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How to increase productivity without losing balance

Timeular is a highly effective tool for anyone seeking to increase productivity at work

The secret behind improving your work performance is not putting in more hours. It’s about raising your capacity so you can get more done in less time, while doing better quality work.

Here are seven simple steps to help you improve your productivity and find a greater sense of balance along the way.

1. Never forget the big picture

Productivity is not just about tweaks, hacks, tools, apps, and tips to work faster. These contribute to only a small portion of your productivity potential.

As a first step, you must define the goal and purpose behind productivity. It’s important to align your values, goals, and purpose with the reasons you want to be productive.

Define your specific important goal and the reason you want to achieve that goal, identify the obstacles you’re likely to face and get clear about the action steps you need to take. Once you’re out of the planning mode, it’s time to commit and begin.

2. Train like an athlete

Every role involves key skill sets that you need to use regularly. Productivity experts rarely talk about the hard part which is to train your skills like an athlete and develop that performance mindset. It could mean the deliberate practice of your key skills or the pursuit of lifelong learning.

Aim for mastery and keep raising your standards and showing up to your practice or learning sessions.

3. Manage your energy first

In the book The Power of Full Engagement, Tony Schwartz and Jim Loehr highlight four types of energy we need to maintain to perform at our best — physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.

There’s a lot you can do to manage your energy:

  • Take care of the fundamentals i.e. Eat, move, sleep, breathe and recover in the right way.
  • Ride your energy waves i.e. Make use of the energy rhythms and times when you’re most productive and take breaks to recharge yourself.
  • Maintain flow state by removing distractions, single-tasking and balancing your skills and the challenge.
  • Listen to your body and recover on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly basis (or whichever schedule is best for you).

4. Manage your time & tasks

Before you manage your time, you must identify where your time goes. You can use the Timeular Tracker for tracking your time. You’d be surprised to notice how much time is wasted in small distractions.

The next step is to eliminate everything that’s a waste of your time. Don’t continue doing something simply because you’ve always done it. According to Pareto’s principle, identify the 20% of the tasks that get you 80% of the results and prioritize them above everything else. To help you do that, you can:

  • Prioritize and use time-blocks to schedule the most important things in your life.
  • Automatically schedule recurring tasks to show up consistently for getting important things done.
  • Use checklists to save time and energy on recurring tasks.
  • Create imaginary deadlines and use timers to have a sense of urgency while working to cure procrastination.
  • Batch similar tasks together to get things done faster.

You can delete, automate or delegate the rest of the 80% of the non-critical tasks (aka time-suckers). Remember: if you don’t respect your time and energy, you won’t have it in abundance.

5. Get tracking to measure productivity

You won’t know how much more productive you become if you don’t measure your productivity. So you must define your own productivity criteria for measuring productivity, which you can tie with the purpose and goal of productivity that we defined in the first step.

Then, you must measure your actions before you measure the outcome. Actions define how much work you’re putting in, while the outcome results from your actions.

If you notice that you’re getting more done, but you still don’t see progress in the outcome, you must reflect or get feedback so you can get the right things done. That way, the outcome will match your increased productivity.

It’s up to you how you measure your actions. You can use an app, software, excel sheet or pen and paper. Pick a method and get tracking so you can focus on what matters and celebrate your small wins!

6. Tackle setbacks like a boss

On your path to becoming more productive, you’ll encounter many obstacles including procrastination, distractions, emotions, doubt and fear.

The obstacles exist to make you stronger, so embrace them. Instead of depending on your feelings, change your identity to show up consistently and become unstoppable.

7. Use the productivity system that makes sense to you

While there are a lot of productivity systems, there’s no universal best method for everyone. Here’s an example of what you can come up with:

Whether you follow a system or create your own, the important thing is to have a productivity system so you can spend less time organizing and more time doing.

Conclusion

Our “work more” mentality is so hard-wired that sometimes,we forget the point of productivity — to perform at your peak so you can not only produce more but enjoy your time off.

Imagine all the things you could do with the free time on your hands. From being able to spend more time with friends and family, starting a side project, reading more books, learning a new skill, play, or maybe just having more time to relax! The time is yours to claim.

Learn more about using Timeular for your team
About the authorPrakhar Verma
Prakhar Verma is the creator of Design Epic Life where he helps ambitious people design their epic lives for high-performance and success. He writes about life, self-improvement, happiness, productivity and other topics related to designing a better life.

Does Technology Actually Make You More Productive?

technology improving productivity

When it comes to productivity both in and out of the workplace, technology is sort of a double-edged sword. While it can certainly make life easier, it can also create distractions that ultimately eat away at your productivity. Your smartphone alone provides ample opportunities to check social media, take a Candy Crush break and participate in the never-ending group text. So, when it comes right down to it, is technology improving or decreasing your productivity?

