How to Increase Productivity and Achieve More in Less Time
What is Productivity?
If you’ve ever looked up the definition of productivity, you would have seen that there are over 470 Million results that come up on Google. The dictionary defines productivity as;
“The quality, state, or fact of being able to generate, create, enhance, or bring forth goods and services: The productivity of the group’s effort surprised everyone.”
In short, productivity is a way to measure efficiency and in recent years it has become a very important topic, and something that people want to be better at every single day.
The main productivity means getting the results you want with less time and effort. When you’re trying to understand how to be productive, what you’re really seeking is a way to achieve your goals while having time to spend on what matters.
We all want to know how to increase productivity and how to improve our time management strategies in order to lead more productive and fulfilling lives. But sometimes, however hard we try we just find ourselves getting distracted by everything, everywhere.
Whether you’re a student or a professional in the workplace, there’s always a way to procrastinate and waste time, and that to-do list you were so sure you’d finish by the end of the day, just goes out the window. With barely anything checked off of it, you go home at the end of the day with a feeling of self doubt and annoyance knowing you could have got more done should you have just concentrated harder and been less distracted.
However, productivity hinges on mental energy, a sense of motivation and alertness. It often rears its head when you find yourself naturally enjoying what you’re working on.
Researchers in the past have noticed that productivity can be cultivated through focusing on meaningful elements of a larger goal, or focusing on a larger meaningful goal that can help activate energy and drive to complete tasks.
With that in mind, it’s time to increase productivity whether you’re at work, studying at school or just looking for a way to get more done during the day and we’re here to give you some of the best tips and tricks to help you improve your productivity starting today!
How to increase productivity
Do you want to finish each day feeling fulfilled and satisfied knowing that you used your time well and got everything on your to-do list done? Yes, we thought so. The majority of us would but often find ourselves not being as productive as we’d like to be. This is mainly for two reasons;
- We’re reactive rather than proactive
- We have developed bad habits that interfere with our productivity
However, finding solutions for this is not as difficult as it may seem. We are all able to replace our bad habits for good ones, and become proactive so that we ‘own’ the day.
Increase productivity at work
We all have the same 24 hours in a day, so making the most of our time is crucial. That doesn’t mean working more hours, it means working smarter. It’s important to understand how to manage your time, so that you can achieve optimal productivity.
It’s not rocket science by any stretch of the imagination but it does require some effective tips and tricks to make sure you get the most out of your day and feel a sense of accomplishment. Here are our top 7 tips to increase your productivity at work.
1. Plan Ahead
We all know the stress that can come with a busy work week. Especially when you’re laying bed on a Sunday night thinking of everything you’ve got on in the coming week.
However, if you were to plan ahead…whether it be daily, weekly or monthly – you’d feel more in control of your day-to-day life. Planning ahead has lots of benefits as you’ll spend less time worrying about what will happen and more time in the moment, not to mention how missed meetings and forgetting to send emails will become a thing of the past. This is because when you create an effective plan you’ll be able to stay accountable.
If you have no clarity regarding what you need to get done in a given day, you’ll probably feel busy…but you won’t be productive. Start planning your days in advance, even the night before and you’ll see how you’ll not only get more done in less time, you’ll also experience an easier flow to life full of useful work that adds value to your life. So make sure you start scheduling your day at least the night before to get the most out of it.
2. Set Realistic Goals
Many of us go through life and our careers with a goal or goals in mind. Setting goals is not just about setting a general direction for life but about giving yourself milestones of achievement that provide satisfaction throughout the journey and once you reach them.
In 1980 the largest survey ever undertaken regarding the link between goal setting and productivity was carried out by researchers at the University of Maryland. Locke et al described in the abstract for the article:
“A review of both laboratory and field studies on the effect of setting goals when learning or performing a task found specific, challenging goals led to higher performance than easy goals, “do your best” goals or no goals.”
The results in terms of the goal setting were outstanding and it went on to state:
“The main mechanisms by which goals affect performance are by directing attention, mobilizing effort, increasing persistence and motivating strategy development.”
From this, we can learn that by setting goals and working towards achieving them early in life, our lives will be more rewarding and substantial – and that it’s never too late to begin.
