Being able to get things done more efficiently and quicker is something that most professionals strive for. Productivity is a topic that will always be important to those who want to be better at what they do and make the best use of their time at any given moment.
There are many productivity methodologies available today, which range from being simple to implement to being quite complicated. Personally, I like simple systems because the chances of it sticking increases radically. Here are five things I have found to help me become more productive and get more done in less time.
- Set yourself up for the day in your first hour. The first hour of the day is generally regarded as the most important hour of your day. I typically start my day off with some quiet time which includes prayer and meditation, visualising the things I’d like to create, doing a gratitude exercise and time permitting, reading for about 10 minutes. Then I usually go for a 20–30 minute walk during which I listen to some educational or inspirational audio program. I am getting better at not checking my emails within this first hour although I must confess that I have not perfected this yet. The first hour of the day should be all focused on taking care of yourself.
- Create you top five action steps list. When I get back from my walk, as I’m cooling down, I write out the five most important things I need to get done that day. I prioritise them from most important to least important. On some occasions, the things on my list may be related to a big project I am working on. In that case, I chunk the action steps into smaller tasks which as a result, the list becomes more than five tasks. This is the exception as on most occasions, I will stick to the five most important things. If I get the five things done before the end of the day, I will then get a head start on the next day’s action steps. Another important thing to remember is to check off each item as you complete them and have a little celebration. It can simply be saying, “Yes!” out loud to yourself. Try it and see the difference it makes.
- Take regular breaks. I use the Focus Time App on my iPhone to track my productivity. Every 25 minutes, an alarm comes on telling me to take a 5-minute break. During this time, I will either stretch, have a bathroom break or get a drink of water. Once the break is over, I restart the app and the cycle continues. Each unit of productivity is called a Pomodoro and after four Pomodoros, I take a longer 10 minute break. Since I have been using this App, I have found that I am getting a lot more done because I am conscious about not wasting time.
- Do something physical. Most people have a specific period of time when their concentration level falls and they find it difficult to stay focused. For me, it is between 1.30pm and 2.30pm. During this time, I will either for a quick 10-minute walk or do some simple stretches. Just by re-engaging the body, you will notice a shift in your energy level. By knowing when is your least productive time of the day, you can apply strategies to mitigate it.
- Stay constantly hydrated. I cannot stress how important it is to stay hydrated during the day. This means drinking lots and lots of water. There are all sorts of recommendations made by experts on how much water you should drink during the day. I will not even attempt to advise an amount of water you should drink. However, I will recommend experimenting with this and gradually increase your water intake per day. I drink up to five litres of water per day. The downside of this is that I am constantly needing to have bathroom breaks. That is why the Pomodoro technique mentioned above is useful as every 25 minutes, I can have a bathroom break. Sorry, but coffee or sodas do not count. It has to be water as our bodies are over 70% water. Give this a go and see for yourself what difference it makes to your productivity.
There are many more things that can be done to increase your productivity but by keeping things simple, the chances of these becoming habits is greatly increased. Take this as a challenge. Start with one of these techniques then add another. Before you know, you will have a whole new productivity routine.
Question: What productivity methods have you found to work for you?
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