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9 Tips To Increase Productivity

Updated on August 7, 2015

1. Do away with distractions

Distractions not only hinder productivity, but make you slower and eventually become a habit. Every time you will sit to work on something, you will feel like doing something else. Distractions can range from a work mate calling you for something, to checking your Mail/Facebook/Whatsapp to thinking about the future while working. You may be unknowingly doing the above, but this article will be able to help you do away with some if not all of them.

Now, why are distractions bad? Obviously because you waste time on the distraction hence take longer to complete the task at hand, but also because when you return to the task at hand (from your distraction) you will take a few minutes to settle back in, remember the point at which you had reached and then continue. You are unintentionally repeating part of the work every time you return from a distraction.

Unless it’s of utmost importance, ask your work mate to give you x minutes to complete your work then talk/help them, this will not only help you, but your work mate as well since you’ll be able to give him/her your full attention.

Have a schedule for checking your Mail/Whatsapp (would not recommend checking Facebook at work).

The next point discusses how to deal with distracting thoughts.

2. Make a Distractions List

You've heard of several lists, but what’s a Distractions list? Every time you think of something other than the work you are doing, put it down on paper. This will help you in 2 ways. First, you have gotten rid of your distraction by putting it down on paper, your mind is back to the work you were doing and secondly, you have it on paper, if it’s important you will do it after completing your work and will not be a distraction again.

3. A dull pencil is greater than the sharpest memory

Write down what needs to be done, putting it down on paper has an easing effect on you. Once you have it on paper, you can prioritize, delegate or analyse to see which task can be made easier by performing another one prior to the current one.The best effect this has, is that your mind is free to do other things or the work that needs to be done at that time. Studies prove that writing down your tasks increase your achievement rate by 33%.

4. Failing to Plan = Planning to Fail

You've heard this before, planning is important, it is what separates you from success or failure. Once you have the list (from Point 3 above) it’s like a report. You then prioritize your tasks efficiently and then create a plan. The plan will help you with a timeline, always keeping you and others working with you aware of the tasks that need to be completed by certain times and the tasks that will follow. The alternative is to work without a plan and see the project go haywire or end up like the painter on my right.

5. It is possible to move mountains by carrying small stones

When planning, ensure you break down tasks to small sub-tasks which become easier to manage and achieve. Think of it as the “Divide and Conquer” method. When trying to achieve a magnanimous task, one may feel demotivated or over whelmed, breaking tasks down puts things in perspective and allows you to work on one item at a time.

It’s likely that completing 5 small tasks will probably give you more satisfaction than completing 50% of the huge task.

6. Set Deadlines

Once you have a plan, you have time lines, and deadlines for all the tasks. Knowing when to do what greatly increases your productivity because then you will not have to look for work to do but you will know what to do. It has been said that we (humans) work best under some pressure. Off course if you don’t have a timeline, you will not have the motivation or the need to complete a certain task. Deadlines are the reason students can study a 6 month syllabus in 1 week or less.

7. Don’t multi task

Multitasking never really helps, just gives you the illusion that you got more work done in the same time. But few will ever think how long they could have taken to complete the same single task if they were only working on it. The computers were made as a replica from our brains. Computers can’t multitask; they only give the feeling on doing two things at the same time. In reality, they just shift from one task to another very fast. Our brains do the same. Don’t believe it? Try thinking of 2 things at the same time. Your second thought will push out your first thought.

8. 2 Minute Rule

What slows down or stops productivity? Procrastination! The tendency to “put off things” or to “do them later” makes us less productive. The 2 minute rule helps overcome this. If the task takes 2 minutes or less, make sure you do it now. You will find it surprising how many things you were putting off that you could have completed in 2 minutes, it could be sending that E-Mail or cleaning up your cluttered desk. With time you will find these small but necessary tasks easy to do and will do them effortlessly.

Want a scientific reason as to how this works? Got Sir Isaac Newton to my rescue here! Objects at rest tend to stay at rest while those in motion tend to stay in motion. With that being said, once you begin doing the task, you are almost 30% done, because starting it is always the difficult part.

9. Work During Office Hours

You disagree with this point already? Hold on. Why do we have office working hours? 8 to 5 or 7 to 4? Imagine being allowed to work whenever you feel like, you think you will work better? No you won’t. That is because you do not have deadlines.

Force yourself to work within the work hours and you will realize that you will be more determined to complete your work without distractions because you know when the clock strikes 5, you will have to head out.

Psychologically you will be heading towards a target – completion of your task hence you will not waste time doing unnecessary things.

When you work past office hours (say 1 hour extra) the next morning you will not immediately start off with your tasks for the day. This is because you will feel you deserve 5 minutes on Facebook or 10 minutes of chit chat with a colleague. But do you really deserve it? Let’s go to Monday evening, you worked 2 hours extra in the evening, Tuesday morning you take half an hour of ‘social time’ during working hours which results in you working 1 hour extra on Tuesday. You see the pattern; you will feel inclined to take time off in the mornings because of the late evening working hours.

So, getting to work on time, working a whole 8 hours and leaving on time will allow you to get more work done than extending your office hours.

What’s your most time consuming task of the day?

Emails! Here are some tips to help you reduce the time taken on Emails.

  1. Schedule a time to check emails and stop doing it sporadically
  2. Keep emails short, about 7 sentences
  3. Address only one issue per email
  4. Turn email into tasks or calendar events
  5. Try dealing with all emails at once if possible
  6. Subject line should be actionable
  7. Read all the messages for the current day. Don’t keep any pending for the next day
  8. Proofread emails before you send them
  9. Make sure your recipient knows what you expect in return

Surely there are more ways to improve and increase productivity, share some of your tips and routines in the comments section and boost the productivity of all Hubbers here.


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