Whether you manage small business operations or work from home, you need to be productive to succeed. High productivity keeps sales flowing and profits rolling in. It helps you achieve your career goals while maintaining a work-life balance. But for many of us, productivity is elusive. So, how do you become more productive?
First, it’s important to realize that being busy doesn’t always equal productivity. You can be busy all day without actually achieving anything. To reach your goals, you need a productive mindset. This means you’re:
- Motivated. If you’re not motivated, you won’t be productive, so figure out what your goal is and how your tasks will help you achieve it.
- Persistent. To stay productive long term, you need to be persistent. You must have the discipline to keep working even when it’s hard.
- Positive. It’s easy to get caught in a cycle of negativity and lose your motivation for working, so try to see the positive side of things – even things that challenge you.
- Focused. Focusing on one task at a time stops you from getting overwhelmed. It can also improve your efficiency, making you more productive.
- Organized. Organizing your day can help you stay focused and having a routine can help you get into a productive mindset each day.
How to boost your productivity?
There are several ways to achieve a more productive mindset and boost your productivity. One method is to create a productivity plan, but there are others too, such as:
- Doing one task at a time
- Scheduling uninterrupted time for work
- Remembering to take a break
- Not letting tasks overrun
- Learning to say “no”
You should bear these in mind as you create your productivity plan. Let’s look at them in more detail.
1. Do one task at a time
Many people think multitasking makes them more productive. Checking emails in a meeting, answering phone calls while typing – it’s more efficient, right? But multitasking actually harms productivity.
It takes an average of nine and a half minutes to get back into a good workflow after switching tasks, and we waste around 36 minutes each day on task switching alone. So, try to complete one task before moving on to the next.
2. Schedule uninterrupted time for work
Over 50 percent of workers say they spend less than 70 percent of their workday being productive. A lot of this is due to distractions interrupting their workflow.
If you’re distracted too often, you either won’t get any work done or it will eat into your downtime. It can be especially hard to maintain a remote work-life balance, but it is possible if you schedule some uninterrupted work time.
Close all your browser windows, put your phone on silent, and turn off notifications. It’s amazing how productive you can be with even an hour of uninterrupted time.
3. Remember to take a break
If you’ve got lots of work to do, it’s tempting to skip breaks, but this is actually counterproductive and harmful. Employee burnout is a major issue that affects around 80 percent of workers.
It’s not only bad for employees but companies too. Moderate to severe burnout can reduce work output by over 20 percent, eating into the company’s profits.
How can you prevent burnout? By taking regular breaks to help clear your mind and de-stress. This is good for productivity, with 87 percent of workers reporting that taking regular breaks makes them more productive. So, make sure you schedule regular pitstops.
4. Don’t let tasks overrun
If you’re a perfectionist, it can be difficult to move on from a task. Or maybe you find it hard to stay on task. Either way, setting a deadline forces you to complete tasks in a certain timeframe.
One method to help with this is timeboxing. Timebox includes a planning, acting, and review stage. For example, you could divide a 10-minute timebox like this:
5. Learn to say no
89 percent of workers waste at least one hour each week on unproductive calls and meetings, so saying ‘no’ to these can make you more productive.
For instance, if you have to finish a report, don’t be afraid to decline a briefing on hybrid cloud architecture. You can always schedule some time to catch up on it later.
What is a productivity plan and why do you need one?
Now we’ve covered some of the ways you can boost your productivity, let’s look at how to create a productivity plan. A productivity plan is a schedule that includes everything you need to do that day or week. It can help you to:
- Prioritize your workload by scheduling the most important tasks first.
- Minimize distractions by scheduling uninterrupted work time.
- Increase your focus by planning one task at a time.
- Decrease your stress by organizing your workload.
- Improve quality by creating a quality culture at work.
So, productivity plans are clearly helpful, but how do you create one? Let’s take a look.
How to create a productivity plan?
You can create a productivity plan for a day, week, month, or even year. Whatever your preference, there are eight steps to creating an effective plan.
Step 1: Define your goals
Like marketing planning, productivity planning starts with your goals. Define these for the year, then break them down into monthly, weekly, or even daily goals.
Let’s say your aim is to double your company’s revenue by the end of the year. You can break this into weekly goals like:
- Increase revenue by two percent each week.
- Convert two new customers each week.
- Keep churn at one percent each week.
Step 2: List the tasks you need to do
Then, list everything you need to do to get closer to achieving your goals. Add any other tasks you must handle too. If you work from home, this could include paying bills or walking the dog. List all the demands on your time as you think of them – you’ll prioritize them next.
Step 3: Prioritize your list
Next, you need to prioritize your list. Which tasks are urgent? Which will help you achieve your goals? Which will have the biggest impact if they aren’t done? Sometimes the most urgent tasks aren’t the most important, so what should you focus on?
