What’s the key to a healthy, happy, and professional life? Ironically, it’s being productive. That may sound like an easy answer — when you’re working smarter, not harder, you’re achieving your personal and professional goals.
That leads to a feeling of accomplishment, but you’re also able to attend to your health and well-being. That means you’re able to achieve balance and feel calmer, putting you in a better position to help others.
However, maximizing your productivity is easier said than done — especially when life throws curveballs like the current Covid-19 pandemic your way. But if you can change the way you think about your daily tasks, you can increase your productivity once and for all.
Just because you’ll find every piece of advice in this article doesn’t mean you should implement all of them. Ideally, you should start with one and work on perfecting it in the sprint of 2 weeks. Once you’ve established any given productivity hack into your habit, choose the next one from the list and start another sprint while keeping the first one intact.
Let’s jump right in …...
Identify your passion:
Jon Bon Jovi was quoted as saying, “Nothing is as important as passion. No matter what you want to do with your life, be passionate.” Being passionate is good for your health — it keeps you energized, focused, and motivated to consistently excel. Passion can also lighten your workload; you’ll spend more time on what you love rather than waste it on unnecessary or unimportant activities.
As per Deloitte's Edge report, passion is more important at work. That’s because passion relates to how excited workers are by challenges — and how willing they are to seek them out. It impacts how they learn, builds skills, and solve problems, and it can even shape their careers. They help themselves and the companies they work for develop the capabilities to constantly learn and improve performance.
How can you find and maintain your passion? It is suggested in a Forbes article that you can “focus on pursuing what you are interested in and take care of yourself.” Beyond that, cultivate the skills that will make you feel more fulfilled. Connect your short-term work with your long-term ambitions to fuel immediate interest and motivation. At some point, if you feel your passion is waning, take a break so you can reflect on your values, celebrate what you’ve accomplished, and give yourself time to rest and recharge. Reconnecting with your purpose isn’t about running yourself ragged; it’s about remembering what you’re willing to run yourself ragged for.
Productivity put simply, is the name we give our attempts to figure out the best uses of our energy, intellect, and time as we try to seize the most meaningful rewards with the least wasted effort. Being truly productive is also “about making certain choices in certain ways. The way we choose to see ourselves and frame daily decisions, the stories we tell ourselves, and the easy goals we ignore. Additionally, it includes the sense of community we build with our teammates and the cultures we create as leaders. But how, exactly, can we get there?
First, need to admit that not everything can be a priority. Is everything on the to-do list still important? Sure, but we need to identify what’s essential and necessary. That’s where our time and energy should be spent. Most of the time, these are the tasks that bring us closer to our goals and help us avoid penalties. These are the activities that have stringent deadlines, affect our ROI, or carry negative consequences if they don’t happen. As for everything else? Delegate it or automate it so we’re being productive with our time, not just keeping busy. Someone else can likely take over those tasks so we can focus on the things only we are capable of — and are most passionate about.
“Choose to be productive, not busy.“
Delegate, Delegate, Delegate:
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the feeling that you have to do everything yourself. Delegating, however, is one of the best ways to manage your time. Passing projects off to other members of the team lightens your load and lets you focus on the projects that you do best. An entrepreneurial advice states that not only delegating the tasks but really trusting that the new owner will take full responsibility for getting them done.
Delegating doesn’t mean trying to get out of doing your work—but if you have too much on your plate, delegating one of your tasks to another member of your team can help devote more attention to your more pressing projects.
“Delegation is the most important fuel for productivity.”
While this may sound counterproductive, it’s true when it comes to productivity. In fact, according to a study, long weekly hours — as well as long daily hours — don’t necessarily yield high output. After working more than 50 hours a week, productivity per hour falls. After 55 hours, however, productivity drops so much that it’s pointless to keep on working.
Other research shows that working too much is linked to health issues including stroke, heart disease, diabetes, and mental health problems.
But how can we really do less? A great starting point is to do what we discussed: Focus only on the priorities and remove everything else from the schedule. After identifying what deserves our focus, make sure we’re giving it 100 percent of our attention. That means no more multitasking. Eliminate distractions, and work in 90-minute blocks throughout the day, with a break in between. Last but not least, say “yes” more strategically. For example, if you already have your calendar booked for the next week, don’t take on any additional work or accept invites until you have the availability. This way, your calendar won’t get filled with less important items, which allows you to focus on your priorities and leave room for spontaneous opportunities you’re passionate about.
Don’t be a slave to email:
There should be a rule of checking mail only at specific times of the day. Why? Instead of feeling that you have to respond to emails the minute they hit your inbox, you can save time and stay focused by setting a schedule for checking and responding to emails (for example, once in the morning and once at the end of the day). Depending on your position, this may not feel like an option—especially if your boss or colleagues rely on you for quick responses. But you may be surprised at how supportive people will be about your new productivity strategy when you explain it to them.
