Staying productive over the long term is all about cultivating good habits and setting yourself up for success through shrewd planning. While the quest to increase productivity is essentially never-ending and perfection unattainable, here are ten specific tips that are definitely worth thinking about:
1. Set Goals – Setting realistic, attainable goals is one of the best ways to increase personal productivity. The motivation of deadlines can be a powerful factor in helping you get things done and actually delivering results when needed. “We are only limited by what we think we can do,” says Jeff Flam, CEO of eyeQ, a program designed to help people train their brains for success. “Setting ambitious, but manageable goals is a great way to begin training yourself to think positively.”
2. Schedule Email – Email, when mismanaged, can often turn into a huge time sink. If you stop what you are doing every few minutes to continually answer email, you’re not likely to get any substantive work done as you are constantly distracted. Try to schedule certain periods of the day to respond to email messages, and keep distractions to a minimum.
3. Get Comfortable – If you have a lot to do, you may as well keep yourself comfortable. Statistics show that setting up your workstation properly, including providing a comfortable chair for yourself and a high-quality computer monitor that will minimize eye strain helps people stay productive for more hours of their day.
4. Ask for Help – If you ever are at risk of becoming overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Even if you are the only employee of a sole proprietorship, you can always outsource temporary assistance. There is always someone you can go to for help, even if it may end up costing a bit in the short term.
5. Prioritize – Being able to successfully prioritize is another crucial element of productivity. Ensuring that your most important goals and projects get addressed , and being willing to adjust your priorities regarding less important things helps keep you flexible and adaptable.
6. Circadian Rhythms – While some articles stress the benefits of being an early bird and others talk about the staying power of night owls, the truth is that only you understand what is right for your own body. Everyone has a different set of circadian rhythms, which dictate the periods during the day during which you feel mentally most alert and able to work. Listen to what your body tells you, and respond accordingly.
7. Pareto Principle – The Pareto Principle, otherwise known as the 80/20 principle, is a good rule of thumb to apply when evaluating priorities and allocation of resources. 20% of your efforts result in 80% of your results, and 20% of your activities take up 80% of your time; is there overlap between those two categories? If not, there certainly should be.
8. Take Breaks – Though it may seem counterintuitive at first, making sure to take regular breaks throughout the day can actually help you stay productive. Stand up, stretch your legs, and move around some; a bit of physical activity can also do wonders to help you stay fresh and focused.
9. Eliminate Distractions – Some people continually find their eyes drifting over to the television, should one be turned on in their immediate work environment. Some find background music helps them concentrate, others find it distracting. Regardless of whatever your personal foibles or peeves may be, work to identify and eliminate any distractions in your work area. You’ll find yourself much more focused if you do so.
10. Reward Yourself – Last but not least, don’t forget to reward yourself for a job well done, particularly in situations where you had to really put forth special effort to succeed. If you continually make sure to treat yourself to something enjoyable after working hard, you can really harness the power of positive reinforcement.
While this list is hardly comprehensive, it provides a great place to start for the average person interested in improving their general level of productivity.