It’s a brand new year. Get started on the right note by taking your productivity to the next level. We’ve put together a list of ten tips to help you get in the zone as you shake off the Christmassy and New Yearsy holiday dust. It’s 2022! What’s in it for you?
When a day is long and the list of tasks even longer, it’s time to use your judgement and create a priority list. Answering 500 emails might seem like a successful way to spend your time, but would it help to actually get the day’s pressing work done or produce tangible results? Figure out what has to happen this morning and this afternoon, and stick to those things. Categorising your notes can wait.
Multitasking is for cartoon moms who cook supper, talk on the phone, kick the fridge door shut, and keep the house spotless all at once. That is, it’s a totally made up thing that absolutely cannot happen in real life. Multitasking achieves the double whammy of splitting your focus as well as increasing the amount of mistakes you make. In the immortal words of Ron Swanson of Parks & Recreation fame, “Don’t half-ass two things – whole-ass one thing.” With that vivid image in mind, remember to work on one task at a time.
Take your breaks
Skipping breaks for the sake of working more will only get you so far (not far at all, in the long run). Being rundown and glued to your desk will ultimately produce poor work and an unhappy worker. Take your lunch hour and use it well; go for a walk, cook a quick lunch (if you’re lucky enough to be working from home), stretch, read a book, or watch the clouds pass you by. Return to work refreshed and rejuvenated, ready to take on the afternoon.
Identify when you’re productive and explore focus methods
Do you know how you best retain information? You might be a visual learner, who takes in information well when it’s presented in charts, images, or video. You could be a tactile learner who remembers things much more clearly when you’re walking as you learn them, for instance. Similarly, you may need the morning to slowly wake up, and then hit bigger tasks in the afternoon.
How you focus can be improved by the adoption of different practices. One that we recommend is the Pomodoro Technique, named for a tomato-shaped timer that forms the basis of this method (essentially, set a timer and work for 25 minutes straight. Then, take a 5-minute break and return for your next 25-minute stint plus 5-minute break pattern until the task is complete).
Set daily goals
Q: How do you eat an elephant?
A: One bite at a time.
Even a massive project can be broken down into monthly, weekly, and daily goals. All you can do is work on today. Take a look at your tasks for the week, their deadlines, and their rank on your priority list, and figure out what needs to be done today to move closer to completing those things.
Review your week every week
There’s not much point in endlessly toiling away without ever quite knowing what it is that you’ve done. Weeks blur into months and then years and before you know it, it’s all over. Pick a day in the week to go through what you’ve achieved, didn’t quite finish, and want to prioritise for next week. Looking back gives you a great foundation from which to look ahead.
Instagram’s co-founder, Kevin Systrom, shared his favourite lifehack and procrastination buster with Mike Allen: “If you don’t want to do something, make a deal with yourself to do at least five minutes of it. After five minutes, you’ll end up doing the whole thing.” Next time you’re stuck on a task (or haven’t even mustered up the willpower to start), give this principle a try. Who knows, maybe you’ll co-found a world-changing platform because of it?
Set and stick to boundaries
We’ve touched on boundaries a few times in the past, that’s because we firmly believe that work-life separation and person-to-person separation and ownership are crucial for healthy relationships and good work to happen. If you’re unboundaried at work, you’ll end up taking on every request that comes your way, even if you don’t have capacity to complete those tasks. Soon enough, you’ll become resentful and overworked, and that’s not a great combo.
“Worst first” method
If you spent any time at this writer’s childhood dinner table, you’ll know that vegetables were not something to get excited about. Eventually, the “worst first” method was adopted. If the vegetables were eaten first, it made much more room to enjoy the tasty parts of the meal (fish fingers and tomato sauce, let’s say). Likewise, with work, we can get so bogged down with cumbersome tasks that we don’t actually get around to doing anything else but worrying about the “worst” things on our plates.
If you tackle the chunky aubergine first, so to speak, you’ll find that there’s much more space in your mind to dive into the rest of your day’s tasks.
Use the right tools
You could fell a tree with your bare hands, but it would take the rest of your life and you’d have more splinters than anyone would care to remove. Equip yourself with the best tools for the job (in this case, productivity tools), and get down to business.
Here are some of our recommendations:
Asana (project management)
Slack (team communication)
GETTING THINGS DONE (prioritisation)
Google Suite (store and share all your work safely and seamlessly)
Evernote (for note taking and information sharing)
These are just guidelines to get you started. As you explore your own productivity and styles of working, you’ll figure out new and personal things that draw the best out of you. Better yet, do you have your own productivity hacks that should be on this list? Let us know!
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