The most important thing to keep in mind when it comes to maximizing your productivity is that it begins with a shift in mindset. All the time management apps or productivity tracking software in the world won’t make a difference if your head isn’t in the right place.
Here are some tips to switch your brain into a higher gear:
1. Think about what’s holding you back
Do you feel distracted, overwhelmed or bored at work? Being aware of your workload and your feelings is the first step to understanding and improving your productivity.
2. Visualize what a productive day looks like for you
Try to picture the thoughts and feelings you associate with being productive. Where are you? What sort of mind-set are you in? What does your working pattern look like?
3. Create stepping stones to try and achieve this ideal day
Don’t assume that you can achieve the vision in your head just by wishing for it, and don’t try to do everything at once. Instead, work out a strategy to make it happen, then go through it step-by-step.
4. Set yourself a productivity plan (to-do list) for each day
Using a productivity planner to map out each day is a great way to approach the day more productively. It also helps you visualize your priorities – so if extra work arises, you’ll instantly know where it slots into your schedule.
5. Get the big stuff out of the way early
If there’s a task looming over you, be sure to tackle it as early as you can in the day or week. Getting your most stressful job done can help you feel much more positive about approaching the other things on your to-do list.
6. Break big tasks into smaller ones
If you feel overwhelmed looking at the sheer scale of a project, try breaking it down into lots of smaller responsibilities. Once you start ticking little things off your to-do list, you’ll feel like you’re making progress towards completing the bigger goal.
7. Reward yourself with small incentives
For every task you tick off on your to-do list, give yourself a treat. Whether it’s a 10-minute screen break, a drink or a few minutes scrolling your social media feed, you’ll feel much more incentivized to complete your work quicker if something is waiting for you at the end.
8. Make sure you take your scheduled breaks
Taking a break helps with everything from concentration to reducing stress. So while you might think working through lunch is the key to getting your work finished, you might be slowing yourself down.
9. Delegate or automate tasks if and when you can
When you find yourself with too much on your plate, don’t be a martyr. Instead, find someone to help you, or better yet, find a way to let technology do the work for you.
10. Track your productivity over time and look for trends (e.g. things that regularly trip you up)
Keep track of the hours you spend and be honest about recording your productive and non-productive time. Once you’ve collected some information, take a look at the data and try to find a pattern of things that made you more productive and those that slowed you down. You can use this as the basis of a strategy for working smarter.