Does your happiness and feeling of success suffer because you never have enough time? If so, you’re not alone. When you’re always playing catch-up and you’re struggling to stay on top of your to-dos, it’s easy to feel down on yourself. Especially when being behind means you have to work later and sacrifice time for yourself, your family, and your friends. When your work-life balance goes out of the window, it’s hard to feel your best.
So what’s the solution?
The short answer is to sharpen your productivity skills. Productivity works because it empowers you to get more done in less time. And when you learn to do things quicker and more efficiently, you’ll find you have more time for yourself.
But how do you acquire these magical productivity skills?
Here are five of our favorites that you can try today.
1. Remove distractions
My iPhone kindly records my screen time. When I first saw the social networking figures I was terrified! I couldn't believe I spent quite so long looking at Facebook and Instagram. I think most of us are blissfully unaware at the amount of our day that gets sucked up by social media. I thought I was pretty good. A quick glance here and a quick glance there. But over the day those little glances added up into a big number.
It’s really, REALLY hard to stay away from your phone and all the digital addictions that go with it. It’s not your fault. Social platforms are designed to keep you addicted. They want you to keep checking!
It’s why creating time that’s free of distractions takes real discipline and practice.
But get into the habit, and you will reclaim a big chunk of your day.
And not just because you’re not wasting time needlessly.
In this brilliant Impact Theory podcast with Cal [which I highly recommend you listen to], Cal reveals that it’s not just the time you waste that’s the problem. Every time you’re distracted, you bring back some residue to the task you were doing.
This reduces your mental capacity and can hinder your ability to do your best work.
If you’re serious about getting things done better and quicker, make space for deep work. Set yourself up for zero distractions - however challenging! And watch your productivity soar.
2. Plan your day robustly
If you’re relying on a to-do list alone, I guarantee you’re squandering time.
A to-do list can only remind you of what you need to get done. It doesn’t tell you when to get each item done. And the WHEN is critical for optimum productivity.
Not all tasks are created equally. Some tasks move the needle significantly, while others hardly even make a dent! Spend a disproportionate amount of time on the wrong tasks, and you’ll be busy, but not productive.
So how can you turn your to-do list into a plan of action that makes sense?
This is what a daily planner such as the Self Journal can help you do.
Your Self Journal has a daily timeline that stretches from 6am to 9pm divided into 30-minute chunks.
The secret to optimum productivity is to:
Why does this work?
Firstly, your energy levels vary during the day. At your peak, you’ll be highly motivated and on it! At your lowest, you’ll struggle to think - let alone do anything productive! You’ll get more done if you work with your individual flow of energy.
For example, schedule your hardest tasks for when your motivation is at its peak. Then do the mundane tasks that don’t require much thought when you’re running on low.
And don’t make the mistake of giving each task an open window. Instead, schedule tasks like you do meetings and appointments. Leverage the power of deadlines and get more done in less time.
3. Work in Pomodoros
It’s tempting to force yourself to sit at your desk and just keep going. But this approach can actually be counterproductive. If you’ve lost your mojo, forcing yourself to work more will drain you even further. So make sure you build in fresh air breaks to keep your energy levels high.
Even better, plan in frequent breaks using a tool such as the Pomodoro technique.
This technique leverages the power of work sprints followed by rest breaks to keep you energized and motivated for longer.
It’s seriously simple.
Use a timer [such as the Tomato Timer] to time a 25-minute block, then get to work! Focus on the task at hand and don’t stop until the alarm goes off. [I refer you back to tip one.]
Next, take a 5-minute break. Take a walk, drink some water, stretch your body - whatever you need to prep yourself for the next sprint.
Then get to work again and repeat this process until your work is done.
It’s powerful, it’s proven, and it will help you get more done in less time.
4. Give yourself permission to say no
Sometimes your ability to do more requires you to take on less.
If you’re the type of person who enjoys being busy and likes to help out, there’s a good chance you’re subconsciously overloading yourself.
Overwhelm does pile on the stress and when you feel under pressure, it’s a lot harder to think clearly and creatively. In turn, your productivity can plummet.
In comparison, take on a more reasonable workload that you know you can handle confidently, and you’ll feel more empowered to get everything done.
It is OK to say no.
No simply means you’re respecting your boundaries and prioritizing your own needs. It doesn’t mean you don’t want to be helpful. It simply means you’re at capacity right now and any more is going to put you under unnecessary pressure.
When you use no to stay in control of your to-dos and commitments, you’ll find it a whole lot easier to get more done in less time.
There’s no rule that says you have to do everything yourself. A quick way to shrink your to-do list is to identify what tasks you can hand off to other people - at work and in your home.
For example, what tasks could you delegate to your team or your VA? And if the answer is nothing, ask yourself how you can train others to take on some of your workloads to free up your time.
In the home, how can you better allocate household chores? What could your children or partner take on to free you up? Also, consider paying for help. What else could you do if you employed a cleaner or a gardener?
You may not be able to make more time, but you can often buy it back by getting tasks off your list temporarily or even permanently.
So don’t feel stuck.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking this is it.
Instead, commit to sharpening your productivity practice so you can better use your time and become your best self.
What’s your favorite productivity practice?