I often think about what ‘productivity’ means.
To most people within a project management or team collaboration context, it means not getting distracted by anything, emptying your inbox and finishing all tasks in your to-do list within your estimated time.
Being productive is a balancing act between what you have to do, managing your time effectively, and methodically going from task to task until you’re finished—and not letting anything get in the way of you and your goals of getting your work done.
Work Smarter, Not Longer
Although we all have the same 24 hours in a day, some people just seem to manage their time better to get things done.
Whilst life gets in the way of our best-laid plans, highly productive are in the habit of working smarter—not longer or harder.
Busy isn’t productive!
You can see people running from meeting to meeting, eating their lunch while stuck to their computer and frantically marking tasks off and moving to the next without a thought-out plan of how to do it. That’s not necessarily being productive, right?
Changing how you work, what you choose to work on and when you tackle certain tasks, can all benefit the quality of your work and help you become more efficient.
24 Time Management Tips to Boost your Productivity
The following 24 time management tips help me work effectively. If you’re responsible for managing projects or involved in team collaboration, think how you can integrate some of these hacks into your teamwork environment.
If you’re reading this blog and are little overwhelmed at work, chances are, your colleagues are too.
1. Become an early riser!
As Robin Sharma says, “put mind over mattress”.
Getting up earlier means you have more time to organise your day ahead without having to rush. I usually get up at 5:30am, go for a run, have a proper breakfast and check out what I’ve got coming up that day in work. It also means I’m not rushing to work and getting stressed out before I’ve even put my foot in the building.
2. Stay organised!
Try making a plan on Sunday night/ before your work week to set out your tasks for the week and stick to it as much as possible. Set out -What big tasks you have coming up first.
- How much time do you need to dedicate to them and on what days would be best to do them?
- Then, around the most important tasks, slot in the smaller or less important tasks.
Sure, your plan might be subject to change throughout the week but you can always reevaluate. There are plenty of templates out there—you could try the the 1-3-5 method, as seen on the Muse.
3. Know yourself and manage your time in accordance.
For me, I’m most productive in the mornings.
I’m fresh for the day and ready to take on my most demanding task. Around 2pm, when I get back from lunch, I sit at my desk and then WOOSH! My productivity level is at its lowest. It happens every day like clockwork.
With that in mind I plan my workload accordingly and tackle my important tasks in the morning when I’m most productive. After lunch I schedule my meetings with colleagues, smaller tasks that I can get finished in an hour or less and, tick off stuff I’ve completed on my to-do list.
It’s all about recognising your peaks and troughs in productivity and planning important to-dos around your productive times and less important tasks around your least productive times.
4. Must, should and want.
When making your plan for the week or days ahead, it helps to recognise the tasks you must do, tasks you should do and tasks you want to do.
What you must do should always come before something that you want to do. Something that you must do could be a crucial task for a client that’s due in the coming days. This is essential for the success of your work or business. What you should do could be getting a start on a piece of work for next week. It’s an important piece of work but there are more pressing pieces of work at present.
And what you want to do could involve ordering a new bonsai tree for your desk. It’s something that you’d like to do but can wait until you’re free later when all of your work for today is complete. Choosing what is important can also help with how much time you want to devote to the task. Having trouble prioritising your tasks? Check out Stephen Covey’s Prioritisation Matrix.
5. Even your journey to work can be productive.
Your time is valuable, the most valuable finite resource. In a recent study, Instant Offices say that Londoners on average spend 74 mins per day just commuting to work. – the worldwide average is 40mins.
You could use this time effectively by arranging meetings, sending those emails that you’ve been meaning to send out or write down a few ideas in your inbox that you can action later.
Driving to work? Think about your first task of the day and how you can best approach it. Help yourself get ahead before you get to work.
6. Put your own work first.
No sooner do you get into the office and you’re asked to do a task by one of your colleagues. What do you say?
