How To Improve Productivity, 25 Comprehensive Tips

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how to improve productivity

There are two, somewhat obvious, ways to improve your output. One, increase the number of hours you spend working or, two, work smarter. Productivity improvement is the definition of working smarter.

Pareto’s law affirms that 80% of the output is as a result of 20% of the input. Therefore, 20% of our actions result in 80% of the results. In order to improve productivity, we must identify the 20% that is producing the 80% of our most desired outcomes, and then concentrate exclusively on those activities.

Here are 25 tips to achieve just that.

1. Track Time

Research shows that only 17% of people can accurately guess the amount of time that has passed while engaged in a certain activity. As such, productivity in the workplace can be greatly improved if we are able to determine how much time is spent on various activities.

Productivity Tool: Rescue Time

2. Take Regular Breaks

Despite what you may think, regular breaks assist in maintaining a consistent level of performance. Consider making use of the below mentioned ‘Pomodoro Technique’ which, in essence, entails setting a timer every {insert minutes}, for when it is time to take a break. It is recommended that you work for 90 minute intervals at a time.

Productivity Tool: Pomodoro Technique

3. Make Deadlines

While we are all averse to stress, self-imposed stress can, at times, be helpful in getting things done. For example, should you be working on an open-ended project, set yourself some deadlines for various tasks within the project. Then, be sure to stick to those deadlines!

Productivity Tool: Trello

4. Be Task Smart

Steve Olenski, Forbes Contributor/Director of CMO Content & Strategy at Oracle, developed the ‘two minute rule’ which states that if you are aware of a task you know can be completed in two minutes or less, you should get it done immediately. Furthermore, it is wise to start your day either with your most important or most dreaded task – both of which can often overlap. Second to that, focus on result-orientated activities and always try to batch similar tasks together.

Productivity Tool: Wunderlist

5. Learn To Say “No”

A word that many of us do our best to avoid, unless around toddlers, it is paramount to learn to say no when it comes to your business productivity. Did you know that the average office worker spends over 31 hours per month in unproductive meetings? While meetings are just one of the many requests we need to train ourselves to turn down, it is an important one. Consider exploring alternative methods of collaboration that are far more productive, for example, an email, phone call, or web-based meeting.

Productivity Tool: Confluence

6. Stop Multitasking

Research has shown that, not only do we lose proper focus on each task, but it takes time for our brains to switch between said tasks as well; wasting time that could of been spent focused on one task and completing it properly.

Productivity Tool: JDarkRoom (for writing tasks)

7. Take Advantage Of Dead Time

We spend a lot of time traveling, or waiting for appointments. Time which could be spent answering emails, formulating to-do lists, and / or brainstorming. If, like me, you suffer from motion sickness, try putting in your earphones and tuning into to a podcast focused on a topic you’ve been wanting to learn about.

Productivity Tool: Huffington Post’s Top 100 Podcasts

8. Give Up The Illusion Of Perfection

Too often, we delay completing a task because we feel ‘it isn’t perfect yet’. If the world’s top entrepreneurs and inventors went by the same guideline, we would be decades (if not centuries) behind in technological and other advancements. Best practice, believe it or not, especially within the online world, is to get {insert project} out as soon as possible! You can always go back and perfect it later.

Productivity Tool: Rescue Time

9. Take Exercise Breaks

Remember one of the above tips to increase productivity was to take regular breaks? Why not make one of these an exercise break? Whether this be a walk in the nearby park, or a trip to the gym, exercise is known to increase stamina and will, in the long run, reduce absenteeism due to sickness. Alternatively, consider exercising in the morning to improve productivity throughout the whole day.

Productivity Tool: MyFitnessPal

10. Be Proactive

Don’t get caught up in putting out fires, all… day… long. Also, don’t let your emails determine the course of your day. Instead, set aside a specific amount of time to answer emails. Incorporate this into your plan for each day, and stick to that plan! Furthermore, identify the time of day you are most productive and optimize your work schedule accordingly. Then, prepare the night before by going over your schedule for the following day, packing lunch, etc., and having a good night’s sleep!

Productivity Tool: Google Calendar

11. Turn Off Notifications

The average person spends 3.6 hours per day socializing online. Is that really how much time you want to set aside for social media and the rest? I didn’t think so. So, hide (or adjust the settings of) your social media apps and any others that might cause a notification to pop up while you are working. Perhaps the one ‘app’ you can have running is your music one, as this can help you focus.