With this in mind, the best way to set goals is by using the SMART concept of which there are a few variations;
S – specific, significant, stretching
M – measurable, meaningful, motivational
A – agreed upon, attainable, achievable, acceptable, action-oriented
R – realistic, relevant, reasonable, rewarding, results-oriented
T – time-based, timely, tangible, trackable
Your goals should always be;
- Clearly defined – therefore, rather than ‘learn a new skill at work’ it should be ‘learn how to conduct a business meeting online’
- Realistic – Set yourself goals that are achievable with resources that are available to you right now rather than ‘future planning’ these goals. For example, you cannot do something that you know will take you 3 years of full-time dedication and application in 2 years while holding down a full-time job and raising a family.
- Challenging – If the goal you set yourself is easy to achieve, it’s not a goal. You must see the goals as a challenge that needs your time and effort in order to be achieved. Start by setting a goal that might seem slightly beyond what you are capable of and that way you’ll be able to do more than you believe you can.
- Meaningful – The goals or goals you set need to provide you with a sense of achievement.
Setting goals will help with improving your productivity as you’ll be concerned with reaching them and therefore focused and consistent in your work.
3. Track and Limit
Have you ever thought about how much time you spend on specific tasks while at work? How long each task takes to complete and how much time you may be wasting?
Some of us think we’re pretty good at gauging how much time we spend on tasks, however, research shows that only around 17% of us are actually able to estimate the time we spend doing specific things, accurately.
By implementing a tracking system that can help you monitor your tasks and the time they take to complete you’ll be able to better understand if you are using your time effectively and productively or if certain tasks are taking up too much of your time unnecessarily.
How so? Well, to begin with tracking your time will help you understand where you’re getting distracted. It will help you spot the things at work that repeatedly throw you off track such as meetings, interruptions or unplanned tasks. Tracking your time will also be able to help you with spotting bottlenecks and workflows that may need to be automated instead of you spending hours on them.
Maybe you’re the type of person who is ready and raring to go as soon as you’ve drunk your morning coffee, or maybe you’re more productive in the afternoons. By implementing a time tracking system to your working day, you’ll be able to find your productivity golden hours easier. This will enable you to manage your tasks and energy levels accordingly. For example, work that requires deeper focus can be reserved for when you know you’re most productive, and other tasks that take up less energy you can complete at another time. Check out the Clockify app to get your time tracking started.
4. Be Proactive, Not Reactive
The word reactive basically means that you don’t use, or have initiative. You let others in the workplace tell you what to do and make the decisions, while you’re the ‘doer’ who gets things done.
In contrast, the word proactive implies that you anticipate things, find new ways to work and new ideas to bring to the table on your own accord. Nobody needs to tell you what to do because you’re usually a few steps ahead anyway.
In short, being proactive is the same thing as being reactive with one BIG difference – you do the reacting ahead of time.
To become more proactive and use your time productively and efficiently, not to mention impressing your colleagues more you need to remember 3 main things;
- Ask yourself what is likely to happen and make sure you have a way to deal with it before it happens.
- See the big picture and implement the necessary steps to take ahead of time.
- Be on top of your game and make sure your energy is too. Doing something you love helps with being proactive as you will genuinely want to be the best at what you do.
5. Take Advantage of Commuting
Regardless of how you get to work – whether you drive a bus, bike, walk or scoot to work, it’s been reported that the average American spends more than 100 hours a year commuting.
Let’s face it, that’s a lot of hours and they really do add up. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were more than 139 million workers commuting in 2014. At an average of 26 minutes each way to work, five days a week, 50 weeks a year.
That works out to 29.6 billion hours, 1.2 billion days, or 3.4 million years spent commuting in one year alone. Imagine all the things you could do with that amount of time? But no, instead you’re sitting on a train or stuck in traffic.
However, your commute is unavoidable, we all need to get to work and yes, it’s a chore but you have the power to turn it into a productive time during the day. And no, we don’t mean scrolling through your Facebook News Feed, we mean starting your working day early.
For example, you could;
- Plan your day – we previously mentioned how important this point is for your productivity so why not plan it out while you’re on your way to work?