One solution is to use the Eisenhower Matrix, which divides tasks based on two questions:
- Is the task urgent?
- Is it important?
Answering these questions for each task gives you four categories:
- Urgent and important. For example, paying your electric bill.
- Urgent but not important. For example, answering calls or emails.
- Important but not urgent. For example, performing a WordPress health check.
- Not urgent or important. For example, checking social media.
You should prioritize quadrant one tasks, and schedule some time consistently for quadrant two as well. If you can, delegate quadrant three tasks to someone else; otherwise, do them after quadrant one tasks. You might be able to eliminate some quadrant four tasks entirely.
You can also create ‘focus groups’ of similar tasks that you do one after the other. For example, you could start the day by completing all the tasks for your assignment then move on to answering emails and making phone calls.
Step 4: Note any obstacles you face
Now you want to list any obstacles that could get in the way of completing your tasks. As an example, let’s look at managing the workforce in a call center. “What is workforce management in a call center?”, you ask. It’s managing your call center agents so they’re available when needed. Simple enough, right?
Well…not entirely. There are a lot of potential obstacles to effective workforce management. There could be a high volume of calls or an employee off sick. Having a plan in place to deal with obstacles is an important part of your productivity plan.
For example, you could create a list of people who could cover a shift if someone is ill. So, the next time someone can’t make it to work, you’ll know exactly who to call.
Step 5: Analyze your current work habits
Next, write down what you do in a typical work week.
- When do you start work, and when do you clock off?
- What do you do first, and for how long?
- How often do you take breaks?
- How long do you spend on non-work-related activities like social media?
Understanding what’s taking up your time, and if it warrants your attention, can help you manage your time better. It can also show up any obstacles you’ve overlooked.
Step 6: Time each task
Now you know what your typical week looks like, you can time how long it takes to do each task. Start a timer on your phone, and stop it when you finish. There are also timekeeper apps that can track your activity for you.
Once you’ve timed each activity, you’ll know what you can really do each day. You can also see if any particular task is taking longer than it should, so you can take steps to remedy this.
Step 7: Choose a productivity strategy
Next, choose a productivity strategy to help you stay on track. Popular strategies include:
- Anthony Trollope’s strategy
- The Ivy Lee method
- The Pareto principle
- The 1-3-5 rule
1. Anthony Trollope’s strategy
Some tasks are larger and more time-consuming than others. In this case, try measuring progress in 15-minute intervals.
For instance, say you have to write a 3,000-word report for your boss. You could aim to write 250 words every fifteen minutes until it’s done. This will give you a sense of achievement so you’re more motivated to continue.
2. The Ivy Lee method
The Ivy Lee method is simple:
- Write down six tasks you need to complete tomorrow.
- Rank them in order of importance.
- The next day, complete the first task on the list. Then move on to the second.
- Work through the rest of the list. If you don’t finish it, move what’s left to tomorrow’s list.
3. The Pareto principle
The Pareto principle is an observation that 80 percent of our output comes from 20 percent of our effort. So, look at your typical workday and find the 20 percent of activities that produce most of your work. Focusing on them can make you more productive.
4. The 1-3-5 rule
Finally, the 1-3-5 rule. Choose one big thing, three medium things, and five small things to complete. Start with the most challenging tasks, then do the medium-level ones, and finish with the smallest. You’ll be a lot more productive than if you try to do the small and medium-level tasks in the background.
Step 8: Create an optimal schedule
Using the information from the previous steps, create your optimal schedule. Think about when you’re the most productive and when your focus starts to wane. Schedule your priorities for when your concentration is best, and make sure you only schedule one task at a time.
It’s important to leave some wriggle room for if something urgent comes up. For example, say you were creating an order management eCommerce schedule. You’d need a buffer in case an order got delayed or a supplier made an unexpected phone call.
Don’t worry if you can’t stick to this schedule exactly. Use it as a guide to help organize your workday rather than a rigid set of rules.
Organize your year with a productivity plan
There are lots of ways to become more productive, but one of the best methods is creating a productivity plan. Productivity plans help you organize your work and become a more efficient employee.
Done right, you can organize your schedule for the entire year! So, give it a go and enjoy your most productive year yet.
Post By: Grace Lau
Director of Growth Content, Dialpad
Grace Lau is the Director of Growth Content at Dialpad, an AI-powered cloud communication platform for better and easier team collaboration. She has over 10 years of experience in content writing and strategy. Currently, she is responsible for leading branded and editorial content strategies, partnering with SEO, cloud PBX solutions, and Ops teams to build and nurture content. Connect with her on LinkedIn.