Productivity Tool: Apple Music

12. Maintain a Pleasant Office Environment

Did you know that ‘having something nice to look at’ can increase productivity by up to 15%? So yes, that overpriced painting you purchased for your office may not have been such a waste of money after all. Over and above working on the decor of your office, ensure it remains decluttered and tidy. This is bound to improve productivity.

Productivity Tool: Houzz

13. Minimize Interruptions

The average employee receives 56 interruptions per day and spends two hours recovering from these, per day. Therefore, do what you can to avoid interruptions. Whether this be having set office hours, working from home, or even simply keeping the door closed. Consider installing a Caller ID on your cellphone as well to avoid answering ‘useless’ calls.

Productivity Tool: TrueCaller

15. Meditate

A big part of productivity involve ‘getting your head in the game’. A proven way to do this is through meditation. View my article on 7 Guided Meditation Videos Under 30 Minutes if you are not sure where to start. Or, download the popular Headspace app to achieve mindfulness (and more) in under 10 minutes.

Productivity Tool: Headspace

16. Eat Regularly And Properly

In order to increase productivity, you are going to need some brain food. So, be sure to snack frequently and take in all the necessary nutrients required for you to function at your best. Plan out meals ahead of time and make one trip to the grocery store, per week.

Productivity Tool: Superfoods

17. Work Hard, Play Harder

A strong philosophy of Joe’s – expressed through Slow Down School – is the need to “slow down in order to spark innovation”. Therefore, be sure to disconnect from work once you are done with it. Furthermore, reward yourself for goals met, hard work, and lessons learnt.

Productivity Tool: Slow Down School

18. Set Goals

It is going to be difficult to improve your productivity if you don’t have anything to work towards. Therefore, it is imperative to set daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals. Set yourself reminders of these and place them in a to-do list in order of priority. Get a trusted someone to keep you accountable to these and help you determine whether or not the goals are ambitious enough, while still realistic. Break up the bigger goals / projects into smaller, bite-sized ones.

Productivity Tool: Google Calendar

19. Make Notes

Always be sure to have a notebook and pen, or app, available to jot down ideas / thoughts / to-do’s etc. This will save you the time of trying to think of it later and will allow you to have a clear conscious instead of having the same thought rattle around your head.

Productivity Tool: Evernote

20. Question Yourself

Ask yourself throughout the day, “Am I currently making the best use of my time?” If the answer is no, refer to your task list and switch to completing your most important one.

Productivity Tool: Wunderlist

21. Outsource

Another one of Joe’s fundamental beliefs, outsource. If you are unable to get yourself organised, hire an assistant. Alternatively, if you find yourself working on tasks that are not part of your core focus / talents, find someone who better fits that description.

Productivity Tool: Upwork

22. Write Down a List Of Time Wasters

While this may seem like a waste of time initially, taking note and making a list of activities you find are wasting your time will greatly improve your productivity in the long run. Did you know that the average employee checks his/her email 36 times per HOUR, and then spends 16 minutes refocusing after handling incoming email. It is activities such as this that need to be included on the list and mindfully avoided in the future.

Productivity Tool: Wunderlist

23. Develop a Routine

They say it takes four weeks to develop a good habit. So, once you’re done with this blog post, formulate your ideal, most productive routine, and work – over the next four weeks – to set that into motion. Something to keep in mind when doing this is to try to wake up at the same time everyday.

Productivity Tool: Walk Me Up

24. Read Books About Productivity

If you’re still battling to obtain productivity in the workplace, there are some great books available on how to do just that. Here are three of the best:

Productivity Tool: Google Books

25. Just Do It!

At times, we just need to stop with all the excuses and simply just do it! Get started on that project you’ve been avoiding. Stop procrastinating. Identify your goals, put together your to-do list, and JUST DO IT!

Productivity Tool: Self-belief

Samantha Carvalho is the Chief Marketing Officer of Practice of the Practice. She lives in Cape Town, South Africa, with her husband and kitten. Over and above Practice of the Practice, she is passionate about women empowerment, fashion, and animals.

Click here to outsource your marketing or contact Sam at [email protected].