Are you tired of having to spend more time on your tasks because your productivity levels are so low? Try implementing these steps to be at your productive best!
10 Steps to Work Effectively and Efficiently
1. Stop Multitasking
Whilst some may feel they're at their productive best when they're working on multiple things at once, all they're really doing is spreading themselves thin.
Neuroscientists have found that multitasking can not only decrease productivity but can also leave negative long term effects on your brain, such as not being able to focus upon a singular objective. The neuroscientists found that those who try to multitask proved to be worse at retaining and recalling information compared to those who don't multitask.
Furthermore, research has also shown multitaskers experience a drop in IQ by up to 10 points due to their inability to focus. The same research stated that productivity levels can decrease by up to 40% for those who are constantly multitasking whilst they also experience lower levels of emotional intelligence over the years.
If you're the type to be constantly multitasking, try focusing on one task at a time; you may find yourself not only completing the work to a better quality but also at a more efficient pace.
2. Utilise a productivity strategy
For example, by consistently making use of the Eisenhower Matrix, you can prioritise and organise your tasks to see which ones provide you with the best long term benefits and which ones are a waste of time. This not only allows you to focus upon the tasks with the biggest return on investment but prevents you from wasting time on tasks that are not going to help you accomplish anything significant.
Remember, we all react to different things. Many people may find they're at their productive best when they are employing a time management productivity strategy whilst others may be more task orientated and thrive when utilising a to-do list. This process might take abit of trial and error, but once you find a strategy which works for you, you may see your productivity skyrocket!
3. Make it a Habit
Habits are defined as "a routine of behaviour that is repeated regularly and tends to occur subconsciously". These small routines called habits account for up to 40% of a person's daily behaviour.
Various research over the years has concluded that to enforce real change into your life, you need to start creating good habits and destroying bad habits.
Example's of how habits can enforce real change include:
- A bedtime routine = Better sleep quality
- Regular exercise = Good Health
- Practicing Gratitude = Increased Happiness
- Family Routines = Better Social Skills for Children
Research has shown that a key benefit of focusing and developing good habits is that the more times you do it, the easier it becomes to do. This is due to your brain becoming used to completing said task. Eventually, performing the task becomes less taxing mentally than not doing so.
Furthermore, the more you enforce a habit the more neurological cravings you will start to feel. This means once you carry out these habits, you're brain will reward you with the release "pleasure" chemicals; these can be highly addictive.
By consistently sitting down and working with no distractions for 2 hours everyday, it will eventually become a habit. Once it becomes a habit, you won't have to rely on motivation to get work done. You will start getting your tasks done more efficiently and effectively!
4. Set Achievable Goals
As the great Arnold Schwarzenegger said "the first and most important thing is that you’ve got to have a goal and a vision". One reason why setting goals is so important is it keeps you motivated; it gives you a reason to keep showing up and putting the work in. Without a goal it's going to be incredibly difficult to keep showing up and being productive on days when you're at your lowest; the desire to achieve your goal is going to be what keeps you disciplined.
Pablo Picasso said it best "Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.”
To be able to set your goals effectively, it is essential you utilise the S.M.A.R.T goals checklist:
Firstly, it is essential that your goals are specific. You need to figure out exactly what you want to accomplish and why, paint as clear a picture as you can of what you want to achieve.
For example, there's no point setting a goal like "i want to get in better shape". Goals such as these are useless as they just leave you wandering around aimlessly.
You need to figure out what constitutes as good shape?
Does it mean becoming stronger or does it mean improving your cardiovascular ability?
Does it involve gaining abit of muscle or does it involve shedding a couple of pounds?
You get my point, you want to be as specific as possible with your goals. For example my own goal is to run a 5k under under 20 minutes within the next 12 months. Because its specific, i know exactly what needs to be done to achieve my goal.
Next, it's essential to make sure you can track your progress towards achieving your goal. This is because making your goals measurable means not only can you see the progress you have already made which should motivate you but it will also give you an idea of how much you have left to achieve before your deadline.
Back to my running example, by stating exactly how far and how quickly i need to run to achieve my goal, i have made my goal measurable. Each run i can track exactly how fast and far i have run. I can then look at whether i am making progress and whether i am on track to achieve my goal.
