How to increase productivity without losing balance
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.
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.
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.