Career Series: Keeping Up Productivity
Productivity always comes up whenever I ask people what they struggle most with. Whether it is getting started on a project or keeping up momentum or staying on task or procrastinating. There are many ways to ensure we stay focused, productive and proactive throughout the working day.
This may seem a particular challenge when working from home or when distractions are many and focus is easily swayed. The first thing to let go of is guilt.
If you are finding yourself getting easily distracted, here are some eight suggestions to have a great day, staying efficient and productive.
1. Start your day with the question: What do I want to achieve today?
Work out how you want your day to look. What are you wanting to achieve? How will that further your business or work? What goals will you set yourself? This doesn’t need to be the same goal each day. Some days you might want to hit some serious targets, other days you may want to get that pesky filing done or clear your inbox finally. Listen to how you are feeling that morning, focus on what will bring you the most satisfaction or contentment. Fighting against yourself is only going to bring anguish and stress. If you are REALLY not feeling like completely a certain task... and it is something that can wait... don’t force yourself. Find something else you can do that will help you to move forward in the future. Working with yourself, rather than against yourself will help you be the most efficient and creative version of you.
2. Always write a to-do list
Before digging into any tasks fo the day, write a list of all the jobs you need to achieve. Think of everything you might need to do, whether they are tiny jobs or big ones. Once you have your list, pop them into an order of importance. Star the jobs that need urgent attention so you know where to begin your working day. Then go through and decide which are least urgent and which are semi urgent. You could order them with numbers if that works for you. At the end of your day, before shutting down, start a list for tomorrow and move any of the jobs you didn’t complete over to tomorrow. This way, nothing slips through the cracks and gets forgotten about. Starting a list first thing helps to get everything out of your head and onto paper which will help to reduce stress. When we keep everything cooped up in our brain, it has a funny way of convincing us that there is much more to panic about than there really is. Once it is down on paper, we can physically see the amount of work that needs doing which it makes it feel far more achievable.
3. Take regular breaks
I cannot stress enough how important breaks can be. Plan out your breaks into your online calendar if that helps. Try to split up your working day into short, efficient slots with regular 15-minute intervals. For each 15-minute break, try to do something different, go for a brief walk, read a chapter of a book, make a cup of coffee, eat something. These breaks don’t need to stimulate the brain necessarily, just snap you out of your work mindset for a brief period so you can come back to your desk refreshed.
4. Learn when to stop
If you are finding yourself staring at the screen unable to just get started, it might be time to put that particular task to one side and focus on something else for a while. It can be so easy to waste hours of time getting more and more frustrated over a lack of inspiration about just one item on the to-do list. The time spent simply staring at the screen could be much better utilised doing something else on your list until you are ready to come back to the original task.
5. Don’t eat at your desk
For those working from home - keep your desk purely as a work space and your dining table purely for eating. Try — if possible — not to merge the two. Keeping this separation helps to train the mind into a working mindset and a personal space mindset. When you blur the lines between the two, it can cause a lack of focus on both sides and productivity to slip.
6. Remember, guilt has no purpose
When I first started my business, I felt like any work that I actually found fun was something to feel guilty about. I soon realised however, that these were some of the most important parts of building a business. Think about what makes you feel guilty and ask yourself why do I feel this guilt and what can I do to change this feeling? Once you have established whether the guilt is serving you, decide whether to let it go. What emotion would better serve you in being productive? How can you get that to happen?
7. Tidy desk, tidy mind
Working in a clear, clean workspace leads to much more productivity. Work on filing systems and organise the space so it works for you. Time looking for lost papers or documents is time wasted. Put aside an hour or so to do a full clear out of unnecessary clutter and find a place for everything else. A clear desk helps to keep your mind calm and focussed.
8. Tidy inbox, tidy mind
The same can be said for your inbox. A lot of us have been guilty of it at one point or another, letting our inboxes rise and rise until we have 32,865 unread emails screaming out at us. I would advise that it truly pays to get them organised. Go through and delete any trash or non-essential mail — you may be surprised how much rubbish is taking up your inbox! Create folders and file away everything else. Get your inbox down purely to emails that need action. Once you have dealt with an email and no longer need to focus on it, put it in a folder. Keep any emails that act as reminders to action in the inbox, file everything else. I promise you, it will change everything!
Lastly, keep positive and remember you can do this.
Lili Sinclair-Williams is the Founder of LSW London