It is absolutely critical that you make your goals attainable. By setting goals that you have no chance or very little chance of reaching, all your doing is setting yourself up for failure and disappointment. There's a fine line between setting a goal that will push you and a goal that is unattainable.
If i had set my goal to run a 5k faster than Joshua Cheptegei (a ugandan runner who set the world record for a 5k at 12 minutes and 51 seconds), all i would be doing is increasing the pressure upon myself and ultimately setting myself up for disappointment when i burn myself out trying to compete with him.
Next, you want to make sure that your goals are relevant. Try to avoid creating goals for the sake of it; it can feel awesome to set 50 different goals and envision yourself completing them but all this is going to do is spread yourself thin. Instead, ensure that your goals align with your personal values and are worthwhile to you.
If you're goals happen to be out of alignment with what really matters to you, don't be surprised to see yourself running out of motivation very quickly.
The last step in making sure your as effective as possible at setting goals is to ensure your goals are time bound. To do this, make sure you state exactly when you want to complete your goal by. It becomes all too easy to push the tasks that you need to achieve your goal to another day; setting a deadline gives you a sense of urgency to complete your goals.
Furthermore, try to create a plan of what can be achieved within a certain time period. For example, if i wanted to run a 5k in under 20 minutes within the next 12 months, i would make sure i can run a 5k in under 30 minutes by the 6 month period.
Don't be surprised to see yourself at your productive best once you set effective and efficient goals!
5. Create the right work environment
An appropriate work environment can be the difference between being at your productive best and consistently achieving your goals against getting nothing done and failing to achieve what you set out to do.
If you spend the majority of your time working in an untidy and disorganised environment, you may see incredible improvements in your productivity through just organising your work environment. A study from Robert Half International found that an organised work environment is the biggest indicator of a productive individual and happiness.
Furthermore, studies from the National Research Council of Canada found that a work environment can be one of the biggest factors to a person's mood and headspace - due to the amount of time we spend in our work environment every day. And being in a negative headspace can make completing tasks 10 times harder. Therefore, by working in an organised and tidy workspace you can put yourself in the right mood to get your work done.
To create the right workspace for you, try the following:
Pick one workspace
By completing your work in the same environment, you're allowing your brain to enter "study mode" every time you enter this environment; therefore you can skip the time it takes to get accustomed to a new environment and begin concentrating right away.
Make sure your comfy
Because you spend so much time in your work environment, it is essential that you make sure that your work environment is as comfortable as possible. You should almost look forward to entering the work environment - crazy i know. If you're work environment is uncomfortable, all you're doing is creating negative associations with that environment.
Ensure there's natural lighting in your work environment
The presence of natural lighting has been found to not only improve your mood and overall health but those who work in an environment which had sufficient natural lighting saw a 40% increase in productivity over those who did not have any natural lighting within their work environment.
Make your work environment smells nice
Various studies have found that different scents can impact our moods and productivity. By surrounding yourself with the right scents, you're increasing the odds that your mood, motivation and happiness are at the highest they can be. And thus you're more likely to be at your productive best. This was highlighted by a study from the University of Texas' research team who found that having the right scents in your work environment can improve your productivity by up to 10%.
Create space for exercise
By creating a space to exercise, you're not only looking after your physical healthy but you're simultaneously increasing your productive capacity. As little as 30 minutes of exercise can increase energy levels, boost cognitive ability and decrease stress levels. It may seem unproductive in the short term to turn your focus away from your tasks to exercise but in the long term the return on investment is 10 fold.
If you're consistently working in an unorganised and messy environment, try implementing some of these steps; don't be surprised if you see some immediate productivity gains.
6. Take Breaks
Similar to the previous example about creating time to exercise, it may seem counter-productive to take regular breaks but it really is incredibly beneficial to your productivity levels. Various studies have found that regular breaks allow your brain to rest and re-set; therefore minimising stress and allowing you to maintain your concentration throughout the day, instead of burning out.