- Answer emails – get your day started by answering all those emails that take up time first thing in the morning. By the time you get to the office, you’ll be able to start your tasks with a clean inbox…pretty great right?
- Self learning – why not spend time fuelling your career? Listen to a relevant podcast or catch up on the latest news in your field. You’ll educate yourself and get your brain going early.
Whatever you choose to do, start boosting your productivity on your commute to really get the most out of your day. You’ll also get to work with a sense of accomplishment – bonus to start the day that way in our opinion!
6. Minimize Distractions
To optimize your productivity levels you need to get rid of all the things that steal your time. For a lot of us, this may be emails, phone notifications or social media. We’ve all become so addicted to constantly being online, phones in hand and looking at something that we get lost in whatever it is we’re looking at and don’t realise we waste hours upon hours of productive time.
While you’re at work, it’s also really easy to be distracted by colleagues. One wants to grab a coffee with you and the other just ‘popped in for a chat’ all while you’re trying to get your head down and complete your tasks. All these interruptions produce a change in work pattern and a drop in productivity.
So what can you do to stop these distractions? Well for one, learn how to work smarter instead of harder and start setting boundaries. This may include;
- Setting ‘office hours’ so that people know when you are and aren’t available
- Silencing phone notifications
- Setting times to check social media and emails so that you don’t do it while working on something.
- Use tools such as BlockSite’s Scheduling and Work Mode features so that you work and take planned breaks in order to get the most out of your day and minimize distractions.
- Block websites that steal your focus and therefore reduce your productivity.
By minimizing distractions, you’ll notice how quickly your productivity will increase and there is no better feeling than that sense of accomplishment at the end of a long working day knowing you got everything you needed to do, done.
7. Get Enough Sleep
Did you know that 70% of Americans admit to falling asleep on the job? According to a survey conducted by William A. Anthony, PhD, a clinical psychologist and director of Boston University’s Center for Psychological Rehabilitation, American’s are falling asleep while working simply because they feel the need to. Early-morning commutes, long working hours, and too many responsibilities at home mean that increasing numbers of people aren’t getting enough sleep.
We’re all aware by now that not getting enough sleep has negative effects on our performance in all areas of our lives. However, in the workplace it has an even greater impact as the prefrontal cortex which helps us with tasks that require logical reasoning and complex thought is impacted by lack of sleep and will impair us when trying to complete such tasks.
Therefore it is very important that we all get enough sleep every night to ensure that our productivity stays on top form. According to the National Sleep Foundation, that means making sure you get between 7-9 hours of sleep a night if you’re an adult between the age of 26 – 64. Make sure when planning your day, everything on your to-do list is completed in time to allow you to get between 7-9 hours of sleep a night too.
Increase productivity as a student
As a student you may find yourself bogged down with work, trying really hard to get your grades up in order to reach your goals and ambitions for the future. It’s challenging for everyone and if you don’t structure your time right, it can become a real nightmare.
You’ll often find yourself losing track of what you’re doing, then procrastinating or spending too much time on tasks that are a bit irrelevant. This makes your studying suffer, as you leave yourself with less time to actually get important work and revision done.
To add to all this, you also want to keep a fit of a social life, maybe do some exercise and get enough sleep everyday so time really is of the essence to make sure you’re productive enough throughout the day.
We’ve rounded up some of the best tips to make sure you are the most productive student you can be…
1. Write a To-Do List
Yep, we’re talking about the old school ‘write down everything you need to get done’ type of to-do list. And we recommend doing it the evening before you need to get the tasks done to save yourself time on the actual day.
When writing a to-do list, make sure you write down everything you need to get done in that specific day, for example;
- Revise for Math test
- Do research for History test
- Complete essay due for Monday
However, to further increase your productivity – schedule the items on this list by hour, including your daily activities, breaks and eating times. This will help you keep your day in perspective and your productivity on top form as you’ll need to meet your ‘deadlines’ by specific times, for example;
8AM – Wake Up
9AM – Revise for Math test
10:30AM – 10 Minute break
10:40AM – Do research for History Test
12:10PM – 10 Minute Break
12:20PM – Complete essay due for Monday
1:50PM – Lunch
And so on until bedtime…
Then, as you complete each task – cross it off your list. This way, you’ll be able to visualize your progress watching the number of tasks you have to complete, go down. Trust us, when we say if you manage to cross everything off your list before the day is done, you’ll feel such a sense of success and satisfaction that you’ll further encourage yourself to continue with the to-do lists.
