Welcome to your productivity guide. Over the years, I have been sharing my research and learnings in productivity, habit development and living an effective life. I’ve written an easy to use productivity guide that will help streamline your process. The contents of this guide aims to increase your personal and professional productivity with great efficiency. More specifically, providing these key benefits:
1) give you the basics of productivity and the challenges we all face to provide efficient work.
2) A step by step process to overcome all obstacles and help achieve your maximum potential.
3) To give you proven effective productivity strategies to apply in your daily life.
In economics, productivity measures the output per unit of capital, labour, or any other resource. It calculates as a ratio of Gross Domestic Profit (GDP) to hours worked. Productivity is an essential source of economic growth. The improvement in the standard of living is almost entirely dependent on the countries’ ability to produce more goods and services for hours worked.
As productivity is vital in an economy, It’s equally essential in your performance. We often confuse ourselves between getting more things done as quickly as possible when we should focus on getting the important things done more consistently. For human performance, productivity is measured in the efficiency to complete a task. No matter what we have going on, there are only just a couple of essential things we need to focus our attention on at any given time. Being productive is about maintaining the same speed consistently on the crucial tasks instead of attempting to maintain full speed on everything.
Think of your productivity improvement as you would of the economy. Productivity is the #1 measure used to define living standards and growth. When it increases, the overall standard of living and development improves. There are several benefits you gain from increasing your productivity. The benefits not only apply to an individual, but as a team, or an organization.
1) Clear mind. Often we think to be productive, we need to clear our mind. The reality is, for a clearer mind, we need to be productive by controlling our physical clutter (desk, bedroom, home etc.) and virtual clutter (emails, apps). When this is in control, you reap the benefits of a clearer mind to focus on other tasks with intent and efficient outcomes.
2) Confidence. When you get better at a skill, you become more confident in performing. Productivity leads to confidence, which leads back to productivity. The cycle is ongoing, where the benefits of self-confidence come from being productive in your focus.
3) Innovation. The state of today’s world means that change is constant and rapid. Technology continues to increase our productivity, where new apps or products lead us to become more efficient. The more productive we are, the more we can innovate.
4) Resilience. Productivity increases our resilience. Getting through a pandemic is a classic example. As remote work became the new normal, a study found that 85% of employers agreed that their employees working from home have the technology, tools and resources needed to work productively for an extended period of time. When an organization can find efficient alternatives to the norm, they continually prove resilient.
While being productive provides excellent benefits, it also provides its challenges. When overcoming obstacles, we shouldn’t try to remove them – but recognize and limit where possible. The key is when they do arrive, to be mindful and address them as early as possible.
Whether you are a full-time employee, a stay at home mum, or a business owner; working from home has become more of the norm in recent times. You can wake up late, become prone to more distractions, and even feel lonely. To stay effective from home, choose a start and finish time and have a dedicated workspace. Be clear in your productivity style and create a schedule of your top priorities for the day. It’s essential to stop at your dedicated finish time so you can wind down and not exert unnecessary energy.
The ability to get through ten minutes of solid work without being interrupted is hard to come by. Interrupted by meetings, phone calls, text messages, and our willpower consistently affect how we work. Before removing the distractions, you need to remove the clutter in your mind. Practice exercising your impulse-control by being mindful of what’s keeping you off task. Focus on the reward after getting what you need to get done. Acknowledge that your focus will help build momentum. The distractions are not as embedded into your current work as they previously were.
Whether or not you have a goal or passion you are focusing on, life’s demands will always be apparent. They will be there for the small business owner, the employee who works 12 hour days, the stay at home mother, or the part-time worker studying at university. You still have to pay bills, look after your staff, take your car for a service, attend work events, do grocery shopping and deal with seen and unforeseen demands. The key is to accommodate the critical demands thrown your way and be mindful of what’s going to self-sabotage your ability to be productive. For example, paying bills and doing grocery shopping can be considered productive. But continually allowing the non-essential demands to disrupt you is counter-productive. Set specific time blocks to get the primary things done and take care of what’s thrown your way. It will help switch off autopilot mode.
Due to accepting a chaotic environment, we’ve built habits in ourselves to learn how to do two things at once. Unfortunately, multitasking has correlated with drops in productivity, focus and a sharp increase in fatigue. Re-learning how to focus on one task at a time is key in overcoming this challenge. There are, of course, some concerns where multitasking is required in the workplace. Many managers believe there’s nothing wrong with doing two or more things at the same time.
Although they may be getting a significant output per hour, there’s a decline in employee efficiency in the long term. Creativity decreases, stress increases, mistakes are made, and employees are rarely “In the zone”. From multitasking in the office, you can take this into your personal life as well. Make a list of your top to bottom priorities and work down the list one at a time. Make sure you have a plan for your day, and your brain identifies what you need to focus on individually.