You have your own to-do list to get through before contemplating someone else’s work. Don’t underestimate how important your tasks are. Make sure your tasks take precedence over helping others, especially if they could complete on their own with a little more hard work.
Sure, helping your colleagues can make your work easier in the long run, but not at the expense of your plan to get a major task completed.
If you’re finding it hard to say no then why not try a ‘To-do trade-off’ with a colleague. You can agree to take on one of your colleague’s to-dos so long as they take one of your to-dos at another time!
7. Complete the most important or hardest task first.
As Mark Twain said,
“If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”
Throw yourself at the hardest task you must complete first. It may take a large chunk of your time for the day but when it’s finished you’ll be left with a great sense of accomplishment. Appreciate the grind and reward yourself when it’s done. You’ll face the rest of your day with an attitude that everything else you face will pale in comparison to the first task– and that’s finished!
8. Set yourself a time limit.
Different tasks take different lengths of time.
If you set yourself a time limit you can give yourself a sense of urgency to get it done that otherwise wouldn’t be there if you have all day to do it! By giving yourself all day to do a medium-sized task then you open yourself up to the dreaded P-word: Procrastination.
If you don’t get the task finished within the time you’ve allocated it’s not the end of the world. Is a piece of vital work taking longer than expected? Then it’s time to rearrange your schedule and rearrange the tasks you allocated for later today. This will also let you see what’s important and what can be pushed out.
9. Take one task at a time.
Start at the top of your to-do list and work your way down.
If something will take a few days to complete then factor the next stage of work into your plan for tomorrow. You’ve finished a part of the task that will contribute to its overall completion. Once finished, move onto the next one.
Never try to do more than one task at once. Multitasking will just help you get two pieces of work completed badly!
10. Spend some time to work on your own.
I can easily get distracted by my surroundings in the office. The radio, the street outside and when one of my colleagues has a bad joke. As humans, everyone welcomes nice distractions but this isn’t good for our productivity. Sometimes when I have a big piece of work to do I find a nice, quiet part of the office and remove myself from all distractions. Nothing can catch my eye unless it’s on my screen and people have to go out of their way to get my attention.
Give yourself no distractions–no answering your phone, checking your emails or going on Facebook. Studies show that having privacy to get stuff done is beneficial for your productivity and creativity.
Next time you have an important to-do to complete give it a try. Get your headphones on, go into the boardroom and get things done! Don’t let yourself out until you’re finished.
11. When you’re going in circles, give yourself a break.
If you’re working on something and you seem to be getting nowhere there’s no point in banging your head against the wall just to get something finished poorly. Especially in the creative industry, there’s no point in chaining yourself down and producing something mediocre or not to the best of your ability.
Get away from the desk and relax your mind. Allow yourself 10 minutes away from the task, this will definitely increase your attention span later. Why not get some of your smaller tasks done to take your mind off it? When you’re ready, just get back to the previous task and have at it!
12. Why not delegate?
If you have a smaller task on your To-do list that needs finishing but you need to focus all your energy on a bigger task, why not maybe delegate to a junior colleague who can accommodate it? This gives you breathing space to finish your bigger task at hand.
Make sure you play to your strengths and always give a colleague some helpful instruction!
13. Own your emails.
A report published by McKinsey Global Institute found that on average 28% of the workweek is taken up by reading and answering emails alone.
I stick to a rule of only looking at my emails 4 times a day, and only when I’ve scheduled it. Sure, you might be waiting on an important email from a client so it’s normal to check it more regularly, but if you’re not, don’t let other people’s “can you do this for me?” get in the way of your important tasks. These can come through in early morning emails before you’ve even sat down and you may as well tear up your game-plan for the day!
Checking your emails and picking up tasks that would divert you from your schedule and keep you behind on your important work. Factor reading and responding to emails into your plan for the day so it doesn’t get in the way of your productivity.
14. Only meet when necessary.
Some meetings can be a waste of your time and affect your productivity.
