At easy.bi, we believe hard work pays off. If you put thought and passion into solving your problems, success is sure to follow. That being said, we are all still only human. Even if we wish to put forth our best selves, we can sometimes struggle. Inspiration might elude us, our focus might fracture and our productivity falters.
This is especially true today, in the light of the current global health crisis, which has impacted the work habits and productivity of businesses worldwide. As people are faced with numerous new challenges, such as working remotely, avoiding infection, and generally dealing with lifestyle changes related to the pandemic, maintaining productivity in professional as well as private endeavors has become more important than ever before.
Below we present some helpful tips to help you boost and maintain your productivity. We have also underlined some of the most common thieves of focus and sources of procrastination of which you need to be particularly wary if you are currently working from home. These suggestions will help you improve your work ethic and help you put out your best results.
1. Do more demanding and difficult tasks earlier in the workday
Generally, people are most productive during the first few hours of the day, immediately after waking up. Unfortunately, that time is usually not spent on the most focus-intensive tasks, but rather responding to emails, browsing social media and news sites, or even a long commute. If possible, try to salvage those early hours and use them on your most important tasks, while the highest focus is still available. Moreover, various obligations typically pile up during a workday, which means that it becomes increasingly harder to focus on a single important task as time goes by. It’s ideal to get a head start on them before everyone starts bothering you.
2. Minimize distractions
We all have habits that steal away our concentration and reduce our productivity. Checking stories of friends on social media, reading that interesting article about the next big tech innovation, watching a quick funny video shared by a co-worker. Most of these habits are actually highly desirable to cultivate for companies such as Facebook and YouTube, since they represent user engagement and can be translated to profit either via advertising or by other means. Therefore, companies use different mechanisms to ensure continued engagement, which for you results in a fractured focus. Things like push notifications, compelling messages, colorful attractive animations and auto-playing videos all ultimately destroy your focus and trick your brain into constantly re-shifting attention back to the app in question. You can try to minimize such distraction in different ways. The most basic approach is turning off app notifications for a specific time period during the day. You might even try designating a specific time frame where you are essentially “off the grid”; unplugged from all forms of communication and distraction, so you can focus solely on your work. While this may annoy some of your chattier co-workers, and make you miss the freshest hot-take of your favorite PC blogger, it is bound to show an increase in task productivity.
3. Break down complex tasks into smaller parts
Take this advice from an agile company: one of the best ways to increase your productivity and ward off procrastination is to break down your huge tasks into smaller, more easily manageable portions. This will not only give you a better overview of work progress, but also has an important psychological effect, as finishing individual tasks promotes positive feelings, which can motivate you further. It’s all a matter of perspective! Ask yourself, which option sounds more appealing after working the entire day:
- I had one task, and I failed to finish it.
- I solved 6 out of 10 tasks I set out to do.
Focusing on the monolith that a huge task represents can also lead to severe procrastination, because we picture it as something hard to solve, so we are naturally less inclined to even make the first step.
4. Take breaks between productive work
Counter to intuition, taking breaks at work may actually boost job performance. Our brains are supposed to have two functioning modes: focused state, where we are fully concentrating on a specific task, and diffused state, where our brain is more relaxed and our mind wanders. It has been shown that we actually solve our most difficult problems while we are in the diffused state, rather than the focused one. Furthermore, taking a break replenishes our concentration, which is key to your productivity. During tedious tasks, our ability to focus and persist on the job gets harder by the minute. Still, we need to be careful, as some types of breaks can actually have a detrimental effect on overall productivity. As mentioned in the previous section, spending time on social media and using leisure apps is not a good idea, because they don’t just grab our attention; they refuse to let it go. Similarly, if a break includes actually venting about the problem at hand, the desired concentration reset is unlikely to happen. When taking a break, the key is psychological detachment; mentally disconnecting from work thoughts. Examples of activities featuring psychological detachment are meditation or physical activity. A concrete example including qualities of both is taking a walk in the nature.
5. Adopt the two-minute rule
The two-minute rule is well known and states: “If you have a task or action that you know can be done in two minutes or less, do it right now!” The two-minute rule works because by doing a task immediately, we remove the time we spend possibly planning to do the task, allocating future time for it, or even dreading it, if it’s a particularly annoying one. After you have mastered the two-minute rule, you can even apply its philosophy a little differently and use it to develop new useful habits. For instance, if you have decided to make reading a habit, you might want to consider reading just one page of a book at a time (which will take you less than 2 minutes). Since you have eliminated all the unnecessary procrastination from the process, you will perform the desired tasks easily and more efficiently expand them into fully fledged habits. You’d be surprised how much easier it is going from reading 1 page a day to reading 20, than trying to start with 20 right off the bat.
6. Optimize your meetings
Major losses of productivity are also said to occur during meetings. While they are important to make commitments and discuss currently opened tasks, they shift focus away from actual work and can make people bored due to their repetitive nature. It’s important to make sure meeting time is not spent discussing things which are not important to the team as a whole. If someone has an issue that only a single person can help with, then this might be better left as a discussion just between the two of them. Choosing the physical layout of your meetings also matters. It was shown that standing meetings are on average 34% shorter than sit-down meetings, and boost business efficiencies as well as company culture and employee health.
7. Make sure you work in a comfortable and tidy environment
Clutter and disorganization in your office can cause disorganization in your mind as well. In addition to looking messy and distracting, a cluttered work environment might also evoke feelings of guilt and general discomfort, which can even escalate to stress or anxiety. Don’t let clutter keep you from doing the best work you can. Consider periodically reserving special time for decluttering your work desk, general work area and even your computer desktop.
The above are some of the key points to maximize and maintain high productivity in the workplace (and elsewhere). We summarize them as prioritizing important and small tasks, breaking down large problems, taking breaks and maintaining a clean work environment. I believe all of these play a huge role at ensuring productivity and are additionally quite easy to implement! Apply them to your work process and you will quickly see results!
If you need our help in increasing your productivity by optimizing your work processes, don’t hesitate to contact us!