13 ways to boost productivity
Hello Self Love Advocates!
I hope you’re all having a wonderful Sunday – mine has been so perfectly relaxed so far. The past week has been pretty busy and stressful – I’ve been ill, it was press week at work, and Simon and I managed to get ourselves stranded on a motorway until 4am one evening (don’t ask) which obviously meant I was extremely tired for a couple of days afterwards (I don’t even stay out that late when I go ‘out out’ anymore!). But I think I’ve finally managed to catch up on some sleep, and consequently I feel like my cold/tonsillitis is FINALLY going away.
Although my morning has been wonderfully relaxing (watching Gilmore Girls in my underwear, sipping on my coffee and looking at wedding dresses on Pinterest) I have had niggling thoughts in the back of my head reminding me that the next few weeks are going to be stressful for me.
To calm the thoughts a little, I’ve been doing a little research on ways to best organise/manage your time. I think I’m a pretty organised person anyway, but in today’s culture it is very hard to stay focused on a task for more than a few minutes without being distracted by a text or email, social media, or a friend/colleague chatting away (even just writing to this point, I have stopped twice now to reply to texts from two different people). If I’m going to make it through the next few weeks without having a mental breakdown, I need to discipline myself to manage my time effectively, and be productive as opposed to busy (because trust me, there is a difference). And of course, I need to make sure that no matter how ‘productive’ I am or how full my schedule is, that I make time for myself and the important people in my life. The trick to staying productive for a long period of time and not burning out, is to take care of yourself.
Here are some tips and tricks I’ve found – some of which I already do, some I need to work on, and some I’ll be putting into practice.
1. Learn to love mornings
Maybe ‘love’ is a strong word, but I’ve become a lot better at this over the past few weeks (I think it’s a lot easier in summer). By starting your mornings right, you’re giving yourself the opportunity to super charge your day.
The one thing that massively helps me get up, without pressing the ‘snooze’ repeatedly, is to plan ahead the night before; Set out the clothes you need, get your breakfast all set up ready to go and your lunch prep done. Getting out of bed is so much easier if you minimise your chances of any last minute stressful situations!
Everyone will want to spend their free time in the morning doing something different – some like to workout, some like to read the paper or watch the news, some will meditate. On the days I don’t go for a morning swim/workout, I like to have a nice cup of coffee and watch one of my favourite programmes whilst I get ready. But I feel so much better and energised on the days I wake up just before 6am, and get to the pool and gym before work. Not only does it wake me up and get my blood pumping, but there’s no better feeling than knowing that when you finish work you can relax – your hard work is all over for the day.
According to the internet (ironically), you will sleep better and be less stressed if you unplug all your electronic devices for an hour or so before bed. Some people choose to stay offline in the mornings too – and I see the appeal of this. I see the appeal of both of them. Unfortunately though, this is one of those ‘I have to work on this’ points. The first thing I do in the mornings is check Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, my Whatapp, and any big news stories. I lay in bed for about ten minutes just catching up on everything I may have missed since laying my phone down however many hours before. Quite sad really! For now I’ll put off checking my emails and social media for as long as possible in the mornings, and I’ll switch off an hour before bed. Let’s see how that goes!
3. Get moving
Exercise is an amazing stress buster. I know when you’re tired it’s the last thing in the world you want to do, but just think – 20-30 minutes a day. That’s all you really need to do. And that half an hour will help you to relieve stress and sleep better (meaning you’ll be more productive and have more energy), and stay in shape. No brainer!
4. Be proactive
If you scroll through any form of news app or social media, it’s pretty easy to come to the conclusion that the world has gone to shit. And you know what’s pretty easy and satisfying? To sit and complain for hours (or comment/share things on social media, like that’s going to make a difference). Don’t get me wrong – I am one of these people. I love a good moan. But there comes a point where you have to think…what is this achieving? Very little. In the time I’ve sat here complaining, I could have just gotten the job done, or come up with some sort of solution. Or at least, helped someone else to solve the problem. It’s very easy to be a reactive person. After all, it takes a lot less effort to sit and complain about your problems than to actually do anything to fix them (and I have had many a breakdown over my ‘problems’ and sat in a helpless heap on the floor instead of pulling myself together and sorting myself out – because it’s easy). A proactive person focuses on what can change – what they CAN do. Let’s not keep playing the victim card!
5. Schedule difficult/most important tasks early
I’m pretty bad for putting things off if I know they’ll be difficult. But it’s such a bad trap to fall into. Studies show that effective and productive business leaders schedule their most important/difficult tasks earlier on. For some people it’s easier said than done – I have a very reactive job role and however much I try to plan there will always be days where I am handed last minute tasks. It’s just about planning to the best of your ability and predicting that your day will be unpredictable, so making sure to get what needs to be done out of the way. From now on I’ll start my day with the most difficult tasks where I can, so I can focus fully with no distractions.