Although we search for strategies that help us become productive, many answers tell us to ‘wake up early’, or ‘turn your phone off’. Although they are beneficial to us, you can apply a step-by-step process to understand how to be productive fully. Using a method puts you in good stead to become more effective in applying productivity strategies (like waking up early or turning your phone off).
Without understanding your goals, your productivity will be similar to that of a hamster on a wheel- Consistently trying to catch and reach efficiency. To identify your focus and desired outcome, you need your thoughts and a plan. For example, your focus may be to get fitter at the gym. While it’s a great focus to have, how will you reach it? What plan do you have to take the steps required to be useful in applying the actions necessary? How many times a week will you deliberately practice the behaviours that get you from A to B?
Think about those things, and you will have a clearer picture in your head to take the next step forward.
Throughout the day, you often perform specific tasks better at certain times. Our energy dictates when we need to rest and when we are reaching burnout. Many of us respond to higher demands by working longer hours, or putting in more work when we haven’t believed to have achieved ‘enough’ in a particular day. It inevitably takes a physical and emotional toll on ourselves, where distractions rise, engagement declines, and energy decreases. The key is to manage your energy levels, assess when you are performing well and when your energy levels feel low. It may take a bit of trial and error, but you will get the most out of it when you activate your focused behaviour at the optimum time.
One of the challenges we all face when setting a focus is showing up each day and actioning what we would like to do. When consciously thinking about the next days’ tasks and your routine for tomorrow, you wake up with an understanding and to some extent- an increased motivation to tackle your daily goal. It will help reduce burnout, where you will use less willpower in making decisions because they don’t require as much effort.
I will often think about what articles and what content I’ll be writing the next morning and even outline a few key points to target. You can go even further and reflect on what you did that day and how you can improve tomorrow. It will give you conscious clarity when you wake up and less willpower, which translates to more energy.
When waking up, some may have a morning coffee, and others may meditate or exercise. Your morning routine before sends a signal to your brain that it’s time to get started for the day. It sends a message, letting you know that whatever you have on that day, or whatever task you need to tackle- It’s time to get started. Your morning routine will always count in achieving maximum productivity and efficiency throughout the day.
The Pomodoro Technique. Use this method by setting a 25-minute timer while acting on a task. Complete as much as you can within the time. After the 25 minutes is up, you have a 5-minute break. After four cycles, have a 15-30 minute break. It works well if you’re an office worker, a student writing a paper, or just spring cleaning your house.
The 80/20 Rule. This rule dedicates itself to achieving more with less. It suggests that two of the ten items on our daily to-do list are the most valuable and are worth more than the other eight things put together. Most of us procrastinate on the 20% that are most valuable and concern ourselves too much on the 80%, which can contribute very little to achieving our goals. By recognizing and reducing the activities that aren’t important and shifting our attention to the things that matter, you can focus on the tasks that get to your goals with efficiency.
The Ivy Lee Method. A 100+ year old productivity and efficiency technique which helps optimize your schedule. At the end of the night, write down your most important tasks to do the following day in order of importance. When the next day arrives, continue to work on those tasks in order of importance. Use this in all areas of your life, not just your work. Using this simple and effective strategy will reduce decision fatigue and make quality decisions throughout the day.
Atomic Habits by James Clear. An informative and insightful read on how to develop habits and systems to achieve remarkable results. This book gives simple and practical tools to build new habits, get rid of bad habits and replace them with better ones.
The ONE Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. This book focuses on pure productivity and being efficiency. It provides real stories, strategies and guidance on achieving maximum effectiveness.
Do It Today by Darius Foroux. In the form of Forouxs’ best articles, this book helps overcome procrastination, improve productivity and gives you an insight into his philosophy on life and work. A book that will help you learn about procrastination and enhance productivity without stress.
Evernote: The best note-taking app there is. I use Evernote to list out my articles and check them off once done. This app gives you a platform to organize your daily life and access it from wherever you are.
RescueTime: I started using this, and it has helped managed my productivity and efficiency tenfold. Set targets as to how much screentime you use on your phone each day. RescueTime also tells you how many times you have picked up your phone in a day and even the locations. With its detailed reports and insights, you will be held accountable each day using this app.
Grammarly: If you’re a writer, I would recommend Grammarly. It’s your online writing assistant, where it goes beyond the grammar and spelling. You will learn how to eliminate errors and find the best way to come across to your audience. There is a free and paid version. If you work in an office and write many documents or lengthy emails, the free Grammarly app would work wonders for your productivity and efficiency.
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P.S – I have also created a productivity challenge and a mini goal setting strategy sheet. You can access these below.
-Blake de Vos