When it comes to personal productivity, it can mean different things to different people. Some people think that productivity is doing as many things possible in as little time, other people think it’s about setting reasonable goals and finishing them on time.
What is for sure is that personal productivity is about getting tasks done that bring you closer to your goals without causing an imbalance in your life.
And let’s face it, there will be days when you’re absolutely lazy and unable to concentrate on anything and end up wasting the whole day on meaningless tasks.
What is important is not to develop that into a pattern and lower your overall productivity. On days like those when you’d rather just count the tiles on your office floor than get to work, it’s important to know what you can do to try and get something more out of your day.
If you’re wondering how to do that, we’re here to explain it to you but be aware that it’s going to take a lot more than buying a fancy planner.
1. Set realistic goals
You can’t be as productive as you want to if the goals that you set up for yourself are literally impossible to achieve in that period. This is one of the biggest problems that people have when it comes to managing their responsibilities.
I, for example, am a dreamer. I will set up goals that I honestly could do if I was 100% focused in the time I want, however, that almost never happens. I start to work and then I either have to eat or take a scroll through my social media which often turns into hours of procrastination. The biggest problem with setting realistic goals is that we are often not including realistic distractions.
A good tip for setting realistic goals that include the realistic distractions is to try the “worst case scenario” planning. If you give more time for your tasks that you initially think that they will need, finishing earlier than planned can only be a good thing! And it will also give you some wiggle room for unforeseen events or tasks that you need to take care of.
We have all been there—trying to do 100 things all at once and ending up very overwhelmed with nothing to show for. That is why you need to master the process of prioritizing tasks that are more important than the others. The simple thing to do this is to know what you need to do in the upcoming day or week, break it down into smaller tasks, and put the most important of those first.
A good way to do this is to take one hour before each week starts and to write down a thorough schedule for the whole week. You can do the planning by an hour, by a daily list of tasks, or however, you see fit. See what works best for you personally and roll with it. Planning your week ahead of time will give you an overview and mental preparation of the things that you have to do.
You can also integrate small prizes in between your tasks to reward yourself for the hard work. This way, you can also have things to look forward to and the stress of the upcoming week will be way lower. A great technique that you can use for this is the 25/5 rule.
It works like this: you write down 25 of the goals that you want to accomplish either by the end of the week, month, or year, and then you circle the five goals that are the most important to you. Start working on your top 5 list immediately, and leave the other goals for later.
- Break it down
Having huge goals or tasks is not helping you to focus easily. In fact, if you’re dreading to start that huge project you’re more likely to keep pushing it as much as you can. That is why breaking down the tasks into the smallest tasks possible can be very helpful in increasing your productivity.
There are many tools out there that can help you achieve just that which are based on Kanban principle. Kanban principle is all about visualizing your progress in your planning, and it is usually used to organize projects in which multiple people are a part of. However, it can also be used by individuals as a way to be more organized, break down tasks into smaller ones, and visualize their progress.
- Take a rest
The stress of the day and age we live today can be very overwhelming and can really impact our motivation and our willingness to work on ourselves and our goals harder. If you want to be successful and start working on recovering from procrastination, you will need to have the energy to take on that challenge. And that won’t be possible if you’re constantly over-stressed and overwhelmed. We have all faced stress in the workplace or in college and it’s important to know how to deal with it.
If you’re left feeling absolutely drained after the first task, and you know that you have a long way to go still- make sure that you find a way to de-stress. Now, this is an individual thing. There are many tips and tricks on how to relax in between tasks and don’t let the stress ruin your plans for the day. Maybe grab a coffee and go outside for a 10-minute break, or do some light meditation at your desk.
Other methods include deep breathing exercises, solving puzzles, reading a chapter of a nice book, and many, many others. Just find what feels right and helps you to de-stress.
- Get to know yourself
Now, let’s face it. You can read thousands of online articles and books on productivity and still be your old self in the end. The point is that you have to know what type of person you are and what motivates you the most and use that in your advantage.
For example, I do my best work under pressure. I have proven that to myself times and times again. I just get extremely creative and motivated by that rush of adrenaline that deadlines bring. So, I use that.
Although to be fair, there were times where I miscalculated. But most of the time, I leave the most important things for the end because I know that that’s how I will do the best job I can. And this might be a lethal choice for somebody else, so the point is to be aware of what your character dictates.
- Methods and techniques
As previously stated, there are many methods and techniques for increasing productivity and organizing tasks more successfully. You are encouraged to try them all and experiment with what works specifically for you.
- Eat the Frog First—this term comes from Mark Twain as he stated once “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” Before you go ahead and snack on some poor frogs, let me explain. This method is all about getting rid of the worst task that you have planned for the upcoming day/week. Start with the thing that is stressing you out the most and then you can relax. Makes sense right?
- The Action Method—this method is for organizing the creative processes like brainstorming. For those types of tasks, there is a little or no tidiness since creativity can be a messy process. However, afterward, you do want to figure things out and organize them so you can execute the plan. This method is about breaking down your ideas into three sections: action items (steps you need to take for the project to be done), backburner items (ideas that are good but don’t fit this project), and reference items (resources and information needed for the completion of the project).
- Must, Should, Want—is about prioritizing tasks by urgency. The “must” tasks are non-negotiable and can’t be delayed. “Should” tasks are things that you want to do but can be delayed. “Want” tasks are things that you want to do by are not necessary. This is a pretty simple method that will give you general guidelines on how to organize your tasks.
There are many more methods out there that vary a lot in complexity, visualization, and purpose of usage but with a little bit of research and experimentation, you can begin your journey to higher productivity.
It is impossible to be motivated all the time since motivation is something that has to be constantly re-encouraged. However, it is your job to keep lighting up that fire.