We all want to get a lot done in our lives and here, I'm going to give you some top tips on how to TRULY be productive (not just do more and have less time!). Our culture certainly values us doing a lot - all the time. We're constantly the busy, exhausted and overwhelmed.
My aim is to help you be more productive, in a way that actually means more rest and less stress. Win win!
1. Plan and prioritise
Look at your to-do list (more on that later). How much on there is actually needle-moving activities? I like to ask myself a question to keep the task in perspective; what serious negative consequences in my life will there be if I don't get this done? And if the answer is 'none really' then actually that item on my to do list falls into the category of 'it would be nice to get done'. It's not essential, life-changing or necessary. Focus on the needle-moving activities e.g. if you want to feel and eat healthier, a needle-moving activity would be meal prep. Do that first as highest priority. If you want more energy, then prioritise moving your body and working out - do it first thing before the rest of your day gets in the way.
2. Take breaks every 45-50 minutes
DO NOT POWER THROUGH. You might feel like you can, and you don't need a break, but your brain begs to differ. You will power through at the cost of your productivity. I love to set a timer (I have a sand time which is very therapeutic to watch!) to mark the time from when I sat down to start the task; at the end of that time period I'll move, shake it out, go get a drink, and take a break.
3. Assess at the end of the day.
Some of us are great at planning and prioritising; others not so much. I'd say I fall into the former category, but only because I've had to learn those skills in order to be able to do a full-time teaching job and develop my business on the side. If we're not so great - WE CAN LEARN. At the end of every day, assess. What went well? Did that plan work? Was what I expected to get done actually realistic?! So many of us shoot ourselves in the foot here. We build a to-do list and then don't do any of it, which harms our confidence! Start keeping those promises to ourselves. Tomorrow, scale the list/task back so that you actually get it done; this builds the confidence, energy and momentum in our lives.
4. Get rid of distractions
We might feel like we can multi-task but our brain begs to differ. It adds HOURS onto our day. Even a mobile phone that is switched off is still lighting up parts of our brain if it is in sight, not to mention constant news, social media and emails trickling in as notifications. GET RID OF THEM. Double down on silence - one thing at a time people. The task will take you half as much time.
5. Batch work
I've mentioned to-do lists a lot which actually I'm NOT advocating you do - I just know a lot of people write them! Instead, batch your work. Transitions actually stress our brain out A LOT. We have to transition from sleep, to our time at home, then the commute, work, meetings, exercise and back home to our families maybe. Ever caught yourself not quite present because you're still thinking about what happened before? We bring our bad day home with us. When we batch our work, it means we do all our meetings in one day, all of our creative stuff in one day, all of our food prep in one day so that our brains not have to handle the stressful transitions and can just focus on that one thing.
6. Switch off
To be productive, you must rest. Our culture tells us that to overcome overwhelm and exhaustion then we must work harder, strive more, push through. Actually, with more downtime, you'll be more productive. Studies on countries and companies that run longer weekends and shorter work weeks report productivity INCREASES, not the other way round. To create the energy, the focus, the passion for our activities, we need to deeply rest, relax and switch off. Don't feel guilty; create the boundaries. Airplane mode is your best friend, delete the app, switch off the phone. Breathe. Rest.
What's the most helpful tip above for you? What are you going to try this week to find balance in productivity?