Modern professionals are bombarded with news, work, and notifications at almost every waking moment. With so much vying for your attention, it can be hard to keep up with set goals and daily tasks. So many time management tools and productivity apps claim to help with productivity but quickly become forgotten as you slip back into everyday habits and once again become overwhelmed with all the things you have to do.
This article shares straightforward productivity tips for getting things done in your work and personal life. We'll share what it means to be a productive person, hacks to get things done in less time, and how to measure and optimize your productivity to ensure you're making progress with the things you care about.
What Is Personal Productivity?
Personal productivity is how you organize your responsibilities, goals, and routines to efficiently and consistently complete the tasks that matter most. It is built on your chosen productivity systems that help you prioritize what's critical to your success with a semblance of balance.
Ryan Fuller, in HBR's The Paradox of Workplace Productivity, defines productivity as value produced divided by resources (cost or time) required.
This means that personal productivity is much more than just completing tasks; it's the value of the tasks you get done compared to the time and money you spend on them. To increase personal productivity, it's essential to measure how much you spend on your different tasks to ensure it aligns with what's most important to you.
Tips for Increasing Productivity
When it comes to improving personal productivity, the desire to improve is the perfect catalyst or first step. Noticing that you need to improve your productivity also points you to what's missing in the way you work and live.
For instance, you may notice that you're easily tired or distracted. This may mean that you need to learn how to protect your time and energy to become more productive.
Another person may realize that they work all day without moving their set goals forward. This may mean they need to prioritize separating urgent from important tasks, so they devote the amount of time they need to the important tasks.
Spend some time thinking about what exactly you need to improve in your current productivity system, and choose productivity tips that can help you from our list below.
1. Focus on Energy, Not Time Management
If you're lucky enough to work for yourself or organize your own workday schedule, order your daily tasks around when you have the most energy, so you spend the high-energy hours on the most important tasks.
Often, what you need is not more time but more focus on the work you have to do. Spending more time on a task does not add value if you are distracted or unable to put in reasonable effort. If you notice yourself regularly getting into an afternoon slump or perpetually exhausted and irritable, try the following productivity tactics to improve your productivity:
- Use the Pomodoro technique to complete big tasks and schedule five-minute breaks to relax your mind through activities like meditation or to infuse some laughter, movement, and energy into your workdays, regardless of how hectic they may be.
- Consider the Eat the Frog method if you notice you work better in the mornings. This helps you focus and tackle the most important tasks on your plate first thing in the morning, ensuring that you move your goals forward each day before any other distractions.
- Incorporate other strategies like getting more sleep or eating healthier meals to feel more energized throughout the day.
Managing your energy is a great way to prevent burnout and other depressive feelings associated with work-related emotional stress. Consider what's missing in your daily routine and plan your work around new habits that help you recharge while getting things done.
2. Use Sticky Notes and To-Do Lists
Sticky notes and a good to-do list make good friends. They never forget anything you "tell" them, they help declutter your mind, and they hold your task lists. These two note-taking techniques are easy to use and super reliable. Simply grab a piece of paper or digital to-do list app and start writing.
What this does is empty your mind and transfer your thoughts to a blank page. When you do this, you feel less overwhelmed or disorganized and can then separate important tasks from others, and schedule and focus on one at a time.
Use productivity methods like the Eisenhower Matrix and time blocking to make your sticky notes and to-do lists systems even more effective. These techniques help with prioritizing and deciding when to work on each task, giving you more control over your daily routines and productivity.
3. Put Social Media in Its Place
A lot of things are not worth the amount of time you spend on them, and social media may be one of those things for you. While it may be almost impossible to avoid social media entirely, it's important to remember that it should be a tool to advance your goals, not a productivity dark hole.
Assess your relationship with social media sites. Use time tracking software to monitor how long you spend on different sites and consider how much (or how little) they help you achieve your main life and work goals. If you find that you're putting more into social media than you get out of it, gradually reduce your time spent on these sites and channel your time and energy into more valuable pursuits.
Below are a few ways you can achieve this:
- Avoid checking notifications at the start and end of the day.
- Turn off notifications or use the Do Not Disturb mode to reduce distractions and constant multitasking throughout the day.
- Try the timeboxing and task batching productivity methods to manage social media-related work tasks, e.g., responding to requests and notifications and checking the news during only dedicated time blocks each day.
- Stop immediately and switch to a useful task if you find yourself procrastinating with social media during the workday.
4. Declutter and Organize Your Workspace
Cluttered workspaces are distracting. They get in the way of your workflow and block you from thinking clearly and working efficiently. You know you are in dire need of a decluttering session if you often forget where you dropped things you need or are distracted by the things around you.
This is especially important for many professionals who are new to remote working. It's essential to separate your workspace from your living area to make the mental separation between home time and work time. This can significantly improve your overall wellbeing and work-life balance in one swoop while also ensuring increased productivity.
Remove everything you don't need in your workspace: baby toys and random personal effects. Think about your in-office workspace and model your home office after the best parts. Creating a comfortable workspace that allows you to focus and get into a flow state is crucial to improving personal productivity.
5. Use a Project or Task Management App If You Run Multiple Projects Simultaneously
This is important for those who work on many projects at once: project management tools and frameworks like Kanban can help you stay on top of all you have to do. Your team at work may use different systems or no system at all — this doesn't matter because you're the one who has the final say in your own personal productivity.
Track your projects from a high level to a more detailed perspective using Kanban boards that show you what's been done, what's pending, and what's currently in progress. Invite collaborators into your project management workspace if necessary to streamline work-related conversations and collaboration. You can set various permission levels on these applications, making them even more valuable when working with remote, cross-functional teams.
6. Track How You Spend Your Time
Tracking your time and focus throughout the workday is our favorite tip for increasing productivity, as this helps you assess your current way of working and note ways to improve on it.
Data gathered from time tracking often reveal wildly different insights from what you initially assumed. For example, you may realize you spend way more time on a specific task and client than you initially thought, leaving other clients and tasks to compete for your attention in a comparatively smaller amount of time.
When you track your time, you're able to truly gain more control over what you put into your high-value tasks. By using automatic time-tracking software, you don't have to make time to manually input data in timesheets and logs. Instead, you can receive timed notifications and actionable insights from your tracked data that help you improve focus and productivity on your important tasks.
Measure and Optimize Your Productivity With Rize
Before investing in new personal productivity tools, assess your current daily routine to discover the gaps you need to close to improve your productivity. Track your time with smart and automatic time-tracking software like Rize to measure where your time goes and channel it better into high-value tasks.
Optimizing personal productivity is not a one-and-done deal but something you continue to improve on as your job role, interests, habits, and lifestyle change. Start today with a two-week free trial of Rize.