In today’s world, productivity is the watchword. Our smartphones and various communication tools blur the line between work and pleasure. A 40-hour workweek is becoming a thing of the past and the person who’s able to get more done advances their career.
You don’t have to sacrifice your entire life for your job but you should strive to do more with less. In this guide, you’ll learn a few simple strategies that’ll help you become more productive without working 100 hour weeks.
Choose a time management technique that works for you
There’s no lack of time management and productivity philosophies out there. The truth is that your work style defines the techniques you’ll be able to use effectively. What works for one person may not work for you and vice versa.
Here are a few strategies to choose from:
The Pareto Principle
Technically, this isn’t a productivity or time management technique but it can have an outsized impact on your ability to perform at work. It states that 80% of our results come from 20% of our actions. Can you identify the 20% of the things that are responsible for most of your performance?
Could it be writing blog posts, developing code, networking with execs at other companies, setting meetings, etc.? Whatever it is, do more of it and your performance will improve drastically.
The 3-5-7 technique
Throughout any given workday, there are hard tasks and there are easy tasks. Put another way, there are important tasks and there are menial tasks. Most people choose to work on menial or easy tasks because it gives them a sense of accomplishment. They can just tick them off the to-do list.
Unfortunately, most of the day is wasted and meaningful work doesn’t get done. The 3-5-7 technique forces you to focus on the most important tasks first.
You identify the three highest-impact activities and prioritize them on your to-do list. You don’t end work until you accomplish those tasks. You then place five more tasks on your list that are important but not as essential as the main three. The last seven tasks are also important but are lower in the chain of priority.
At the end of every workday, you assess your task list and prepare a new one for the next day.
This productivity technique isn’t for everyone because it forces you to stop at regular intervals. The premise is simple – instead of relying on motivation to start and continue your work, you focus on activities in short batches. You set a timer for 25 minutes and work without distraction. After 25 minutes, you take a 5-minute break. Continue this process until you’ve finished your tasks for the day.
The problem is that if you do deep work, the technique may become a hindrance. In cases where you’ve entered flow state or deep work, you can ignore the timer and continue working beyond the 25-minute limit.
Batch similar tasks together
A study found that distractions in the workday take more than 23 minutes to recover from. It also takes a considerable amount of time to switch between tasks and get back to peak performance. You can prevent or minimize the need to switch between tasks by batching similar activities together. This will reduce the cognitive load required for shifting between items on your to-do list.
For example, you may batch a blog post, an eBook outline, and a press release together because they’re all similar. Setting meetings, checking in with colleagues, and emails may also be batched together. It’s up to you to decide what should be batched but make sure they’re similar so you can reduce your cognitive load.
Take advantage of software
Today, more than at any other time in history, there are tools that allow us to enhance our productivity. It ranges from apps on smartphones to full-fledged productivity suites that seek to optimize every aspect of our lives.
The sophistication of the tool you choose boils down to personal preference but here are a few options to choose from.
Asana – Asana is a project management and work productivity tool with many useful features that’ll help you get more done. You can assign or receive tasks from your team members, create a personal to-do list, build out SOPs to use on regular tasks, set up your calendar, create recurring tasks, and so much more.
As far as task management goes, you may not need any other tool. The best part is that it’s free for personal use or when you have a small team.
UsefulPDF – One thing that every office has in common is the habit of producing documents in multiple formats. Some people like Word documents, others like PDF documents, and a few swear by Excel. There are many cases when you’d need to convert one file format to another and this tool makes it happen. PDF to Word (or vice versa), merging PDF files, compressing, etc. are all possible with the tool.
Rescue Time – This productivity tool tracks your time usage and helps you categorize it as productive or not. At the end of every week, you’ll be able to see how much time you’ve spent on your devices, what you were doing, and the percentage of that time that was productive. With those insights, you can easily optimize your time. It even has a feature that allows you to block certain websites so you can concentrate on the important work.
Evernote – This is a simple tool that allows you to take notes from almost anywhere. It has a mobile app, a desktop interface, and even a tablet application. You’ll be able to access your notes and stay on top of important tasks wherever you go. Think of it like a second brain that runs on batteries.
Productivity isn’t optional in this day and age – it’s essential. There are many tips and strategies out there but it’s important to choose methods and tools that work best for you. This guide has outlined many options, but it’s up to you to make a decision.
Test out each one, combine them, and keep only the best. Over time, you’ll be able to achieve much more with much less.