15 WAYS TO BE MORE PRODUCTIVE
Do your days run away with you? Are you always busy but your To Do list never gets any smaller? Here are 15 ways to be more productive. Simple time management tips so you can get more done in less time.
WHY BEING PRODUCTIVE MATTERS
Whether you have a busy family, a busy job or maybe even both, finding ways to be more productive is something many of us could find helpful.
We want to squeeze as much into our day as possible and still find time for us. The key to being able to do this is to be more efficient and make the most of the time we have.
In this post I’m exploring 15 ways to be more productive. They’re little tips to help you manage your time, intentionally and simply. I hope they help you get things done and still create time and space for what matters.
“Productivity is being able to do things that you were never able to do before.” (Franz Kafka)
BUSY VS PRODUCTIVE
Just before we look at how to be more productive, I wanted to address something that I think is really important. Many of us feel we’re already busy, doing stuff, going places, getting stuff done. When, actually, we may be busy but are we busy doing the right things?
Busy is not the same as productive. It’s perfectly possible to be busy without being productive and conversely, it’s totally possible to be productive without being busy.
Being productive is about finding the most effective and efficient way to get the right things done.
Try this article on how to be less busy for some more ideas on giving yourself less to do but making those things you do do count more.
PRODUCTIVITY IS MORE THAN TICKING OFF YOUR TO-DO LIST
I also wanted to explain that productivity isn’t just about ticking things off a To Do list or actioning every email in your inbox. A nap in the afternoon if you’re tired or watching TV on the sofa if you want to relax is still productive. Productivity can be whatever you need it to be at the time, as long as it achieves the goal you set.
Take a look at my article on why you should slow down sometimes for some ideas and insight into this.
PRODUCTIVITY AND INTENTIONAL LIVING
I write a lot about intentional living and the more I write, the more I appreciate that good time management is the cornerstone of an intentional life.
Intentional living is about seeking clarity on what’s important to you and making everyday decisions that align with those priorities. It’s about clearing the clutter that over-stuffs our life, schedule, hearts and minds.
The principles of effective time management and intentional living go hand-in-hand. Prioritise what’s important, be present and mindful in whatever you’re doing, understand why you’re doing it and the end-goal you have in mind and find the most efficient and effective way to make that happen.
Try this article on 7 ways to be more intentional with your time for more information on time management and living intentionally.
15 WAYS TO BE MORE PRODUCTIVE
Whether it’s at home or at work, for yourself or for your family, here are 15 ways to be more productive.
1. Make a To Do List
Write a list of things To Do, either on paper or keep it in the Notes on your phone. Having a visual list of tasks means that you can:
- Prioritise the important things
- Stay focused on what needs doing
- Keep in mind deadlines
- Tick things off when they’re completed
- Track your progress and feel motivated when tasks are done
Getting your To Do list out of your mind frees up your mental space and energy for the rest of life!
2. Prioritise the 3 most important things
To make sure you get the most important things done, choose 3-5 things (or less) on your To Do list which are THE most important or urgent. If you make your whole list full of important or urgent things, you’re unlikely to get any of them done. Even better, decide on your one Most Important Task (MIT) and get that done first,
3. Get up early and do the most important thing first
Wake up before the rest of the house and tackle the most important job on your list first. You can get it out of the way, without any distractions and before you get side-tracked by everything that the day brings. Read my post on how to create a morning routine to help you with this.
As Mark Twain said “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” Imagine frogs are items on your To Do list, eat the biggest frog first.
4. Don’t over-commit
Try not to put too much on your To Do list or overbook your diary. Schedule in some down time that’s free from commitments and allow some wiggle room with your timings in case things start late, run on longer or you hadn’t expected them to even happen in the first place.
Problems arise and the unexpected happens. Give yourself some margin so you can be flexible with your plans without having a meltdown if it all goes wrong!
5. Be realistic
Think about the time you’ve got available and be realistic with what you think you can achieve. Always overestimate the time something will take (you can always enjoy having an unexpected, spare 5 minutes), rather than underestimate. It’s better to allow yourself more time than you actually end up using, rather than cutting things so fine that you always run out of time.
Running out of time just means we:
- End up playing catch-up
- Let people down
- Do half a job
- Rush including driving too fast and,
- Stress ourselves out
If your task involves something with the kids, always allow more time than if you were on your own!