One of the authors suggests sending a mail to colleagues to alert them to your new email schedule, explaining that the reason behind it is to increase your productivity, and asking that they call you for urgent matters. You can also set up an autoresponder with a message explaining when you’ll be checking email again and how people can get in touch with you if it’s important in the meantime.
"Unsubscribe to the newsletters that are not important."
Start with just 5 mins:
If you don’t want to do something, make a deal with yourself to do at least five minutes of it. After five minutes, you’ll end up doing the whole thing. Procrastination is the enemy of productivity, but we’ve all been guilty of it at some point in time. The founder of Instagram says that he beats procrastination by committing himself to do five minutes of whatever he is putting off. By the end of five minutes, he ends up sitting doing and finishing the entire thing.
This is the perfect example of the fact that starting is the hardest part, and taking action is the most important thing. Sometimes later is better, but most of the time, you’ll find that going ahead and getting little things out of the way will actually increase your productivity because you’re not allowing dishes to pile up in the sink. You’re instantly washing your hands of them.
Distance yourself from distractions:
“Turn off everything – email, phone, stocks, social media, news, etc. as often as possible and focus on a single task without interruption.”
Have you ever been laser-focused on a project and then, buzz buzz, Instagram friends started messaging you or emails started syncing to your phone? These distractions typically don’t require your attention right away, but when they occur in a moment of intense focus, they can seriously disrupt it. Cal Newport’s (author of Deep Work) argument in this realm is that we’ve fallen for the “any-benefit approach.” This is when we think we’re “justified in using a network tool if (we) can identify any possible benefit to its use, or anything (we) might miss out on if we don’t use it.”
This is the “why not? “approach, where we adopt Facebook or Instagram because hey, it’s there and family or friends have bugged us to join them on the network. The one benefit (connecting with family and friends) can come at the expense of the many downsides that the same tool might have. Newport argues that we don’t use that approach with our physical tools so why do we give our digital ones such an easy and all-encompassing path into our lives?
Create a routine:
“On Monday, I focus on management -we have our directional meeting at Square and opcom(operations committee )meeting at Twitter. I do my management on Monday - ones that day. Tuesday is focused on the product. Wednesday is marketing and growth. Thursday is focused on developers and partnerships and Friday is the company and culture and recruiting. Saturday, I take off. I hike. Sunday is reflection, feedback, and strategy.”- Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, and Square.
When he is asked about how his top productivity tips to stay on- task as CEO of both Twitter and Square, he notes that he has a very specific routine that keeps him on - track. Each day of the week has a different theme, and he assigns the correlating tasks to a time slot within those days. This really lets him dig into the theme and concepts at hand without getting distracted by everything else that isn’t directly related.
Detach every evening and reattach every morning:
How you start and end your day plays a huge role in your productivity. A renowned personality says that “a good day starts with the night before.” It is suggested that overworking can actually hinder performance and lead to burnout. Establish an evening routine that will step you up for success. This includes planning out the next day, reflecting on the day you have had, getting some good sleep, and revisiting the task in hand in the morning refreshed.
As for your morning, don’t just leap into your day. Spend a couple of minutes easing back into a work mindset by reviewing your goals, priorities, and calendar so you know where your attention and focus need to be — these may also get you excited and inspired.
Even in this management of energy and not only time can help a lot. You can optimize the workday by doing the most concentration-intensive task during the peak hours, those golden hours when the energy levels are at their highest in such cases meetings should always be scheduled for a later time.
The unending struggle to be more productive isn’t new. As a society, we’re obsessed with productivity – and it isn’t just about doing more; it’s about doing it faster, too. We do everything we can to increase our productivity. We push it to its limit. We maximize it. We hack it.
One of the big problems with this approach to productivity is that we tend to focus almost all of our efforts on our professional lives. In the quest to get more done at work, we neglect other important parts of our life, like our health or personal development.
In some ways, this obsession with feeling productive got worse when the first lockdown hit in 2020. Faced with so much extra time at home, many of us felt like we had to “make the most” of it. It wasn’t enough that we were adapting to a strange new way of working, while simultaneously navigating the upheaval of a global pandemic; we should be writing a novel, baking banana bread, or starting a new side project. Trying to face the ups and downs of remote life from a place of isolation is challenging, and in the quest to feel visible and prove we’re working, many of us started working longer hours and plowing through those “urgent” tasks with renewed vigor.
But along the way, something shifted for many of us. Stepping away from the 9-5 confines of office life, with its exhausting commute, gave us an opportunity to reflect on how real productivity looks to us. Is it really about crossing as many things off a to-do list as possible? Or is it about doing more of the work that actually matters to us – and in the process, taking steps towards achieving our larger goals? Productivity is massively impacted by how we feel, and perhaps for the first time, many of us have started focusing on the emotional side of productivity – believing that instead of being exhausting and stressful, it should feel uplifting and rewarding. The pandemic gave us space and time to redefine what productivity actually means to us.