6. Have a side project
I love this one. I 100% believe I work better when I am kept motivated and energised by an exciting side project – this can be either a painting I’m working on, a blog post I’m writing, or my fitness goals. Find something that excites you, and schedule it in a 2-3 times a week to keep you motivated and inspired.
7. Prioritise your free time
It’s funny how (and when someone starts a sentence with that you know it’s really not going to be funny) when asked ‘what are the most important aspects of your life?’, we would never pick work/TV/social media. Of course, we would always pick family, or health. So why do we spend more time apart from our families, glued in front of the TV or our phones instead of talking to them? And why do we get home from work and sit in front of the TV for hours, instead of taking the time to cook a good healthy dinner or go to the gym? Doing activities that are good for the soul will only contribute towards your overall happiness and therefore, your productivity.
8. Have fewer goals and set priorities
I’m quite bad for this – I get to work in the mornings and I’ll sit down and write out my to-do list for the day. It will quite often have about ten things on it, and by the end of the day I manage to do about 5 (reactive job role, strikes again!), and I feel very unproductive. Of course, it doesn’t mean I haven’t done anything, but because I didn’t prioritise and then other things got handed to me last minute, I then don’t have time to do the important tasks. This just means I’m busy rather than productive. These mindless tasks are tempting to list down in the morning, but it just delay’s more essential to-do list items. If my head is all over the place trying to do many different jobs at once, not only is that bad for my stress levels (multitasking is a big no-no if you want to be productive), but it’s bad for the company if I try and tackle many different things and only half succeed, instead of prioritising and doing a great job of fewer tasks. From now on, I’m setting two or three main priorities a day, and leaving time for any last minute jobs or ‘busy’ tasks!
9. Give yourself a break
Giving yourself regular breaks is essential to keep you focused in the long run. I know when I’ve been seriously busy at work before, I get stressed and convince myself ‘I don’t have time for a break’, but this time I’ll try hard to overcome that mentality. Always give yourself a break to reward yourself for your hard work and give your brain a rest, and then tell yourself that when you come back you’ll focus again for another set amount of time with no distractions. Breaking the day up into 40/50 minute chunks with a walk around the office is a great way to stay awake and focused. Plus if you work with a computer, it’s important to give your eyes a rest!
10. Think team effort
I know too many people who are out for themselves, and jump at opportunities to paint others with negative brush or put people down. If you want to be productive and do well, it doesn’t mean someone else has to lose. You will get more done acting as a team than you will trying to act alone. Sometimes it’s impossible to escape these people who put you down, and sometimes it does or will have an impact on your own productivity if they stress you out. But as long as you stay on track and work as a key component to your team, bringing encouragement and a good attitude, the overall productivity will be greater than if you were to let negativity have an impact on your day!
11. Plan plan plan
Many people see planning as a waste of time and continue down the path of reacting to events as and when they happen. And sure, that’s an important skill to have – to be able to think on your feet and respond quickly under pressure. But where you can plan, ALWAYS PLAN. Dedicate some time to planning, instead of seeing planning as too time consuming to justify. It’s like trying to write an essay with a broken pen, and instead of going and getting a new pen which would make the job easier (because that would take time), you struggle on and finish with a pretty crap result. Plan as much as you can, and watch the results speak for themselves.
Quite a big one for me – I get stressed if the house gets cluttered or if my work space gets too messy. Clean space means clear head! And I know you’re probably like me and have an ‘organised mess’ 80% of the time, but if you declutter it also means that you can find things faster, which means? More time doing things that actually matter!
13. You time
I’ve kinda already covered this with ‘Give yourself a break’, but this slightly more about rest and relaxation for MORE than five or ten minutes a go. Dedicate an evening or two a week (or more!) to doing whatever makes you happy – whether that be a bubble bath, reading, writing, gaming, playing an instrument or even just doing a face mask and watching some TV. You should have some time for you, where you can unwind and think about what is important for YOU – not your clients at work, or your colleagues or your parents, just you for a while.
Well, I think I’ve covered everything now, that turned out longer than I thought it would! Now for my post-blog Sunday treat (cheeky Twirl, oh yeah!), and to rest my eyes as I’ve gone against my own advice and been sat staring at this screen typing away for almost an hour and a half.
Do you have any more suggestions? What do you do to ensure you’re more productive?
Be sure to let me know in the comments.
For now, have a beautiful Sunday evening <3