Many people think that productivity is a personal trait that some have, and others lack. But the ability to get a lot done in a short time is actually about having the right habits, routines and strategies when working. Productive people are better at managing their time and energy – and you can learn that too!
Learning to work productively and time-efficiently is important no matter what you work with. It is not about increasing stress in a work life where the stress level for many people is already at the breaking point – quite the contrary! If you embrace productivity-promoting habits and strategies, you will also get better at stress management, as stress is often due to our feeling overwhelmed by work and not knowing how to deal with it.
Many people make the mistake of just letting their work overwhelm them without having any real plan for how to deal with the workload. That’s why we want to share four tips on how to be more productive and time-efficient, while avoiding ending up in vicious circles that lead to harmful stress.
1) Plan your day the night before.
If you do not have a plan for what to do during the day, there is a big risk that you will lose control immediately and kind of be sucked into the general chaos that so often occurs during a working day.
If you instead plan in advance what to do, the likelihood of the things actually being done increases. The best thing is to set up a plan during the afternoon/evening of the day before, when you have a working day behind you and know what needs to be done the next day. Planning also makes it easier to evaluate afterwards whether or not you have reached your goals during the day.
Make it a routine to end each (work) day by evaluating the day that is now over and making a plan for tomorrow. Be sure to decide which your 2-to-3 highest priority tasks are for the coming working day, and decide to get started with the first of these as soon as the working day begins, before doing anything else at all.
2) The 80/20 rule.
Daring to prioritise is perhaps the single most important key to productivity. The so-called 80/20 rule, which Lifehack, among others, has told us about, claims that a very large part of the results achieved can be attributed to a relatively small part of work. Only around 20% of work leads to important, long-term results – the other 80% disappears in an unproductive jumble of emails, phone calls, unproductive meetings, and so on.
By planning your working day (see paragraph 1) and prioritising the tasks that really lead to results, you can become significantly more productive. Be sure to minimize the time you spend responding to emails, for example — do it 1-2 times a day— and set a limit on how long it may take. We say no to meetings or interactions that you know don’t create value and try to get rid of tasks that you easily get stuck in but that don’t really create results.
3) Work with your mindfulness.
Mindfulness and concentration play a crucial role in our ability to be productive and efficient. Often you are at your most productive when you achieve a mode of flow, when you have forgotten about time and space because you are so engrossed in a task. Flow may not be available to order, but there is much you can do to pave the way for a flow state. It is partly about learning to avoid distractions, which can very easily interfere with concentration. Emails and notifications on your phone are typical things that can distract you in a way that can hurt productivity – more than you might think.
But you can also be distracted by your own thoughts. In the end, flow assumes that one’s own world of thought is filled by the task itself, and that you do not think about anything else while trying to work. A good way to increase your ability to concentrate is meditation, which is about not getting caught up in the thoughts that come and go. By meditating regularly, you can train your ability to focus on the task. Then the likelihood of achieving a state of flow increases – or at least of getting the job done effectively.
4) Energy management.
There are also more practical ways to control your focus and concentration during a working day. No one can be 100% focused for eight hours in a row. Therefore, it can be smart to consciously choose when, where and how one intends to engage in work that requires deep concentration.
There are different techniques for succeeding at this. Some like to use the Pomodoro method, which involves using a timer and working completely without distractions in short sessions of 25 minutes, followed by a five-minute break; then you start over. After four such sessions, you should take a longer break of 15-to-30 minutes. Similar principles, which are about working for short but intense intervals, can be applied to communication, for example. Especially if you work remotely, it can be good to have short bursts of communication at the beginning and end of the day and to engage in focused, individual work in between.
The important thing is to find the right strategies to conserve your energy and concentration. The priority tasks should usually be done during the time of day when you know you are getting a lot done. It is also important to avoid multitasking, which is a great energy thief and rarely leads to productivity.
Take control of your workday, dare to prioritise, and make sure to have a strategy to find focus while saving your energy. With the right habits and strategies, you can increase your productivity in an amazing way – and still feel less stressed and more harmonious in your work.
Sign up for unique deals and exclusive insights from our experts.