Our busy lives juggling our work, household chores, family, hobbies, exercise and our social life, mean that so many of us feel we don’t get enough time for everything. Many of us feel we’re spreading ourselves too thin, and that we can hardly give our best to each and every task.
Unfortunately, we’re never going to get more hours in a working day so the only solution is to be more productive.
Not to work more, but to make the hours we do work count more.
Here’s how to do it:
It may seem counterintuitive to go to bed early when you are already behind with your to-do list, but getting a good night’s sleep is actually the best thing you can do.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends seven hours of sleep for a healthy adult, but the reality is that many of us get far less.
A study on productivity conducted by the Hult International Business School showed that even just half an hour less than this magic seven hours of sleep can seriously affect individual performance and general workforce productivity.
If you struggle to fall asleep or wake up frequently throughout the night, it’s important to seek professional advice to improve your sleep habits.
Optimal nutrition isn’t just for athletes. The human brain requires certain nutrients to function optimally, and good nutrition is vital to productivity.
Brigham Young University, Utah found that employees with unhealthy habits cause substantially higher levels of lost workplace productivity.
Simple changes like eating more fruits and vegetables, avoiding sugary snacks and taking a multivitamin for overall health are good steps towards improving your diet and your productivity.
If you keep a list of all your tasks somewhere handy, on your phone or on your desk, your brain is already freed of one less thing to concentrate on. Using your brain alone to keep track of everything you need to do is tiring, and sometimes unreliable.
Using a list also allows you to manage your time better. It’s easier to group similar tasks on your list that can then be performed together for ease and speed. For instance, it’s more efficient to respond to email one after the other, rather than closing and reopening your email client multiple times a day.
Having a routine or following a certain structure every day helps you work on appropriate tasks around your regular energy highs and lows.
Try timetabling your activities such as time for exercise (morning or evening or whatever schedule you can conveniently stick with), work, and even reading personal and work emails once or twice a day, not as they come in. Doing this will help you focus on which emails require an immediate response, and which ones need no reply.
Similarly, only make calls within one slot (maybe half an hour or one hour) a day if possible. Want to make calls shorter and to the point? Try calling at the end of the working day when others will want to leave their office, too.
Switching between tasks uses a lot more energy than fully completing tasks one by one. Each time you switch back to a task, you waste valuable brain power trying to remember where you left off and what you need to do next.
Try to avoid starting a project unless you know you have time to finish it. Use your to-do list and timetable to work out the best use of each time slot.
Concentrating on one thing for any length of time is hard work. Once you begin to lose concentration and your mind wanders, you begin to take longer to make decisions, or even complete fairly simple tasks. This means you are no longer at your most productive.
You could look at distraction as a signal that your brain needs to rest.
Try switching off for a moment with this relaxation trick: close your eyes, relax your shoulders and concentrate only on breathing in and out slowly to a count of 6. Banish all other thoughts, and aim to only focus on slow breathing for at least a minute.
People are creatures of habit, and if you are honest with yourself you’ll already know of at least one habit that affects your productivity.
For instance, it could be habitually checking your phone every single time you hear a notification sound, opening social media apps too often, or taking too many trips to the office coffee machine.
Pick one habit to lose at a time. You’ll need to focus hard on breaking a bad habit, so trying to lose too many at one time is more likely to result in failure. Do whatever is necessary: set your phone to silent mode (no vibration), delete the app, hide the coffee cup.
Having a ‘can’t do’ attitude can be a big barrier to both success and productivity.
When you reflect on your day, try to focus more on your successes and achievements rather than what you didn’t get done. This will help you start the next day feeling more focused and confident. Practice positive thinking exercises to adapt your mindset.
One final thing: Be realistic, be kind to yourself and remember that you’re a human being, not a comic book superhero!