11 Strategies for Improving Short-Term and Long-Term Productivity and Efficiency

It’s natural to want to make the most of the time you have at your disposal. Because we are surrounded by a culture that is so focused on efficiency and productivity, it is difficult to blame anyone for wishing they could live a more productive life. Some people want to get their work done as quickly as possible so that they may forget about it entirely once they arrive to their homes. Others have the goal of earning enough money to cover their monthly expenses while still reserving enough time and energy to pursue their other interests, such as creative writing, gardening, or spending time with their families.

To be effective, you need to learn to make the most of the time you have available to you.

“A standard workweek consists of 168 hours. If you work 50 hours a week and sleep 8 hours a night (for a total of 56 hours), then you have 62 hours available for other activities “I Know How She Does It is the title of a book written by Laura Vanderkam, an expert on time management who is also an author. The moment has come for this. It all depends on how you put it to use.

The immediate and ongoing application of these 11 suggestions will bring about a rise in your level of productivity.

1. Keeping Tabs on Your Time

Are you conscious of the ways in which you pass your time? If this is not the case, how do you anticipate gaining more from it?

You should keep track of your time for a minimum of two weeks; you should track your time for at least two weeks because the first week you will be aware of what you are doing, which will result in skewed data. There are primarily three ways to keep track of time, and I’m going to briefly discuss all of them right now. But before we get to that, you need to be aware that the time you keep track of does not necessarily need to be exact down to the minute. Observe when you get to and leave work, when you take breaks and when you eat, how much time you spend on chores around the house versus how much time you spend doing things you enjoy, and so on.

Utilizing time estimations, keeping a time record, and making use of automated apps are the three basic ways that time can be tracked.

A look-back method is used to estimate the amount of time. At the conclusion of the week, you should reflect on what you did and make an estimate of how much time was required for each activity. You should then be able to categorize and tally up those hours in any way that makes sense to you. Estimates of the length of time required to complete a task are notoriously unreliable due to the fact that they are typically penned based solely on the author’s subjective recollections and

The second strategy, which involves keeping time logs, is more precise. You are responsible for filling out a daily time sheet that displays increments of either 15 minutes or 30 minutes. What did you do generally between the hours of 8:00 and 8:30 in the morning? You have the option of filling out your time logs as you go throughout the day or at the end of the day, and you are free to categorize the time and sum it up in whichever manner makes the most sense to you.

The most accurate approach is the third one, which is to use automated apps; however, the information that these apps can gather is restricted. For instance, they are quite effective at catching how you spend your time when you are using a computer, but they are not as good at collecting how you spend your time elsewhere. These applications are really helpful if the only time you use them is in front of a computer and your primary concern is increasing your level of productivity. The software I like to use the most for this is called RescueTime. It keeps tabs on the applications and websites you use and automatically sorts them into categories, which you have the ability to alter and personalize to your liking.

You are free to employ more than one strategy, but regardless of which ones you pick, you should examine how you have previously spent your time and consider whether or not it is how you want to continue spending it. Are there ways in which you spend your time that you wish you weren’t? Are you slicing up your free time into smaller and smaller chunks, making it seem less important than it actually is? By going back and looking at how you actually spent your time, you can have a better idea of what needs to be altered.

2. Make and use a daily to-do list.

Create a to-do list for yourself, and then read up on some best practices for creating effective to-do lists. Be as specific and actionable as possible in each entry. Write down only the items that are going to be completed on a certain day, and don’t include any activities that will take multiple days to finish. If the tasks on your list appear to be overly ambitious for the day in question, prioritize the most vital ones and move anything else that may wait to the following day. Do not make the mistake of trying to take on too much all at once.

There are a lot of different to-do list applications available, so choose the one that works best for you. Also, if you don’t like the way an application is designed, don’t be scared to turn it down! Design matters. If you despise the way it looks, you’ll find yourself avoiding looking at your to-do list, which is counterproductive.

3. Before you do anything else, look over your schedule and your list of things to do.

Your entire day being taken over by a meeting that you had entirely forgotten was scheduled is the worst possible thing that could happen to your productivity. Avoid having that come to pass.

First thing every morning, review both your calendar and your list of things to do. Make an effort to turn it into a habit by performing it in conjunction with another habit you already have, such as settling down with your first cup of coffee in the morning or just before you check your work email.

It will take you less than a minute to review your calendar and to-do list, but doing so will keep you on track in the long run and prevent you from getting off track. The very finest to-do list apps, such as Todoist (which is displayed below), provide a unique view that displays only the tasks that you have scheduled for the current day.

4. Make sure that your most productive hours are protected.

If you ask any creative person who has achieved success how they find the time to write movie scripts, paint portraits, perform music, or whatever else they do, they will most likely tell you to follow the butt-in-the-chair rule, which is as follows: To get started, plop your derriere down in the chair.

Naturally, there is more to it than simply taking a seat. The timing is also very important. The morning is typically the most productive period of the day for the majority of people; however, the most productive phase of the morning is not right after you wake up but rather, before noon. Make the most of those hours by focusing on the task that is most important. Do not make any plans for meetings at that time. Avoid checking your email. Avoid being behind on your social media feeds. On the other hand, if you are a night owl, you should guard your late hours in the same manner. After that, plop your derriere down in the chair.

5. Make sure you have regular check-ins with yourself.

“Am I keeping up with the things I promised I would do today?” People that are productive check in with themselves on a regular basis. That is how they maintain their course. The following are some of the ways in which you might motivate yourself to check in on a frequent basis:

When you are at work, discuss with your coworkers and your manager what you intend to do on a daily basis. What do you anticipate being able to accomplish? Where will you focus most of your attention first? It would be helpful if you could write it down, possibly in Slack or another software that your company uses for group chat. The next time you find that you are unable to concentrate and are instead delaying, return to your daily message and ask yourself, “What did you write?” What was it that you promised you would do earlier? Now that you have refocused, choose one of those activities to complete.

