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6 Tips to Be More Productive
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Our time is limited. But our to-do lists don’t seem to be. In fact, it seems that to-do lists never end—there’s always something else to work on or complete.
In this Sisyphean reality, many of us strive to be as productive as possible to get as much done each day as we can. But how do we do so without working ourselves into the ground? Or simply getting distracted by all the other things we’d rather be doing? Or, for that matter, by the other things on the to-do list?
There are many ways to make yourself more productive, including doing things like sleep and rest that don’t seem “productive” at all. Read on for some tips about how to improve your focus and get more done.
1. Tackle tasks that need focus first
It’s common for your brain to be freshest and most productive when it’s well-rested—that is, in the morning. If you are able to control your schedule so that you’re doing tasks that require focus and concentration first thing, you will likely end up with a more productive day. Push off other types of tasks, like meetings, phone calls, and administration to after-lunch hours.
2. Use time-management techniques
There are many ways to structure your time so that you can stay as focused as possible on the work in front of you. Popular options are the Pomodoro Technique, which breaks your work time into 25-minute sprints interspersed with breaks; the Flowtime Technique, in which you work on a single task until you need a break; and the 90-minute focus block, in which you focus for 90 minutes at a time before breaking. Try these and other options until you find the one that works best for you.
3. Follow the 80/20 rule
Also known as the Pareto Principle, the 80/20 rule holds that 80% of what you accomplish in any given day results from just 20% or your effort or activity. This means that prioritizing the tasks that comprise that 20% will make you more productive. The tricky part is that it can be hard to figure out what fits into that priority category. Look for things that have a direct impact on pushing progress forward in measurable ways.
4. Create ground rules for yourself
When it comes to staying on task and being productive, we are often our own worst enemy. Distraction, procrastination, fatigue, hunger, and various other obstacles can ruin our concentration and progress.
To forestall the challenges that bother you most, set out some targeted ground rules to guide you when your resolve is tested. These rules should be tailored to your own needs, but might include things like only reading or responding to emails at specific times, not checking social media while you’re at your desk, scheduling snacks or breaks in your calendar, or planning something to look forward to once you complete a task.
5. Take breaks to recharge
While it may seem that the best way to be most productive is to just keep working … and working … and working, your ability to focus and the quality of your work will wane without sufficient breaks in your schedule.
Build breaks in so that you don’t forget or ignore the need. Good time-management methods like the Pomodoro Technique have breaks scheduled at specific intervals. Or you can plan on taking breaks at specific times, such as for lunch or an afternoon walk. When and for how long you break doesn’t matter as much as doing it regularly.
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6. Get good sleep
If you’ve ever gotten a good night of sleep, you’ll probably remember feeling clarity and well-being the next day. It’s the opposite of the muddle-headed sense of gloom that can result from a late night or poor sleep.
There is good scientific evidence that sleep is not only critical for repairing your body but also for refreshing your mind, improving your memory, and strengthening problem-solving skills—all things that markedly increase your performance at work. Getting a good night’s sleep is essential to being as productive as you’d like to be.
The bottom line
Being productive is about more than simply sitting down and getting to work. You are likely to find that you need strategies to make that time you’ve set aside for productivity as fruitful as it needs to be. Whether you’re following specific techniques for time management and prioritizing, or focusing on taking breaks and sleeping well, the tips covered here can help you get more done in the time you have allotted.
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