8 Ways to Increase Productivity
With so much going on these days, it’s become important to optimize productivity when we want to get things done. Luckily there are a few simple tweaks that most of us can make to our days to massively increase our productivity.
Outsource when possible
No article on increasing productivity would be complete without mentioning the Pareto Principle. You’ve probably heard of it before, but if you haven’t, it states that 20% of our, effort will get us 80% of the results for any task.
This has been found to be true across just about every field of human endeavor.
And it doesn’t take much thought to see why: There are millions of skills that it’s possible to have. For each of us, there are a few skills we excel at, and many skills we’re good enough to get by.
As you might imagine, with millions of skills that we could learn, it’s simply not possible to pick up all of them. And since it typically takes at least 5 years to become an expert at a skill, we can only become experts at a handful of things.
On top of that, even when we’re good at something, we don’t necessarily enjoy it. Lack of enjoyment can lead to us putting things off. When we do this, we tend to find other tasks to distract us. And that leads to one of the biggest killers of productivity: Procrastination.
On the other hand, when it’s a task that we enjoy and excel at, part of that skill is that we can do that task more efficiently than most other people.
For each of those tasks that we don’t excel at, one of three things will be true.
First, there are always new things that we’re learning to do. There are so many things that we could learn that it’s important to check in with ourselves to make sure it’s of benefit to us. So with these tasks, take a few moments to ask yourself why. And then make a decision: Keep on learning, or outsource it now.
Second, there are tasks that we enjoy doing. A lot of people love cooking or cleaning. At the same time, a lot of people cook and clean because it never occurred to them to hire someone else to do it.
Let me give you an example.
Suppose your house requires 4 hours of cleaning a week. Depending on where you live, it might cost as much as $100 to have someone do it for you. It’s probably a lot less. Compare that to how much you could have made had you simply worked for those hours. By hiring someone else to do tasks like this, you free up time, which in turn increases your productivity.
Take some time and assess those tasks that you do on a regular basis. Not just the home tasks, but business ones as well.
Unless you’re doing them for enjoyment or to unwind, there’s a good chance that your time would be better spent doing something else.
Finally, there are some tasks that we just don’t enjoy. Or that we have no interest in. In these cases, your time is almost certainly better spent elsewhere. So outsource them.
When we take the time to identify those tasks where we’re getting 80% of our results, and focus our efforts on them, our productivity soars.
Our human brains are only capable of focusing on one thing at a time. It feels like we can focus on more because we can place our attention on between 5 and 9 things at once.
Virtually all tasks require us to track more than 9 things.
This means that the only way we can multitask is by constantly moving our attention. And the cost of moving our attention between different tasks is not small. Even for simple tasks, attempting to multitask significantly decreases our productivity.
Studies have shown that the people who are worst at multitasking are precisely those people who think they’re good at it.
To maximize your productivity, focus on just one task at a time.
Bring plants into your workplace
Plants have an almost magical effect on our well-being. For thousands of years, people have enjoyed getting out in nature and have filled their homes and workplaces with plants.
More recently, studies have shown that the benefits of being around plants include a reduction in stress, improved mood, better memory, better concentration, more creativity, increased intelligence, and higher productivity.
You read that right.
Plants make us feel better while simultaneously making us smarter and more productive.
When we’re working optimally, we tend to move into the flow or the zone. It can take us a while to get into the flow, so if we want to maximize our productivity, it’s important to take steps to minimize the risk of us being knocked out of it.
The easiest way to do this is to eliminate any distractions. Turn off notifications. Make the decision to not check your email. Ask other people not to disturb you for a time. I’m sure you know the drill.
What you might not know is how significant the effect of those interruptions can be. For some kinds of tasks, even taking 10 seconds to answer a question someone has asked us can knock us completely out of the flow.
And once we’re out, it can take us hours to get back.
Even a few seconds can lead to hours of lost productivity. We also can’t easily track how much time we spend dealing with interruptions, so if we have a lot of them, we can spend all our time working on those interruptions rather than being productive.
Maximize your productivity by minimizing the risk of interruption.
Take regular breaks
So, you might be asking, if interruptions are bad, doesn’t that mean that we shouldn’t take breaks?
Not at all.
It might seem like we could maximize our productivity by having no breaks, but in reality, our brains tend to tire relatively quickly.
We need regular breaks to give our brains a chance to recharge.
The good news is that when those breaks fit in neatly with the natural breaks in our work, it doesn’t interrupt our flow very much. Every couple of hours take a break at the next natural break in your work.
Even 10 minutes is enough for your brain to recharge.
There are numerous benefits of meditation, including greater clarity, better focus and concentration, and reduced stress.
And it’s easy to get started. You don’t have to spend hours in contemplation.
Even a few moments mindfully brushing your teeth can improve your focus.
To get started, think through your day and notice the things that you do where your thoughts tend to wander. Then for each of those things, make a habit of focusing your attention fully on the task at hand.
Notice all the details.
When we do this, our ability to focus and concentrate grows, and we tend to become more relaxed. The more you can keep your focus on the task at hand, the more productive you can be.
Have a plan
A lot of people get caught up in busy work. This is work that we do to trick ourselves into thinking we’re doing something. And it’s a total killer of productivity.
You can spot busy work easily: It doesn’t tend to have any purpose.
The underlying cause for busy work is usually that we don’t know what we should be doing.
Workaround this by making a plan.
Define a clear goal for the task in which you’d like to be more productive.
Work out why it’s important to you. What’s your motivation for doing it? What do you personally get out of it?
Then figure out the steps that you need to follow to achieve that goal.
Define regular milestones along the way and celebrate each time you reach them.
When we know exactly what we’re aiming for, we know why we want it, and we have a step-by-step plan to get us there, it becomes much easier to stay on task.
And that leads to your productivity going up.
Have someone keep you accountable
Have you ever noticed that it’s a lot easier to do something when you’ve told someone else that you’re going to do it?
In sociology, there’s a principle generally known as commitment and consistency.
Simply put, we’re much more likely to do something if we tell someone that we’re going to do it. This happens because we don’t like to be seen to be untruthful. We’re often perfectly happy to lie to ourselves, but not to others. Crazy right?
Conveniently, this can be exploited to increase your productivity.
Whenever you have something you’d like to achieve, tell someone about it, and have them follow up with you to keep you on track.
How to reach your goals
In this article, we’ve covered 8 things you can do to increase your productivity. When we implement all of them, what tends to happen is that our goals become much more attainable.
But you might still have some questions.
How exactly do you define a goal? How do you tell if it’s realistic? Or achievable? How do you objectively judge whether something is giving you that 80% result for 20% effort?
And how on Earth do you fit all of it in when all of your time is already taken up?
I know it can seem daunting, and I’m here to help.
When you book your call with me today, I’ll take you through a process to identify and prioritize your goals. We’ll work out what you excel at along with what you should probably outsource if you’d like to maximize your productivity. Then we’ll work together to establish realistic targets that fit in with your busy schedule.
And finally, I’ll hold you accountable to keep you on track, giving you the best chance of reaching your goals as quickly as possible.
If you’d like to get on the path towards achieving your dreams, book your call with me today.