Productivity techniques are an ever-evolving and important topic. From the bustling entrepreneur seeking the next breakthrough to the seasoned professional striving for work-life harmony, the pursuit of heightened efficiency seems to be a universal endeavour. When we are productive and efficient at our work, not only are we helping our careers and making our organisations more successful; but producing quality output within the time allocated for work means we have more time for ourselves and our families or doing what we love.
Previous Productivity Improvement Techniques
In our earlier article on how to maximize productivity, we shared eight tips that can be seamlessly incorporated into your workday. Here are seven more productivity techniques (a couple of which require more long-term effort, such as habit building) that involve time management and enhancing your surroundings to boost productivity.
1. The Pomodoro productivity techniques
The Pomodoro technique is a time management method invented by Francisco Cirillo in the late 1980s. This method has proven effective for many because it is easy to use and adjust to suit your needs. It breaks your time into short, doable chunks during which you focus intensely on your task and then take a break. The technique is so named because Cirillo used a tomato-shaped kitchen timer (pomodoro is Italian for tomato), but you can of course use any time-keeping device of your choice.
- Have your list of tasks and a timer ready.
- Set your timer for 25 minutes and get cracking on your task.
- When the timer goes off, take a 5-minute break.
- Repeat the process three more times.
- Take a longer 15-30 minute break.
The Pomodoro productivity technique helps if you struggle to focus, get distracted easily or tend to procrastinate. By breaking down big tasks or projects into something you only need to do for the next 25 minutes, the task seems less overwhelming and indomitable. It’s easier to train your mind to stay focused for a relatively short period of 25 minutes. If 25 minutes is too long or short, you can customize the work-break intervals to make it suit your ideal duration of focus.
2. Don’t overschedule
For the Pomodoro technique to work, you need a chunk of (preferably uninterrupted) time. This means not filling your schedule for the day or week to the maximum. If you have eight hours in a workday, resist the urge to fill it with meetings and the like. In fact, you should under-schedule your day to allow for contingencies and delays. Overscheduling leaves little room for unexpected events or changes in plans. When your schedule is too rigid, it becomes challenging to adapt to unforeseen circumstances such as a deadline that is brought forward or particularly abominable traffic. Also, you need breathing room for thinking and planning, not just doing.
3. Effective communication productivity techniques
A report by the Economist Intelligence Unit on communication in the workplace published in 2018 found that poor communication has a tremendous impact on business. These include failures in completing projects (44%), missed performance goals (25%) and lost sales (18%). In another study, 43% of business leaders claimed that poor communication decreases productivity. A recent 2023 study reported that 72% of business leaders believe that effective communication increases their teams’ productivity.
Clear communication is essential for providing the information needed to get work done and minimizing mistakes and misunderstandings. It raises the productivity of individuals and teams by letting information and expectations flow unhindered and making things run smoothly. There are many ways to improve communication at the individual, departmental and organisational levels – from active listening to project management platforms and more. Here are some techniques:
- Learn to actively listen – This is more than just the occasional nod. Paraphrase what was said.
- Show empathy – Understand the emotion that was conveyed when the facts were shared with the phrase, “It seems like you are…”. Emotions shared are as important as facts.
- Ask questions – Ask questions instead of making statements. For instance, if you want to rebuff an erroneous statement, phrase it into a question, “Could it be that you have erroneously…?”. This gives room for openness.
- Summarize the discussion – Every communication has a purpose. It would be counterproductive for a 10-minute discussion to end up with the question, “Why did they say that?”
Make effective communication work for you to boost productivity. It saves you time for repeats and further clarifications.
4. Improve your work environment
Whether you work in an office, your home or elsewhere, it’s a good idea to optimize the space where you’ll be spending many hours of the day. This can mean minimizing distractions, ensuring comfort and making your surroundings more conducive to work, all of which help to maximize productivity.
- Ensure your equipment, such as monitors, printers, and WiFi, are in working order and arranged to facilitate easy access.
- Invest in ergonomic improvements, such as a chair with good back support, a mouse that reduces strain, a wrist rest, and so on.
- Place your desk near natural light, which can improve focus. Natural light also improves your physical and psychological well-being.
- Declutter your workspace. Clutter makes one feel unsettled and stressed. Clearing away the mess and getting organised also means spending less time searching for items and more time doing actual work.
- Add items that lend inspiration or motivation. This could be a plant, pops of colour or photos. If possible, you could hang artwork or motivational quotes on the walls to uplift your mood or relax your mind. Placing reminders of your achievements, such as awards or certificates, can be a strong motivator to keep striving.
5. Changing of scene impacts productivity
You may have made efforts to implement tip #4 and turned your workspace into a haven of productivity. Now let’s look at leaving it and having a change of scenery. This is because switching things up occasionally can improve productivity or at least give it a boost. The novelty of different sounds, smells and settings can help get your creative juices flowing. Some individuals prefer the energy of a busy coffee shop, some prefer the calming breeze and rustling leaves of a park, and some focus better on the quiet intensity of a library. A change of scenery may also help spur new ideas or different solutions to a problem. Sometimes, switching locations may be for the simple reason of getting away from distractions so that you can focus.
6. Have a work-life balance
Maintaining a work-life balance is necessary for avoiding burnout and sustaining productivity in the long run. Pushing yourself to work all the time will lead to exhaustion, stress and reduced performance as you will be too fatigued to focus. Make time for family, friends, faith, sports or hobbies. Or simply relax and do nothing at all. Be sure to get at least seven hours of sleep every night. Research has found that a healthy work-life balance makes workers more energized, motivated and less stressed. Ultimately, it increases productivity, with one study finding a link between work-life balance and profitability. So don’t be afraid to unplug, unwind and cultivate interests outside of work.
7. Develop a routine to improve productivity techniques
While some individuals prefer spontaneity, many find that having an efficient routine works better for productivity. This is because a routine means having habits, and habits automate our behaviours and actions, thereby making us more efficient and generally raising productivity. (Read our article about how good habits help you achieve success.) For example, you can start your day with meditation or writing in a journal. Take a walk after lunch to refresh your mind. Check emails at fixed times every day. Head to the gym or football field after work.
Remember to create a routine that works for you and that you enjoy. It’s not necessary to copy the routines of the famously successful, some of whom wake up inhumanly early and have already completed eight tasks before breakfast. You may not be a morning person, and such a routine will only make you miserable. Find something that fits your lifestyle and goals, and feel free to tweak it as you go along.
Take steps to make the most of your time
Put into practice, the seven tips provided here (along with those in our earlier article) will help you improve productivity both at work and at home, should you wish. Start with methods that you can work with immediately. When you see your output increase, you can try implementing more long-term techniques such as developing a routine, modifying your style of communication or implementing hybrid working arrangements. We can help you with more methods for improving your productivity and efficiency or discovering bottlenecks that you can clear. Get in touch with us.
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