12 January, 2018

Four personal productivity tips

For some, being productive comes naturally. For others of us it doesn’t. Thankfully if you’re not a naturally productive person you can still learn how to be. If you follow even just one of the ideas below, you’ll almost certainly find yourself becoming more productive in an area of your life.

1.What “phase” of the day are you in?

You might have noticed that you naturally do some things more easily at certain times of the day than at other times. Your day has natural phases, so how could you plan each section of your day so that you do your work when you’re most effective?

Some people are naturally morning people, they’re bright and awake as soon as they get out of bed and their brain is almost fully functioning without coffee. It would make sense for this person to plan their day so that they can “get to work” as soon as possible. Particularly if they find they have a significant lull later in the day when they could do simpler work.

You might also want to look at when you are super focused and able to do “deep” work. Whether that’s artistic/creative thinking or logical/mathematical thinking. Is there a phase in your day when you seem able to maintain deep focus for significant amounts of time? When you’re in this phase, make sure you’re able to limit interruptions as much as possible.

When do you have a natural lull? Is it after lunch or mid-morning, or some other time? If you know it’s coming, instead of fighting on through see if you can find more simple, lightweight tasks that don’t require heavy thinking.

The principle here is, figure out what type of work would be best to do at the different phases in your day.

2. Give your smartphone the boot.

In the modern day we’ve become dependant on our smartphones, but this dependence often mutates into unnecessary distraction. How can we keep a balance between what’s necessary and what’s wasting our time?

The constant interruption of alerts should be where you aim your spearhead. If you have notifications on, you’re at the mercy of someone else’s idea of when it’s ok for you to be interrupted. Why not consider the following; begin by switching off all notifications on your phone (and computer) during times when you are in deep focus phases.

There are some great apps to help you get into this, particularly if you like to track how productive you were in a particular period of time. They’ll also block specific URL’s for set time frames so even if you’re tempted to go and look at Facebook you won’t be able to.

The principle here is that it’s important you decide when it’s ok to be interrupted, so that you can stay focused on important work and not be distracted by someone else’s idea of “urgent” work.

3. Break down projects into groups of actions.

So you’ve broken your day down into subsections, now break your projects down into much smaller groups of actions. We’re hoping to avoid procrastination here, which can happen all too often when a project feels overwhelmingly large or complex. Divide and conquer as the saying goes.

Ultimately, any final outcome can be broken down into smaller and smaller steps that enable you to reach that outcome. When you break them down into small enough steps they become simple tasks, hence why we have such a variety of options when it comes to task management. At the Hoxton Mix we use tools like Trello to help us with this. We’d also recommend reading Getting Things Done by David Allen.

If you need a deadline to motivate you, you might do this on a micro level and not just set macro deadlines. Pomodoro technique is a great way of doing this, you focus on an activity for 25 minutes without distractions (using a countdown timer), with the end in site you feel much less overwhelmed and also get a sense of satisfaction and achievement quickly. This positive feedback encourages you to keep moving forward.

4. Work on your network

Finally, we’ve talked about the importance of your network before but it’s always good to have a reminder. Your network isn’t just there to help you get your next job. Think about it from the other direction. If someone you knew well and got on with dropped you a line with a query or a request for help. Would you gladly see what you could do or just ignore them? More often than not we forget that when we’re part of a network, we’re there as much to give as we are to take (if not more). In fact the more able you are to give to your network the more likely you are to be respected and remembered within your network and industry. And in the contributing, giving and helping, we often find a genuinely deep rooted satisfaction that goes way beyond simply succeeding at your latest task.

Let us know which one you picked to work on. Have you started to see improvements?

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