2. Understand Your Learning Style
Every person has their own style of learning. Some of us find it easier to visualize things we need to learn, others find it easier to consume information and learn by reading and/or writing things down. There is no right or wrong way to learn and for the most part, all students belong in one of 4 groups.
This type of learning is used by students who learn by seeing things – graphs, charts, infographics and so on. This learning style is best for students who remember and consume information from seeing things. If this sounds like you, make sure you start learning through visual form as it will help you remember more data and information for your tests.
This learning style is suited to students who learn best through experience. This could be anything from experiments and practical tests to hands on experience. If you find yourself learning more from actually doing something in order to consume and retain knowledge, then this is likely your learning style and you should implement it when studying to improve your productivity.
This learning style is best suited to students who retain information best when they hear it said aloud. This could be recorded, through attending lectures, discussions or generally listening to the information in spoken form. If you often find yourself reading aloud when studying to remember more information, you’re probably an auditory learner.
Reading and Writing Learner
This learning style relates to students who retain information best from writing things down and reading. This could be from textbooks, handouts given in class or writing information down while copying from a textbook. If you often find yourself taking notes and then revising from them, this is probably your learning style.
Find the style best suited for you and adjust your learning style to increase your productivity. If you find that you’re a mix of a few learning styles, follow them both. Once you realize your habits and identify a learning style, you’ll instantly become more productive as you’ll be able to retain more information in less time.
3. Take Breaks
According to Study International, taking breaks while studying is an important part of achieving your potential. They also help you stay focused and motivated and a productive break should leave you feeling refreshed and ready to return to your studies with a renewed focus.
This is due to the fact that our brains can only handle a certain amount of information before we begin to tire and lose focus. By pushing our minds beyond their capability, we create stress and start becoming tired.
As a student, it’s therefore important to break while studying to make sure your productivity, focus and energy stays at optimal levels as there is a lot of information that you need to consume each day.
While there is no set time frame for breaks as everyone has different schedules and methods that work best for them, it’s important to include breaks throughout the day. Here at BlockSite it’s no secret that we love the Pomodoro method that teaches us to work or study for 25 minutes, and then take a short break for 5 minutes to make sure our focus is tip top. However, you can increase or decrease these time frames to suit your study schedule and see what works best for you.
However long you choose to break for, make sure you use the time to do something totally different to your studies. Maybe talk a walk, talk to a friend or check that social media platform you love so much. This will allow your mind to rest and increase your productivity for when you return to your studies.
4. Quit Social Media
We’ll be the first to admit that quitting social media isn’t easy. The fear of missing out and the thought of being so ‘out of touch’ in this day and age is strange, even if you aren’t a social media addict.
However, what it will do is help increase your productivity as you’ll have less ways to procrastinate as there’ll be no news feeds to aimlessly scroll through or grids to check out.
By removing the temptation totally, you give yourself one less way of being distracted. However, if you feel that this is too much to do in one go, start by limiting or blocking your access to the main platforms that take your focus away from your studies. And then set boundaries. For example, give yourself 10 minutes a day to check out one platform. It will be hard in the beginning but soon you’ll find yourself not checking them at all and your productivity will soar.
Once you’ve tried it out, you can then increase your ‘quitting social media’ strategy. For example, you could deactivate your accounts for a week, then two, then for good. Trust us it’s not the end of the world. In fact, you may find yourself happier and more focused on it.
5. Reward Yourself
We’re firm believers in the importance of acknowledging success and celebrating achievements. With that in mind, as a student, it’s important to reward yourself for your hard work. A reward system will provide you with extra motivation and will help you to keep focused and spend your days being productive so that you can get your reward at the end.
Therefore, every time you finish a challenging assignment, revision day or week or complete that essay – reward yourself. However big or small you see fit. This could be anything from listening to your favorite podcast, watching a movie or going for a coffee with a friend.
The small thrill associated with a reward once you have completed certain tasks will motivate you enough to keep going and to get things done.