If you work by yourself, jot down what you plan to do just for today and have it nearby so that you can consult it at any point during the course of the working day. (In the following piece of advice, I will discuss how to carry out the aforementioned activity to an even greater extent.) What you write down might be different from what’s on your to-do list, and the fact that there might be a discrepancy between the two is a useful check-in in and of itself. What accounts for their differences? Where are the discrepancies?

Setting your computer’s date and time options to declare the current time on the hour is yet another method for maintaining a consistent presence here. Check in with yourself whenever something like this takes place. Are you still on task? Shouldn’t you take a break every so often?

6. Consider the Situation in Terms of Tomatoes

I was wondering if you were familiar with the Pomodoro Technique. Work steadily and without interruption for roughly a quarter of an hour, which is referred to as a work session, and then take a short break that lasts between three and five minutes. This is a productivity hack. You do this cycle again, and once you’ve done it four times, you take a lengthier rest. Francesco Cirillo, the author of a book titled “The Pomodoro Technique,” is the one who gave the technique its name. In the book, Cirillo describes how he times his work sessions and breaks using a kitchen timer in the shape of a tomato (pomodoro is Italian for tomato).

What you do before you begin using this method is the most crucial aspect of the overall strategy: You make a note of the tasks that you intend to complete during the working session that you have scheduled. It is very recommended that instead of merely thinking about it in your brain, you really write it down on some paper. If you want this method to be effective, you need to have a very firm grasp on what you want to accomplish throughout each and every work session.

To apply the Pomodoro Technique, you won’t need a traditional kitchen timer at all. You may, alternatively, utilize the web app timer that Cirillo himself provides (shown above) or a plug-in; Strict Workflow is the one that I recommend the most. The ability of most plug-ins to prevent you from accessing potentially distracting websites while you are working makes them an exceptionally useful tool. To return to our original topic…

7. Take measures to eliminate any distractions

When you are trying to be productive, you should prevent yourself from accessing websites that are likely to distract you, such as social media or news sites, if you are aware that you have a tendency to become quickly sidetracked by such sites.

Stayfocusd is a Chrome extension that stops you from going to sites that are distracting when you should be working. Unlike the Strict Workflow extension, Stayfocusd locks you out at any times you set, such as 9:00 to 5:00 every workday. You can set it to prevent you from getting lured into Reddit or Twitter when you need to work or study, or it can restrict the amount of time you spend on Facebook to no more than 30 minutes each day, depending on what you like. Just give it the URLs of the websites that tempt you the most, and it will determine your agenda.

8. Make it a point to give yourself regular rest breaks.

You should never minimize the significance of taking pauses. Both taking breaks and sleeping are ineffective ways to do work in the moment, but both are necessary if you want to maintain your productivity over the course of a longer period of time. If you labor for an excessively long period of time without taking the necessary breaks, you run the danger of injuring yourself and you also end up being much less productive overall.

Time Out Free is an application for the Mac operating system that, at periods that you specify, locks you out of your entire computer. Users on Windows and Linux have the option of downloading the free Work Rave application. You may remind yourself to take breaks in a variety of other ways as well, such as by drinking a lot of water while you work so that you have to get up and use the restroom more frequently. There are a lot of other ways you can do this. Move reminders are an option that may be enabled on a fitness tracker or smartwatch, and when activated, the watch will vibrate to alert the wearer that they have been still for too long.

9. To Increase Your Productivity and Creativity, Get Out and Move Around More

It’s important to keep certain breaks brief so you can get right back into the swing of things when you return to work. On the other hand, at at least one of the day’s breaks, you should get up out of your chair and move around for a minute. Walking is the most accessible option for the majority of people; but, if you are unable to walk, any low-impact physical activity that you are able to maintain for at least 20 minutes can be considered an acceptable alternative.

Walking has been proved to stimulate creative thought, according to research conducted at Stanford University. It is beneficial to both your physical and mental health, and as a result, it increases your level of productivity. To break up the monotony of my job, I make it a practice to go for a walk for thirty minutes during my lunch break; however, you should pick the time of day and the length of time that are most convenient for you.

10. Give Yourself Praise and Rewards When You Achieve Your Goals

Let’s imagine that you complete a task a half an hour earlier than was anticipated. Moving on to the next task as quickly as possible seems like it would be the most productive thing to do, doesn’t it? Wrong.

Reward yourself whenever you complete the task on time or even early. Get yourself a coffee. Tweet your accomplishments. Doodle. Send a note to a friend. Or you might just enjoy the now. You have the chance to establish a pattern of rewarding appropriate conduct in this situation. This is an example of positive reinforcement. If you punish yourself with additional (and unscheduled) labor instead of rewarding yourself for a job well done, you will see better outcomes in the long run. Rewarding yourself for a job well done will provide better results.

11. Make Sure You Allow Enough Time for Sleep and Laziness

Sleep. Sleep soundly. Sleep plenty. When sleep-deprived, no one can be at their most productive or efficient levels of performance.

In addition, try not to fill every waking minute of every day with commitments. Research (much of which is discussed in the book Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much) demonstrates that when resources are reduced, your mental bandwidth takes a blow. This is because your brain is forced to focus on fewer things. This holds true whether the resources in question consist of time, money, or something else different. When we are confronted with limited resources, our ability to make optimal choices and carry them out is significantly impaired. Therefore, incorporate some leeway into your agenda by leaving plenty of room for maneuverability. And make sure you give yourself some time where you have nothing planned but to just be.

Last but not least, always prioritize taking care of yourself over getting things done. If you don’t put yourself first and prioritize your own well-being, you won’t be able to help anyone else.


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