The Pomodoro Technique
A great method to ensure you're creating the right balance of work and rest is the Pomodoro technique. The Pomodoro technique is a time management productivity method which involves working for a set amount of time and then taking short interval break. Once a set amount of cycles have been completed, you can take a longer break to reset your brain and return your mental state to it's baseline.
If you're the type to stare at your work for hours on end, trying to battle through fatigue in an effort to stay productive; try the opposite, take a break and allow yourself to refresh. It may not seem like the right thing to do in the moment but in the long term you'll see your productivity sky rocket.
7. Avoid Social Media
The University of Maryland conducted a huge, in depth study which found that the majority of the USA can not go a few hours without checking a social media site whilst most employee's spend up to a quarter of their work time scrolling through various social media platforms. Furthermore, a study conducted by Le Bureau found that the average employee spends 37 minutes of their work day browsing social media; this equates to over 12 hours a month, thus they're losing more than a whole working day a month due to social media usage.
Effects of heavy social media usage such as reduced attention span and sleep deprivation both result in a decrease in productivity. To avoid this trap, try the following:
- Turn off your notifications - This reduces distractions when you're fully focused, thus allowing you to maintain concentration
- Track the time you spend browsing social media - This allows you to realise just how much time you're spending on social media, then you can take the necessary steps to reduce it if the time is excessive.
- Delete the apps - The simplest solution is to delete the apps; without the apps, you're not going to be able to spend your time browsing social media platforms.
A study conducted by the American College of Sports Medicine found that students who engaged in regular exercise were able to memorise and focus to a higher level than their counterparts who rarely exercised.
It's important to remember our mental health is one of the more prominent reasons why we struggle to work effectively; feeling stressed can impair rational thinking, make it harder to concentrate and lower cognitive ability. By creating time to exercise, you can mitigate these effects and remain clear headed even during the most stressful of work days.
Furthermore, exercise doesn't just minimise stress but it proactively boosts your mood levels. Regular exercise results in the release of serotonin and dopamine - chemicals in the brain that are responsible for pleasure and satisfaction - and those who are happier tend to work more productively according to research conducted by D.G Myers.
If you're the type to skip exercise in favour of working on your tasks or staying comfortable at home; you should know you're making a fundamental mistake. Regular exercise is almost like a superpower, it improves nearly every aspect - our mentality, physicality, health and emotions.
9. Find out your peak and utilise it
Each and every one of us gravitates towards working at a certain time; some are early birds and find themselves at their most productive in the early hours of the morning whilst some may not feel energised until the deep hours of the night.
A lot of us make the mistake of trying to conform to working at one time despite being not suited to that time period. For example, many night owls try to be productive in the early hours despite feeling fatigued and sluggish; however, the truth is our alertness throughout the day is shaped by our ancestors and DNA. No matter how hard the night owl tries to be an early bird, they're still going to be most alert during the night.
Instead of trying to change your circadian rhythm, use it to your advantage. If you find that you're the most alert and productive at 4am then start getting your work done at 4am. Simple as that. You're not only going to complete your work quicker but to a higher standard too due to your alertness.
10. Eat a Balanced Diet
A balanced diet has been shown to correlate with various productivity benefits such as:
- Increasing energy levels throughout the day
- Increasing alertness
- Improving sleep and ensuring you're well rested
- Improving your mood and mental health
Furthermore, your body only has so much energy in a day; eating unhealthy foods uses up a lot of energy through increasing the workload of your digestive system. By eating a healthy diet, you're allowing yourself to conserve your energy for what's truly important to you.
This is best highlighted by a study conducted by British Journal of Heath Psychology who found that those who eat the recommended portions of fruit and vegetables were 25% more productive than those who don't eat their recommended amounts. Furthermore, those who ate their recommended portions of fruit and vegetables were more motivated and purposeful when completing their work.
If you're constantly filling up your body with rubbish such as sweets and chocolates, you're preventing yourself from fulfilling your productive potential. Instead try eating a balanced diet and monitor your productivity levels. You should see your productivity levels rise almost immediately.
Even if you attempt to only implement one or two of these steps into your daily life, you should expect to see a great return on investment. However, if you're able to implement all of them consistently, there's no stopping you in your pursuit of great productivity.