Do you often feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day? Like your to-do list is growing faster than you’re able to handle. Do you find yourself focusing on low-priority tasks and are simply procrastinating? If you do, you’re not alone, 50% of employees find it difficult to be productive, but don’t fret because you can regain control of your work.
Firstly, it’s important to remember that everyone works differently and that ‘one-size-fits-all’ lists on how to be more productive won’t always be beneficial! Here are our top techniques that can be adapted to your personality and work style.
Small changes over time:
It is said that it takes 15 days to make and break habits so, you cannot expect to change years of habits overnight. Start small, try one tip at a time and as you find strategies that work best for you begin to add more!
Whether you’re just having weekly check-in’s with co-workers or setting your own goals and deadlines, having someone else to answer to can help motivate you to get the job done.
You’re only human and sometimes you’re going to slip up and have a bad day where you get distracted and don’t get as much done. It’s important to move on and not dwell on your mistakes, because everyone makes them, forgive yourself, brush yourself off and move forward.
Think you can get more done by juggling multiple tasks at the same time? Well unfortunately it’s biologically impossible, according to neuroscience professor Earl K. Miller.
Miller says, “people are much more efficient when they monotask” and when you do multitask you actually make more mistakes! As you go back and forth between tasks, the neural networks of your brain have to back track and work out where they had left off. This extra activity causes you to slow down and errors become more frequent.
The brain is like a muscle: It becomes stronger with use, Miller said. Just like physical exercise, the more we strengthen our mental connections by having complete focus on one task the better our productivity will become!
How to Monotask:
Create a work environment that encourages focus and performing one task at a time. It isn’t realistic to think we are able to block hours off at a time to complete a task, but here are some small changes you can make:
- Remove temptation: Resist the urge to check unrelated social media and websites while you’re trying to focus on a task. If you need a helping hand, consider installing anti-distraction software to block access to sites for a specified period of time. (SelfControl,and Freedom)
- Work on 1 screen: Put your phone in your draw and turn off your second monitor!
- Move: If you find your focus drifting and you’re reading the same sentence over and over, try getting up and having a brief walk. Dr. Miller said, “a brief walk around the office can lift your mood, reduce hunger and help you refocus.”
- Work in intervals: Set a timer and give yourself 10 minutes to complete focused work and then allow yourself a few minutes to be distracted as long as you continue 10 minutes more of focused work.
If distraction does take over, don’t punish yourself too much, remember it gets the best of us! Miller says, ‘the more we work on focusing on one task at a time and ignoring distractions, the more we exercise the prefrontal cortex – the more evolved part of our brains. Then it becomes easier to focus.” We live in a world where distractions are everwhere, smartphones, tablets, laptops and the internet. You'll need to make a deliberate and commited effort to stay on task and we hope these tips help guide you.