‘You have the same number of hours in the day as Beyonce’
For me, this year has been about maximising the minute. I’m often caught saying or implying that I want to make the most of my time and don’t like it wasted. When I am at work I like to be working, and when I am socialising or relaxing I ensure not to be distracted by work so that my brain takes quality time to rest. Every minute counts if you want maximum productivity.
Here are a list of tips I have compiled that may improve your effectiveness at work.
1. Simplicity and streamline
A clear and focused mind is essential for productivity.
Here are two areas to assess:
What does your environment look like? Is your room and house clean? Is your work space and desk clean?
If you can wake up and know where everything in your house is, you’re not wasting time trying to find things. If you can walk through the house and not have to trip over anything again, you are saving time.
I understand that some people like clutter or surrounding themselves with items that make them feel motivated and that’s okay. But be organised, know where that book is when you need it and have the room to move and think.
The way you carry yourself on the inside has a big impact on your productivity. Staying motivated and energised is key.
Procrastination is a big problem for a lot of people. When people ask me if I have a problem with doing work, I respond ‘absolutely not’. In fact, I would have the opposite of procrastination, I don’t like dead time.
What’s the secret to this success? You need to love what you do. If you wake up and think about the job that doesn’t keep you happy, or you wake up and you have no purpose at all, the chances are that you’re going to want to stay in bed.
My second secret to success? You need to care about time. If time is not an issue for you then, of course, you don’t have the motivation to get up and do things the second you open your eyes. But if you care about your waking hours, and getting tasks done, you will have the drive to get up and make a start.
I understand that people have different times of productivity -some people are night owls and work through the night, some prefer to be up with the sun and work through day. Either is okay depending on your job and what works best for your situation. In any case however, I would say under normal circumstances more than 8 hours in bed per day is a waste of time. Give your body enough time to rest and then start your day. Personally, 7 hours sleep is enough for me.
Productivity relies on the fact that you actually know what you are doing, and that you can do it well so you don’t have to go back and repeat jobs again.
Though you cannot immediately bill for the time it takes you to learn, you need to see learning as an investment. If you can correct bad habits by learning new more efficient habits, or if you can learn a new skill which will assist in making your job faster, you should take the time to do it. In the long run your 10 hours of learning could save you hundreds of hours in the future.
3. Personal Time and Health
Your time at work or in the office directly corresponds to your health. If you are in too much physical pain it’s going to be a distraction, if you are in too much emotional pain that’s also going to be a distraction. Take the time out of your day, at least a couple of hours at night when you get home to wind down and switch off. All of your learning for the day will have time to solidify and you will be giving yourself a big enough break to feel refreshed and ready to go again in the morning.
To find out what works for me, I’ve tested the limits of how much work I can get away with without needing a rest. With my particular threshold (and I’m sure many others), two 75 hour work weeks in a row with less that 1 downtime per day will eventually make you sick. So make sure that you do take the time to rest. Studies show any more than 50 hours of work a week can make you unproductive, so take the time to rest and let someone else pick up the workload if you have too much on your plate.
4. Maximise your morning routine
Your morning can often determine how your entire day goes. Have you ever woken up and have one thing go wrong, and then suddenly your entire day seems to go downhill from there? Or vice-versa, sometimes you can wake up in a good mood and the rest of your day goes well.
No matter the mood you wake up in, you still have a chance to take control of how you start the day, and not just rely on ‘fate’ to decide if your day will go well or not. If you stick to a morning routine you can still set the standard for your day with a few simple actions.
If you had a brand new Ferrari, and you took it to the petrol station to fill it with petrol, would you choose to fill it with the not so recommended lower octane and ‘dirtier’ fuel, or would you choose to fill it with the recommended higher octane, engine cleansing fuel? If it were me, I’d be very concerned to fill it with fuel that will keep the engine clean, and have it running for longer with the lesser need to take it in for a service.
So what about you? Do you treat your body like a brand new Ferrari? If the answer is no, then you should. The first meal of the day should be healthy and provide you with the necessary nutrients and vitamins to set you off on your day. My personal favourite would be bircher muesli and probiotic yoghurt. Or a poached egg with some avo on sourdough. A bit fancy you may say? Well, I can tell you that with a full stomach of nutrients I need less coffee and do work more effectively.
I struggle to find time to do this the most, but there are so many reasons why you should exercise at the start of the day – increased blood flow to the brain, you can start the day with momentum, general health and well being. So if you’re like me and don’t have the time or the urge to pump it out at the gym there are so many other ways you can fit in your daily exercise. Try riding your bike to work, (help the environment and get fit!), or park your car a few blocks away from work and walk the extra distance, or even try some yoga or Pilates in the morning. All it takes is 15 minutes.
There are multiple ways you can do this. My personal favourite is to spend 10 minutes in the morning on mindfulness meditation. I use the Headspace app to train me into taking 10 minutes to clear my brain every day. Following this, I check and prioritise my to-do list for the day, or add to it just so I have a clear understanding of what needs to be done for the day. I use Asana for managing tasks.
5. Bulk communication and take control of your inbox
We’re in a day and age where email is starting to control your life. I’ve spent hours in a day reading and responding to email and if I have my inbox open then it would stop my workflow. Unfortunately now, people are starting to want instant response, they want things done yesterday, and this is putting on the pressure with people and emails.
The only solution is, you need to control your email, and not the other way around. Here are some tips:
- Respond to all of your emails in a block – close your inbox and only look at it twice a day. Preferably once mid-morning to respond to emails from the night before and early morning emails, and then once late in the afternoon to respond to emails from earlier in the day and to send emails that need to be sent before the end of the day.
- If you are needing to look at your emails outside of these times to look our for tasks or actions, only read the emails that need actioning and move the others into a separate folder for later.
- Delegate some emails to an assistant – if you take bookings for your business, or receive emails regarding times of events, then you can let someone else control your calendar.
‘The most successful people do more in a day than the average person does in a week’
6. Turn bad emotions into fuel
Having a bubbly and cheerful outlook at work doesn’t always mean results. Have you noticed that in almost every story there is a setback right before things get great again? You may not like that part, but sometimes the terrible thing needed to happen for the good thing to come about.
The moral of this is that you need to use any negative emotions as a motivator and fuel to do better and improve for next time. You can use your anger as a fuel for energy to get that job out faster, or you can achieve goals at work to help ease sadness. Your negative emotions can sometimes produce fantastic results.
7. Avoid dead time
Sometimes, it can be hard to stay productive, efficient or have a purpose for every minute of the day. You may be feeling down, or just not have the will to do anything today. But just like the point before, you should use this time to do something that will benefit you. If it’s a rest you need, then just go have a coffee and cake break until your brain is ready to come back. Or if you want to work but just can’t seem to sit at your computer, then open a book and learn something instead, or write down how you are feeling and try to decode what is really blocking you.
There is always something you can do to improve your time. With a clear plan, routine, and bit of motivation, you can reach your productivity goals!