As you can imagine, the answer to this question isn’t a simple yes or no. Measuring productivity, especially against quantitative benchmarks, is difficult. What we do know is that taking a minute to check your Twitter feed amounts to a loss of time that far exceeds 60 seconds. The biggest problem with distractions is that they derail your thought process. It can take some time to get back on track.

In fact, Gloria Mark, who studies informatics at the University of California, Irvine, found that for every 30 seconds of distraction, you are losing 30 minutes of concentration. It takes a full half-hour to return to the original task with total focus. Your mind isn’t just wandering and checking out for a few seconds. It is taking a full lunch break every time you get distracted.

The Myth of Multitasking

The main reason that it takes us a full 30 minutes to regain focus after just one minute of distraction is that

humans were not designed to multitask.

In our modern, fast-paced world, we have come to accept the myth that not only is multitasking possible, but that is it an essential skill. In reality, humans were designed to focus on one task and despite centuries of evolution. This fundamental trait has not changed.

According to MIT neuroscientist Earl Miller, ‘When people think they’re multitasking, they’re actually switching from one task to another very rapidly. And every time they do, there’s a cognitive cost.” The idea that humans can simultaneously hold two thoughts or tasks in their head is simply false. This explains why we are so easily distracted in the face of pervasive technology.

The Consequences of “Multitasking”

Unfortunately, buying into the myth of multitasking can have far-reaching consequences that go beyond a simple decrease in productivity. When you become distracted by technology while trying to complete a task, your body will increase production of the stress hormone, cortisol. Studies have also shown that multitasking causes IQ drops similar to those in people who have ingested marijuana or missed a night of sleep. Giving into the urge to read that email or check your phone may actually be affecting your health.

How Our Productive Time Disappears in the Face of Technology

When it comes to losing productivity to technological distractions, you might be wondering where exactly employees are spending their time. Here is a list of the top three sources of technology-based distractions that are eating away at productivity:

Google

In a 2015 study from Inc.com, participants stated that Google was their number one source of distraction. It is all too easy look up a piece of information and get lost down the rabbit hole. You might start by checking a fact for work and end up researching vacation spots. Or who was eliminated on last night’s reality TV show.

Social Media

It should come as no surprise that social media is the second most popular form of distraction among employees. While social media accounts provide businesses with a powerful tool for connecting and engaging with existing and potential customers, it also creates a slippery slope of distraction.

Email

Last, but not least, email easily makes the cut for the top three sources of distraction. If you are toiling away at a mundane task, it can be hard to resist stopping what you are doing when a new email pops up in your inbox. While only about 14% of all emails people receive are actually important, worth reading and responding to. Workers spend approximately 28% of their work week dealing with emails.

It is difficult to determine just how much these distractions add up to in lost time and productivity. Much of what we know about how much time workers waste on social media or other technological distractions comes from surveys were participants self-report. Obviously, workers are likely to underreport how much time they spend distracted. Subsequently, the numbers vary from 30 minutes to four hours a day depending on the study and who was surveyed.

Is There an Upside to Being Distracted?

Maybe. Technology puts us in contact with a constant stream of new information. Whether you are reading promotional emails, scanning the latest news and trends or connecting on social media, you are ingesting massive amounts of content. You never know where the inspiration for your next big idea might come from and engaging on such a large scale might just provide you with the right spark.

Back to Our Big Question

Is technology more or a distraction than a tool for productivity? We believe that the answer comes down to how you use technology and how you incorporate new tools to combat the effects of constant distractions. There are several strategies you can use to make sure you’re getting the most out of using technology:

1. Establish clear boundaries and schedules

Block off certain periods throughout the day for checking email. You might consider setting aside 30 minutes at the beginning and end of the day so that you can spend the bulk of your time focusing on completing larger projects. Also, let friends and family know that you will only be able to respond to texts during lunch. This will avoid a constant stream of messages that probably aren’t all that important.

2. Set limits for your social media time

If you need to be on certain accounts for work, be sure to use your time wisely and stay on task. Again, set a 20-30 minute window for completing any social media tasks so that you can move on to other projects with a clear head.

3. Use the right tools

There are also some tools on the market that can help you avoid distractions and stay on task, like our time-tracking tool. It helps you keep track of how much time you spend on specific tasks without interrupting your concentration and workflow. As the Timeular Tracker is a physical device that you simply flip to start and stop tracking your activities, you don’t need to interact with any software while you are focussed on other tasks. This lowers the risk of getting distracted.

The bottom line

Yes, technology can be a distraction that can diminish your productivity. However, technology has also made the modern workplace more streamlined, efficient and accessible than ever. We believe the trick, as with any double-edge sword, is to use it correctly so that you don’t end up getting cut.

Learn more about using Timeular for your team