An article by contributor Carol Williams.
Landing your first job, you’ll soon learn that if there’s one thing every professional wants is to improve their productivity. Today, productivity is a highly valued metric all managers are after – they realize that even if professionals work longer hours, they don’t necessarily become more productive. With Sweden introducing a 6-hour workday, productivity gains a new significance and opens up a discussion about the way in which we organize our work. Here are 5 key tips to help you become more productive and finish your tasks in record time.
1. Organize yourself
Killer organization skills are considered a basic for many different careers. If planning is your thing, you’re on your way to becoming a successful professional. This is essentially what helps you to really make the most from your time. The ability to schedule days, months and even years is key to accommodate different demands coming from various spheres of your life. Eventually, it’s something that helps to be more focused on your tasks.
Here’s a smart trick to set your on the right path. Sometimes, it’s best to organize things in real-time – having to deal with hundreds of emails to categorize at the end of the day sounds far more challenging than categorizing them every 2 hours. Mundane tasks like this tend to pile up and you can prevent that by dealing with them on the go. Some of them are mind-numbing enough to even help you relax.
2. Know how to take breaks
That’s right, taking breaks that work is an art! And they do affect your productivity, or so says science. There are different ratios you can choose from to find one that best suits your needs – there’s the 90 to 15 or 60 to 5 ratio and many others to consider. What’s key is that you don’t find yourself in a long period of high focus and then settle for a long, hourly break. This will only make you less productive and possibly affect your health.
If you pay attention to break-taking, over time you’ll have developed a personal system that works for you and makes you most productive. Try following different models and see which one you like best. But remember that you won’t be able to be super-efficient every single day – when you feel under the weather, it’s not smart to push yourself to your usual performance rate. Give yourself a break, have regular breaks and enjoy being productive!
3. Adopt a regular lifestyle
This is a major challenge for recent grads who are used to lifestyle which alternates between hard studying and lengthy leisure time. But entering the workforce, you’ll discover that nothing works to your advantage like routine. It might sound boring, but it’s your best productivity boost. Establish one habit and stick to it – you’ll see that your body and mind will appreciate it.
Start with your sleep patterns. Try to wake up and go to bed at the same hour every day. Your body will grow into this rhythm and help you manage your energy during the day. When under a lot of pressure, it’s not smart to stay at the office until little hours. Instead, go home, relax and then wake up early to face the challenge with a fresh mind.
Once you’ve done that, you can direct your attention to another key area of your life – eating. Regularity is important for maintaining a constant flow of energy. You know what happens when you skip breakfast and wolf down a large, fatty lunch. Choose smaller portions and treat your diet seriously – most processed foods contain high amounts of carbs and fats which leave your body in a state of high, only to later come tumbling down to an energetic low. Bring your lunch from home and snack on fruit or nuts. Entering adulthood, you’ll learn that bought meals cannot be trusted.
4. Multitasking isn’t worth it
This might come as a revelation, but it’s true. Recent research clearly shows us that multitasking hurts rather than boosts productivity. Still, you might encounter many people (including your supervisors) claiming that multitasking is the best strategy for getting a lot done in a short time. Sure, you might finish a great number of tasks under an hour, but what will be the quality of your work (not to mention your well-being)? In short, multitasking has a negative impact on job satisfaction, stress management and, most importantly, productivity – that’s why you should break this habit.
But how can you do it? Multitasking happens when you’re trying to fit several things into your immediate attention at once – for instance, to be addressed during one minute. Try to plan your work in the same way, but this time stretching it over an hour. Having a few tasks on your mind is good, because you’ll remind yourself of what needs to be done without succumbing to the deadline panic (so many things, so little time!). You’ll know what to do and set a time-frame – this kind of certainty will give you peace where others run about not knowing where to direct their focus.
5. Employ smart time-saving techniques
Even if a worker’s lifestyle is relatively new to you, there are various techniques that help to make the transition smoother and save you lots of time. If you catch yourself standing in a long queue at the supermarket every other evening (while others are relaxing or having delicious dinners), it’s time to rethink your scheduling. Time is precious – it’s the only resource that will be forever lost to you – especially if you don’t use it well. Respect your time and minimize your loss by employing smart techniques for mundane tasks like grocery shopping or cooking.
Make a list every week of all the things you’d like to eat and required ingredients. Try to buy in bulk – if you know what you need to prepare your Wednesday dinner, why not buy it already on Monday? Preparing your meals is a hassle, but can be managed as well. Bulk cook for two days, for instance Monday and Tuesday, and you’ll enjoy nice dinners without getting bored with what you eat during the rest of the week.
The above are helpful pointers, but you should know that there’s no universal recipe for boosting productivity that works for everyone. Productivity is largely based on customized habits and preferences – and these are obviously individual. Other factors to count in are mood, emotional states and physiological functioning. Keep a close eye on your body – it will tell you when enough is enough, and when it’s the best time to work hard and get closer to your career goals.
Carol Williams is part of the management team behind Honeybells – a fruit shipping firm from Florida. She is a dedicated tutor and writer who lectures about self-development, time management and productivity at work.