As you are probably aware, it is so easy to get caught up in 'busy work' that takes time and energy, yet doesn't advance your agenda.
The challenge then, is to discern which habits facilitate moving forward and which ones merely have you spinning your wheels.
Here are 9 proven ways to increase your productivity:
1. Decide whether you're an early riser or a night owl. Not everyone is most productive at the same time of day. We are individuals so some of us are more productive early in the morning while others accomplish more in the evenings.
Once you decide which time of day works best for you, organize your tasks in line with when you are most productive, creative, and alert.
2. Understand that you don't have to 'feel like' or be 'inspired' to do something in order to do it. One of my favorite quotes which encapsulates it all is from Earnest Newman, an English music critic, who said:
"The greatest composer does not sit down to work because he is inspired, but becomes inspired because he is working. Beethoven, Wagner, Bach and Mozart settled down day after day to the job in hand with as much regularity as an accountant settles down each day to his figures. They didn't waste time waiting for inspiration."
3. Forget about multitasking - single task instead. You may have already read that multitasking is not good for you, and indeed, new studies conducted at Stanford University and the University of London in the UK have shown that multitasking not only reduces performance and productivity, it may even damage your brain.
The study in London revealed that subjects who engaged in multitasking demonstrated IQ drops similar to people who are sleep-deprived or smoke marijuana.
Multitasking also produces cortisol the stress hormone which is not only energy draining, but leaves you lethargic and unable to concentrate.
4. Plan ahead. Planning ahead prevents procrastination and increases productivity. In fact, the mere act of thinking and planning unleashes your mental, creative and physiological energies.
The best way to plan is to make a list the evening before for the day ahead. The more time and thought that goes into compiling the list, the more effective, productive and efficient you will be.
Additionally, as you work through your list you will feel more confident and motivated to do more. The more you do, the more you will be able to do.
As a bonus, you will also sleep better because making a list will clear your mind. You won't be worrying about everything you need to remember and accomplish the next day. It will all be thought out and planned for already!
5. Get Organized. Much time is lost - up to 30 percent - in looking for misplaced items. Get better organized by finding a good place for your items and then continue to put them in that designated place.
Similarly, being in a mess causes stress, which in turn, thwarts productivity and contributes to inefficiency. Making sure your work area is neat and organized gives you psychological breathing space thus allowing you to focus better.
6. Practice time management. In his book Getting Things Done, David Allen points out that we spend more time deciding on whether or not to do a task, than the time it would actually take to complete it. If something can be done in two minutes, rather than put it off, simply get it done.
Another useful time management technique is Parkinson's Law which states that a task shrinks or grows according to the amount of time assigned to it.
For example, if you give yourself two weeks to accomplish a task, you will take two weeks to get it done. If, however, you have the same task as an assignment due in one week, you will complete it one week.
You can utilize Parkinson's Law by giving yourself shorter deadlines.
7. Take breaks and refresh. According to a study done by Desktime.com and published in Business Insider, Inc.com, the most productive people work for 52 minutes, then break for 17 minutes.
Certainly, as much as we would like it to be the case, no one can be 100% productive all day. Trying to fully concentrate for extensive periods of time not only leads to burnout, it is counter-productive.
Conversely, the secret to maintaining high levels of productivity is not to work longer, but work smarter by taking frequent breaks.
Another effective method is the 'Pomodoro Techinque' which allows for 25 minutes of work followed by 5 minute rest period.
Here are the basics of the technique:
The Pomodoro Technique purports to improve productivity by alleviating anxiety associated with the abstract measuring of time, enhancing focus and concentration by cutting down on interruptions, and by bolstering the determination to achieve your goals.
8. Reduce time spent on social media. Over 12 billion hours are being spent daily by employees browsing social media costing businesses billions of dollars.
Similarly, studies have found that the average college student spends approximately 3 hours per day on social networks compared to only 2 hours per day studying. Imagine what that is doing to productivity!
It stands to reason, that if you are spending an inordinate time on social media you are not being productive.
This doesn't mean you cannot enjoy social media, just engage in it when your work is done and when you have allotted time for entertainment.
9. Make use of commute time or unexpected delays. We all have situations when we're seemingly stuck somewhere inconvenient and when we would prefer to be doing something productive. In such situations, use the time to plan the next day, create a to-do list, or respond to e-mails.
Ostensibly, there are many ways we can increase productivity. Employing some or all of the above techniques will indeed produce improved outcomes.