Only meet if it’s really important. If you have to have a meeting, write up an agenda and stick to it. If something goes off topic then schedule it for later. Setting a time limit on a meeting can cut away any non-relevant chat. If it can be communicated via an internal chat message to the rest of your company then do it.
There’s no point in getting everyone away from their desks for something they can find out from a ping!
15. Break down your work project into different parts.
Things are easier to do when they’re broken down into parts. Christina Willner suggests breaking down a work project into creating Milestones and listing every single step that is involved to help you complete your tasks and also manage your time effectively. Breaking down pieces of work that might take a large bit of your time cumulatively into small sessions.
16. Make sure everyone can see your to-do list.
Let others see what you’re working on. If you have 30 to-dos for this week—make them public. It can drive you on to get them completed and lets others (your boss included!) see how productive you’re being by knocking out one to-do after the next.
Your colleagues can see how productive you’re being. They might reconsider asking you for help on a task that they can do themselves with the right attitude. Likewise, they can see any big tasks you have to complete and maybe offer a hand to help you complete it. Win-win!
17. Focus mode.
If you’re going to do something, make sure you do it right. Make a decision on what needs doing, focus on your work at hand and don’t allow yourself to be distracted.
Social media in 2018 has become part of working life and can be a great asset to your business– but can scupper your productivity. Like my tip earlier on solitude:
Earphones on, phone on silent, activate focus mode.
It can be hard to get into the flow of work and even harder to stay there! Do yourself a favour and remove all distractions, maybe even go to another part of the office!
18. Keep a leash on your social media time.
We’ve all had that urge to check Facebook or Twitter for “just five minutes.” That ‘five minutes’ can lead you down a rabbit hole of funny videos, personality quizzes and looking at Brian’s recent trip to the South of France.
When you eventually come out of that social media binge you’ve already lost valuable work time. I’m not saying you won’t come across some great and helpful articles and videos, but save them for perusal when you’re having your mid-morning coffee. Why not allocate certain times of your work day to access social media or browse twitter and stick to it! Incorporating it into your schedule can help you keep a leash on your usage.
If you need a bigger push, there are apps out there that can help you block out your social media from your device for a certain period of time.
19. Try a little exercise.
A healthy body = A healthy mind ∴ more productivity!
As I mentioned earlier, I go for a run in the morning and that shakes off the cobwebs and clears my head. The NHS recommends for the amount of exercise you should get depending on your age but the most important thing is doing what works best for you.
20. Have a contingency plan.
Always expect the unexpected.
Internet down? Meeting fallen through? Have a backup plan and use your time efficiently . Use this time to tidy your desk, brainstorm with your colleagues or plan ahead. While others might be using this time to chat about Netflix you can use this time to help you get ahead when everyone’s back on track.
21. Dictate instead of typing.
Voice technology has blown up in the past few years and can be utilised for your benefit if you use it wisely. If you have the capability this can save you loads time having to type up last week’s meeting minutes when you get back to the office or even writing a long email. Most smartphones have the capability so you don’t even have to be at your computer. Just make sure you spell check before you send that email!
22. Review your own performance.
Self-praise is no praise, but we can all be our own worst critics. Ask yourself, “how have I done this week?” Look over what you’ve completed and make some notes on how you feel about it. Is there something you could have done better? Recognise it and employ that in your productivity ethic for the coming week!
23. Get an amount of sleep that works for you.
Getting up early means you might have to get to bed earlier, but everyone is different. Getting up earlier could even lead to a better sleep! According to the National Sleep Foundation, you should aim for 7-9 hours every night. Accumulating a ‘sleep debt’ can have detrimental effects on your work the next day and even the rest of the week until you catch up.
24. Enjoy what you’re doing.
The key to productivity is enjoying what you’re doing. You know the old saying,
“Choose a Job You Love, and You Will Never Have To Work a Day in Your Life”
If you really enjoy what you’re doing it’s easy to be productive. Focus on what is important and the productivity will come easy.