Here at BlockSite we recently asked Jill Duffy, who is a contributing editor at PCmag.com some productivity questions to gain an experts view. Jill covers productivity apps and software, as well as technologies for health and fitness. She writes the Get Organized column on PCmag.com, with tips on how to lead a better digital life. Read on to find out more and download BlockSite today to make the most out of your productivity!
Hi Jill! Thanks for joining us for this Q&A session! Could you please give us an introduction and your experience in the productivity field?
My name is Jill Duffy, I’m a contributing editor at PCmag.com and I write about technology and productivity. I’ve been covering this space since 2011 where I mostly write reviews for productivity software for both personal and business productivity, and I write advice articles about productivity as well, based on research that I do regarding how to be more productive, curb distractions.
My articles are based on products that have been peer reviewed and gone through some process of verification as I don’t like to rely on sources of information that don’t meet those standards because there’s usually some bias involved in them.
What are your top 3 tips for personal productivity?
I don’t think I have top 3 tips, I think it really varies by individual based on what they want to accomplish. One of the things people tend to overlook when they talk about productivity is the idea of having a goal.
If you don’t have a goal there’s no reason to be more productive. You need to think about whether you’re trying to be more productive in order to reclaim some more free time – that would be productivity based on time, where you’d be doing the same amount of work that you already do, just in less time.
Or your productivity goal might be to produce more than you’re currently producing. Then, you need to focus on why you want to do that and what the end goal would be. So rather than focusing on tips, I would say that you should think of your goal and work from there.
How can people make their work day more productive?
It depends on the goal. If your goal is to finish your work sooner, the way you’ll go about being more productive will be different to if your goal is to get more done.
Once you have a goal in mind, you can start thinking about what is the best use of your time. It becomes more about time management and planning – think about what is your goal, and what you need to do to achieve it and the best use of your time. Then work from there depending on your strengths.
For example, if you know you’re a person who’s really good at sitting down and focusing for a long stretch of time, think about what you can do to give yourself that time. Or, if you’re someone who is really good at getting a little bit done in spaced out time frames, think about how you can make use of those small spaces of time when you have them. How can you give yourself signals throughout the day to get things done?
It’s important to first think about the goal and then how to manage your time and how to work with your strengths to get things done in order to become more productive.
What are the easiest ways to stay focused and stop procrastinating?
There are a few things that the majority of people find helpful. For example, one is called time blocking.
The idea with time blocking is that you write out your daily calendar in increments of 15 minutes and for everything you want to accomplish, especially for tasks that require a lot of focus, you write down a block of time when you work on a specific task.
This helps people focus because it is a planning method, deciding in advance that from 10am – 12:30pm you will work on something, makes you think ahead of time how best to use your time. It also gives you a very clear understanding that you don’t have to focus all day long. Sometimes we sit down to do a task that requires focus and we don’t think about how long it’s going to take or when we’ll be done. If you decide ahead of time that you’re going to work on a task for say, an hour and a half and then take a break, you have an end in sight, and that helps shake some of the anxiety out of having to sit down and complete the task.
Another trick that people like to use is similar to time blocking but it’s called the Pomodoro Method. You set a timer for 25 minutes of work. At the end of the 25 minutes you take a short break with a timer set, for around 5 minutes and then repeat the process 4 times. At the end of the process, you take a longer break of half an hour to an hour.
The idea with this method is that you decide ahead of time that you’re not going to focus for an indefinite amount of time, you’re focused for 25 minutes which is much more doable than not having an end in sight.
What are your tips for prioritizing tasks?
In my own life I spend a few minutes every morning checking my to do list and figuring out how many things on that list are important to accomplish today and what can wait until tomorrow.
I try to keep my to do list to about 3-5 things per day as I find that more than that, is ambitious and won’t happen. I even write down things like remembering to take medication as I find that being able to check it off a list is helpful even if it’s not time consuming, and having some security that I’ve done it by checking off that box helps too.
I also remind myself to journal everyday even though I’ve been doing it a long time and don’t need to. I do this to remind me of what’s important and what must be completed due to deadlines and to prioritize. If you look at your to-do list everyday and take it down to what you can actually do, then reorganize what’s left to do into other days of the week and repeat this process every day, that’s a good strategy to stay on top of the most important stuff.
How do you recommend getting the best work/life balance?
This is based on a person by person basis. There are people who are naturally good at it and people who are naturally bad at it. if you’re bad at it and want to be better, an idea may be to have another person make you accountable.
For example, say you’re currently working from home due to COVID-19 and have a really hard time shutting off your work day at 5pm, ask someone to send you a text to tell you to log off. Or, you can schedule a call or video with a friend or family member when you want to finish your work day so that you have a commitment that reminds you to shut down work for the day.
It also helps to have habits. For example, make it a habit to take a full hour off for your lunch break everyday which will help if you’re at home. Or if you find it difficult to delay the start of your day to a good time and instead start answering emails as soon as you wake up, think if there’s something that you can do, such as removing devices from rooms, to make it harder for you to do. Putting hurdles in the way often helps with balance.