh air. Doing so will help you feel refreshed and ready for the next part of your day.
That said, don’t be afraid to delay breaks if you’re in the flow of work, so long as you don’t skip them entirely.
Include Physical Activity in Your Remote Work Day
Getting up and moving around, even for a short time or with moderate intensity, can help improve your productivity. The more you practice this, the better it will be, with regular cardiovascular exercise, such as running, improving your memory, focusing and creativity, reducing stress, and boosting mood.
It can be easy to roll out of bed and into your office chair when working from home, so try to set aside at least 30 minutes a day for moderate to intense exercise. This could range from walking down the street to running around a local park.
Keep Communication Channels Open with Your Team
Working from home can be isolating, which in turn can cause a slump in your productivity. To combat this, make staying connected to your colleagues a productive habit by having the right formal and informal communication channels in place.
The formal ones will help work run smoothly and stop it from intruding in your personal life, while the informal ones replace the “office water cooler” and help reduce longer-term burnout when not in direct contact with your peers.
Keep Everyone in Your Household on the Same Page
Whether you live with a significant other, housemates, or parents, everyone must understand that you’re still doing work even though you’re at home. In addition, you should set clear expectations for what you can and can’t do while working from home to avoid any conflict.
Doing so as soon as possible will help for productive habits when working from home and minimize possible distractions.
Being productive in your day-to-day life and at work is not a one-time fix. Instead, you need to develop and maintain productivity habits that you stick to every day. These top 15 tips are a great way to get your productivity started, whether working from home or at the office, but use them as a foundation to build on.
Updated on 01/24/2022
Productivity Habits FAQs
Of course! Many of us now find ourselves working from home, and you can still be just as (if not more) productive as when you were in the office. Of course, you need to form a few extra productive habits when working remotely, but doing so should be a breeze.
Multitasking has been thought of as a vital skill for so long, and we’ve never stopped to ask if it’s a good thing. But, unfortunately, multitasking does not improve productivity and can have the opposite effect. Instead, try to focus on a single task and get it done well.
Skipping breaks can seem like a shortcut to improved output and greater productivity, but it works against you. Therefore, one of the most important productivity habits is scheduling and sticking to regular breaks.
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