6. Have a plan for if you get stuck
Sometimes a task proves to be more difficult than you first thought. It may take longer than you expected or you’re just plain stuck. When this happens, leave it for the moment and come back to it another time with fresh eyes and mind. Don’t spend ages struggling with it and getting nowhere. Keep it on your To Do list and revisit it when you’re feeling ready.
7. Choose the best time of day
Everybody is different and some of us are more productive at certain times of the day. For example, I’m great in the morning and can plough through lots of tasks, but I’m good for nothing come the evening! We’re all tuned differently.
Know your body clock and what times of day you’re at your most productive and take advantage of them as much as you can.
- If you’re an early riser, get it all done early in the morning.
- If you get an afternoon dip in energy levels, don’t pick this time of the day to catch up on a really big task.
- If you’re a night owl, allocate your evenings to catching up on things to do whilst the kids are in bed.
8. Avoid multi-tasking
Being able to do everything all at once (and do it well) used to be thought of as a superpower but actually it’s anything but. Busy life requires us to juggle balls and spin plates but our brains don’t work well that way. We’re much more able to do one job properly if it’s one thing at a time. When we do more than one thing we’re forcing our brains to switch task. Switching tasks means we lose our train of thought and it takes a while to get back into the flow. Read more about the disadvantages of multi-tasking.
Next time your brain feels like a computer with too many tabs open, stop doing everything and do just one thing at a time.
9. Batch similar errands/work
If you need a few items from the shops or to do some errands in town, plan just one trip when you can get all this done in one go, rather than individual trips. Having a list of everything you need will help so you don’t forget things and have to go back. It will save time walking to the shops or driving and finding a car park space just once in the day, rather than two or more.
If you’ve got a number of emails to action or similar work tasks, try doing similar jobs in one go, rather than switching between different tasks.
Batching helps you maintain focus without having to shift your thoughts from one task to another, be in the right mental zone for that particular job and therefore be more productive.
For more about batching you might like to check out my post on best time management tips.
10. Stop wasting time
The definition of wasting time is different for everyone. I like watching TV, but some people consider this a waste of time. Whereas I feel that mindlessly scrolling through social media is a waste of time, but others love it. There’s no right or wrong here!
Do what is right for you but really ask yourself during the day whether what you’re doing is worth it, or could your time be better spent doing something more productive?
Check out my post on things that waste time during the day.
11. If it doesn’t take long, do it now
Use the 2-minute rule from David Allen. If something takes 2 minutes or less to do, get it done now.
12. Big tasks vs little tasks
Decide whether it’s better for you to knock out 2 really big and important tasks or get 5 smaller, niggly ones out of the way. The smaller ones might be filling up your To Do list and the 2 very important big tasks might get lost amongst the list of smaller tasks. Look at your To Do list every morning and assess which needs your attention first that day.
13. Avoid distractions
Don’t allow yourself to get distracted or side-tracked. Concentrate on the task at hand and stay focused until it’s complete and you can move onto the next thing. If you struggle with distractions, read more about 10 ways to avoid distractions.
14. Find the simplest way of doing something
I don’t mean cutting corners here but I do mean finding the quickest, easiest and most efficient way of doing whatever needs to be done. For example, pay your bills by direct debit instead of going to the bank every time a bill needs to be paid. It’s much quicker doing it online and you’re less likely to forget to pay things if they’re set up to be paid automatically.
A messy outer environment leads to a cluttered inner environment. Our brains don’t work well when we have too much distraction. It’s difficult to focus and be productive. Create calm and space with a clutter-free environment and your brain will work concentrate on the task in hand. Read more about how to declutter your home and life for some helpful tips.
HOW TO BE MORE PRODUCTIVE AT HOME
As well as the productivity tips we’ve looked at already, there are some other things you can try at home to get more stuff done in less time.
In terms of managing your home and keeping up with those mundane but important household tasks, here are some extra tips and helpful resources you might like:
1. Set up a home command centre
This is the place where all your planning and organising takes place. There are plenty of ideas on Pinterest which you could try yourself. The command centre doesn’t need to be big or complicated, it could just be a drawer on your hall table or little portion of your kitchen counter.