Reward systems can play a significant role in your overall productivity and who doesn’t like doing something they love after a productive day? We know we do…so go on, treat yourself…you’ve earned it!
Achieve more in less time
The goal in achieving more in less time is not working for longer hours, it’s working smarter and being effective, not just efficient.
Some people are very efficient, they know how to get things done and are always checking things of their to-do lists. These people are very busy people but not always the most productive.
On the other hand, there are highly effective people. These people are also efficient but take their efforts to the next level by focusing on accomplishing tasks that make the biggest difference to their lives first. This means they are productive and get the right things done, rather than just being busy doing a lot of unimportant tasks.
The process of achieving more in less time is not always easy but it is pretty simple.
To begin with, you need to start with your goals. If your goals are long term goals, you need to ensure that your short term goals support them. By setting your goals out first, you stay focused on what matters most and productive throughout the day in order to reach them. It’s also a lot easier to stay focused and be productive when you genuinely care about what you need to achieve and what it will take to get there.
Once you have your goals in place, it’s important you believe you can actually achieve them. Hard work is, well, hard but it does pay off so your success is dependent on self belief. You have to acknowledge the fact that to get to where you want to be you’re going to need to keep trying and pushing yourself, as long as you do that – you will eventually succeed.
Why? Because you’re in total control of your life. Yes, luck and some outside forces come into it but ultimately, you made it happen. So if you do, or if you don’t – it’s up to you. Additionally, don’t forget that while trying to achieve your goals, along the way you’ll spot new opportunities and different options – don’t be afraid to take them.
Effective people stay on task but also make time to experience new things, try new methods and reap the rewards from doing so. By doing this, you’re also optimizing your productivity by keeping your eyes open to new things to learn and do.
However, with that in mind it’s also paramount that you stay focused on one goal at a time. Trying to accomplish too many goals at the same time will make them all a bit half-assed. It’s better to focus on one thing at a time, and do that thing incredibly well before moving on to the next.
Another thing that highly effective and productive people understand is how to ask for help, and also know that they need it. Want to be highly effective? Surround yourself with people who trust and motivate and inspire you, and in turn are inspired by you. Even if you don’t achieve all of your goals, your life will be infinitely richer.
By remembering these points, you will be able – in time (Rome wasn’t built in a day remember…) to get more done in less time as you’ll understand the fundamental values of how this is achieved, put all the tips above into focus and start meeting your goals.
How to increase productivity in life
To increase productivity in life you need to understand and know the difference between productivity and time management.
Productivity means that you are good at managing your energy and focus on a specific task, you can stick to it until it’s done without burning out or wasting time.
Time management means that you’re good at planning time frames to focus on specific tasks. While you can’t really have one without the other, understanding the difference and knowing that productivity and time management are two different skill sets can make a real difference in your ability to master both.
Here are our top 5 tips to help you master productivity in life in general.
1. Stop thinking, start doing.
Don’t get stuck in analysis paralysis, overthinking things, worrying and lack of self confidence won’t get you anywhere. Instead, focus on what you can actually do and what actions you can take to keep moving forward.
Everyday, ask yourself; ‘what is one small step I can take today to move further towards my goal?’ write it down, and get it done.
2. Manage Activities
Activity management is the practice of keeping a record of everything you do in a typical day and the order in which you do those things. When you record everything, it’s easier to see where the majority of your time goes each day, which has an impact on your productivity.
We’re all looking for more hours in a day but essentially, if we managed what we do better, we wouldn’t need those extra hours as we’d be working smarter and getting more done.
Applying such a system to your personal life is also a great way to find time for the things you love to do away from work such as working out, cooking or socialising.
3. Go Slow
Slow down. Seriously, stop trying to race through things you need to get done as you won’t do them well. Instead, the way to achieve better and more focused work is to simply slow down. By implementing this, you’ll find that just by completing a task at a slower pace you’ll feel less of a mental burden and be less likely to procrastinate.
Every single day, write down somewhere where you can see your top 3-5 priorities in life. That way you’ll begin each day with what matters most to you in the front of your mind, helping you to work towards those goals every day, rather than just being busy with no real point to it all.
