What’s one goal that almost everyone, regardless of profession, wants to achieve?
We’ll forego the guessing games and get straight to the point: we all want to work less and get more accomplished. And why not?
If you can get your tasks completed more quickly (without sacrificing quality), then you open up the door to relax more (or cram in even more work, if you’re the particularly ambitious type).
Unfortunately, getting to the promised land of less time per task is easier said than done. Here are some tried-and-true methods that can aid you in the journey, rewire your minds and finally learn how to not procrastinate your tasks.
Step One: Know What You Want To Get Done
The saying goes that if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there. From a productivity standpoint, this means you better set some goals or you’re going to spend an inordinate amount of time spinning your wheels getting nowhere at all.
What we’re saying, in a nutshell, is that you have to chart out your goals. Here’s how to get it done.
The first step is to brainstorm what your goals are. Start with the long-term, overarching objective. It could be something like “make X amount of dollars in Y amount of time.”
Whatever it is, once you have that long-term goal set, you need to break it down into smaller, short-term goals. These are the stepping stones, the benchmarks you need to hit to get this or that specific task done. Following this process of identifying a big goal then breaking it down into smaller goals helps make the task more manageable, and allows you to set a plan of action for getting it all completed.
Once you’ve got an idea of what you want to accomplish, and you’ve identified your long and short-term goals, WRITE THEM DOWN.
Few things sting as hard as having some killer ideas and then forgetting what they were. Writing your goals down also gives you the chance to order them by priority. If you have a bunch of little goals that play into an overarching win, as in our example, you can chart them out in a way that lets you work steadily towards your big prize.
You might be curious as to how to make sure you’re setting the right goals. Beyond just identifying whether they are short-term or long-term, you can use the “SMART” system to determine whether a goal is worthwhile. The general idea is that each goal you set should be:
- Specific (simple, sensible, significant).
- Measurable (meaningful, motivational).
- Achievable (agreed, attainable).
- Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based).
- Time bound (time-based, time limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive).
Keep this in mind, and you’ll be setting out goals for yourself in no time flat.
Step Two: Create The Conditions For Productivity
One thing that we often overlook is that the setting in which we work plays a big role in how much we can accomplish.
A hectic work environment with a ton of distractions, for instance, is a recipe for wasting your time. Social Media, YouTube, and Email (yes, that wicked email) all serve as pitfalls that can throw you off task. If you work from home, the kids, pets, and spouse all serve as potential roadblocks between you and getting things done.
How can you handle this so that you can get back on task?
The first thing you can do is tailor your workspace to your personality and cut out all the “fat,” so to speak. When your space is decorated the way you like it, it puts you in a good mood, reduces stress, and makes it easier for you to slip into the zone and start working more productively.
Conversely, if your workspace is drab and dreary, you’ll spend more time thinking about the things you’d rather be doing other than work, which will stop your productivity dead in its tracks.
Next thing you have to do is (figuratively) kill those distractions. We talked about folks who work from home. Make sure you have your own office space and that you keep it secluded from outside influences (kids, pets, spouse) because they can (and will) interrupt you at every possible opportunity to ask some inane question (or play fetch, in the pet’s case).
Every time you’re pulled away from work, it takes a few minutes, sometimes as many as twenty, to get back in the flow of things. Shut that door, keep it locked, and don’t think twice about what’s going on in the outside world.
If you work in a proper office with co-workers or some kind of co-working space, you’re going to have to contend with people in a different way.
Your colleagues may well want to bug you about some meeting, some email, some mundane task that could probably wait until later. Here, you have to set some ground rules. Let them know that when you’re in the zone, you’d rather not be bothered.
Set up times where you’re available and tell them not to disturb you outside of those, if possible. Of course, some interruptions just can’t be helped, but you’ve got to do your best to make sure that you’re creative a conducive environment.
Whether you work in a traditional office or at home, one thing that can sap your working hours is the dreaded internet. It’s easy to get caught in a YouTube rabbit hole (you swore you were just going to watch ONE cat video) and throw off your entire flow. Instead of doing your work with a dozen browser tabs open and alerts coming at you from every which way, limit yourself to the task at hand and resist the temptation to check your messages every five minutes. There’s a wide world of site blockers and online filters to hone your focus. Make use of them to maximize your workflow and output.
Additionally, try using background noise to increase your focus. The right sounds can help you de-stress and boost your concentration. There’s no shortage of calming ocean waves, white noise, and classical music you can use to achieve this effect.
Step Three: Arm Yourself With The Right Tools
This brings us to a unique productivity boosting step: arming yourself with the tools necessary for success. Now, this can vary, depending on what you do.
Graphic designers, for instance, will need an array of vector art, layout, and image editing programs to ply their trade. Developers will need an error monitoring tool to keep them on the right track and make them focus. Writers, on the other hand, may have more use for word processors and distraction free writing/editing programs.
Arm yourself with one of these and follow our other productivity tips, and you’ll be working less and doing more in no time flat.
These aren’t the only kinds of productivity tools out there, mind you. Thankfully, the merciful internet provides. There’s no shortage of articles from Inc., Forbes, Medium, and others that can help you hone in on your tasks. We could spend all day going over them, but here are a few that broad tool types that are of particular note:
A Good Time Tracking Tool. This will help you keep track of the time you spend working, the time you’ve spent lollygagging, and balance the two so that you can hit your stride and accomplish your goals in the period you’ve allotted.
A Bang-Up To-Do List. Earlier we mentioned writing down your goals. These apps will help you do that, and track them across multiple devices in a colorful visual format that lets you edit, prioritize, and manage them all with ease.
Dynamite Cloud-Based Storage. What can go wrong, will go wrong. Having your files backed up on the cloud is a smart way to ensure you don’t have to redo a ton of work should the worst come to pass. Additionally, you can easily get to your work from multiple devices if you’re having one of those hectic days that’s moving you around from place to place.
Solid Internet Blockers. We touched on them briefly earlier. These programs will restrict what you can do on the internet while you’re working by blocking certain sites during the hours you’re liable to become distracted. If you can’t access the thing that’s sucking away your time, it can suck your time away no longer.
That, of course, is but a sampling of the wider range of individual apps that exist. There are a lot out there, each geared towards different aspects of productivity boosting, so make sure you peruse the lists in full and get a good idea of what you’ll need in your arsenal to succeed.
Step Four: Steal From The Greats
Now, we’re not talking about plagiarizing their work. That would be wrong. What we’re referring to is studying the methods of some of the most productive humans that have walked the earth, and applying their strategies to your own situation.
Stephen King, for example, is notorious for keeping his nose to the grindstone every day. Beethoven was a coffee fanatic. Agatha Christie worked from everywhere except her desk (apparently she never owned one). Try out some different techniques from the masters of getting stuff done, and see if one or more applies to you. You might find that they give you just the edge you need to become the busy little worker bee you always wanted.