2. Save time by meal-planning and meal-prep
Read this post on meal-planning made simple for easy ways to spend less time in the kitchen and make meal-times less stressful and time-consuming.
3. Spend less time cleaning
HOW TO BE MORE PRODUCTIVE AT WORK
The workplace is where most of us think we need to work most efficiently. We often have deadlines put upon us, several projects or tasks screaming for our attention right now, all at the same time and a boss checking up on us to make sure we’re on track!
Here are some helpful tips to be more productive at work:
1. Manage your emails
Check your emails only at certain times of the day when you’re free to action them. Use a colour-coded flag system, with different colour flags for emails you need to do something with, for which you’re waiting on a reply and those which are just for information and you want to keep. Delete or archive the rest. Set up folders so you can easily find an email you’re looking for. Try to clear down your emails at the end of every day.
2. Set clear goals
Everything is easier when we know what we’re doing and can create an action plan to get it done. Read this post on how to set goals and keep them if you find you need a little direction in life.
3. Only have open what you need open
Whether it’s emails in your inbox, tabs on your computer screen or files on your desk, have just what you need in front of you to do the task in hand. Once it’s complete, put it away and get out the next thing.
HOW TO BE MORE PRODUCTIVE WORKING FROM HOME
Many more of us are working from home these days and this presents a unique set of difficulties as the boundaries between home and work get blurred. Some people find they’re more productive working from home, whilst others struggle with the distractions.
Here are some helpful articles on how to be more productive working from home:
HOW TO BE MORE PRODUCTIVE IN THE MORNING
What we do first thing in the morning sets the tone for the rest of the day. However, it’s not good enough to just set your alarm to wake up earlier if you’re going to hit the snooze button and drift off to sleep again. Here are some ideas and helpful tips on how to be more productive in the morning.
1. Get up earlier
Try this article on how to get up earlier so you don’t wake yourself up and then waste the extra time you’ve tried to carve out for yourself.
2. Have a plan
Knowing what you’re going to do and having the tools to do it is key to being productive. Make a list the evening before of what you’d like to achieve the next morning and get everything ready so you’re not wasting time. Lay your workout clothes ready if you plan to do exercise, get your journal out so you’re ready to write in it, open up that email you need to respond to.
3. Choose carefully
Your morning time is precious and it won’t feel very long if you try to cram it with everything and anything. Identify the most important activities that will create more ease in your day, or that are stressing you out and you just want to get out of the way and do those first. You can add in more if you have time to spare. Read this post on how to create an intentional morning routine.
HOW TO BE MORE PRODUCTIVE IN LIFE
Productivity is the art of the getting the right things done in the most efficient way. Productivity tips don’t just apply to how you run your home or meet those deadlines at work.
Here are some tips on how to be more productive in life:
1. Set smaller goals
When we set goals that are too broad or ambitious, it can feel daunting. We don’t know how to begin, let alone achieve them. Setting smaller goals means we can achieve things quicker, in fewer steps and feel motivated to carry on. Try this post on how to set goals that count.
2. Set clear boundaries
Boundaries are statements of intent that we use as a framework to guide what we will and won’t let in to our life. Read more about how to set boundaries.
3. Be intentional
Whatever you choose to do in your day, think about the intention behind it. Ask yourself:
- Why are you doing it?
- What is the purpose?
- Who is going to benefit?
If you’re not happy with the answers, ask yourself whether it’s adding any value to your life and is it really worth doing in the first place?
Read more about being intentional with your time and learning how to say ‘yes’ to the right things.
HABITS AND ROUTINES TO HELP YOU BE MORE PRODUCTIVE
It’s the little things we do each day that move the needle forward and help us get things done. This is where creating some habits and routines comes into its own. We can get things done, little and often, without having to play catch-up because of the backlog.
Here are some helpful articles on creating routines for your home and life.
RESOURCES ON TIME MANAGEMENT AND PRODUCTIVITY
Further reading and resources for ideas, tips and ways to be more productive:
- 25 ways to be more organised
- 20 best time management tips to be more productive
- How to declutter your home and life – create space, time and freedom
- Maximise Your Time – my popular little time management course. We’ll explore how you use your time, ways you can be more productive and find more time for the things you want to do, not just what you have to do.