Take one internet free day a week, where you totally disconnect from the digital world and spend time with the people that matter most. Go outdoors, read a good book, watch a good movie – whatever you like just get offline!. There’s a whole world out there and you’ll find that by disconnecting for a while you’ll feel recharged and less distracted. Not to mention having more quality time with the people in your life is always a bonus.
Many things determine our overall productivity. These can range from tools and apps to life hacks and general mindset. Being productive is a way of life, it’s about achieving maximum output, getting things done and not wasting time.
Here are 5 additional, and maybe lesser known tips that can help you achieve optimal productivity;
1. Just do it.
Just like most things in life, there’s also something else that needs to be done, that matters or that takes our attention away from certain tasks. Distractions are useless and reduce our productivity. If you want to get things done, you need to get just on with it and do it. Jump straight into it and remove anything that comes between you and the task at hand.
2. Record your thoughts and ideas
Similarly to all those digital devices we use all day long, you too have a memory. Usually, it’s more short term and is pretty limited. So when it’s full, older information that you try to remember seems to disappear to make room for new things that you need to remember. To make sure that you remember it all, write down or record yourself – that way all your thoughts and ideas are ‘stored away’ and can be revisited when necessary.
3. Be Positive
Want to be productive? Be positive. Yes, by that we mean smile, look on the bright side of life and always see the glass as half full. By being positive, you reduce stress and if you want to keep your productivity at the top of its game, you can’t be stressed out.
4. Press Reset
No, not on your computer, on life. We all screw up from time to time, get angry when things don’t go our way and find ourselves having ‘just one of those days.’ But remember – that’s all it is, a bad day not a bad life. Take some time alone to reset and recharge yourself. Meditate, listen to music or go for a walk. This will help with getting you back on track and making sure that the days that follow, don’t go to waste and are productive.
5. Review your week
A lot of us get into bed at night with a whole bunch of thoughts of things that we need to do, forgot to do or didn’t have enough time to do. We hardly have any time to process what we actually got done, simply because we are so stressed out about what’s directly ahead. So, at the end of every week review your lists and daily schedules to see how you spend your time, and while doing it to optimize your productivity ask yourself the following questions;
- Did I achieve what I wanted to achieve?
- Did I need to be present for everything I attended?
- Could I have achieved the same in a shorter time frame?
This is a powerful tactic for determining whether you are really managing and spending your time wisely and productively. Then, once you’ve answered those questions, see how you can improve for the coming week and what you can do differently to be even more productive.
To maximize your time and to complete tasks within a reasonable time frame in today’s fast paced and busy world, you may need some tools to help you.
These tools help to boost our productivity as while we juggle with lots of tasks and responsibilities, it becomes difficult to stay on task. So, thankfully, there are apps and services that can help us.
Productivity tools are tailored to different lifestyles, and different interests. Here, we’ve outlined our top 5 tools and services that can help you optimize your time and effort.
- Any.do: This app lets you combine lists with reminders, calendars, notes, and cloud sync. It provides you with the ability to stay organized and get lots more done. Don’t believe us? It’s also won awards 😉 that’s how good it is.
- Notion: Notion is pretty much everything you need in one tool. If you’re struggling to get through lots of emails or just simply need to get organized, Notion can help. It uses artificial intelligence and a unique algorithm to analyze and prioritize emails for you.
- Clockify: This tool helps you to keep track of all your time and provides you with insights into your performance in terms of productivity. You can choose to track your time automatically or add it manually and see how productive you’ve been. You can also create a summary and detailed reports on all your activities, both work-related and others.
- Teamviewer: This is a software that allows teams to connect remotely to hold online meetings, make online presentations and engage in teamwork together. One of the biggest perks with this tool is that it allows desktop and file sharing, and remote control. Once given permission, you can access all data on your colleague’s computer, and view all relevant documents, without bothering your colleague.
- Evernote: A great tool for sharing information and taking quick notes while you work. These notes can be audio and video files, images, web clips, or web pages; you can share these notes, and access them from any device. You can also add “ink” notes, and draw diagrams, charts, and arrows, to make your written notes more concise. P.S If you need to track your time and productivity, there is a Clockify integration with Evernote that allows you to track time on your notes with just one click.