Without Driving Yourself Crazy, 5 Easy Ways to Be More Productive
By Elisi Studio
Everyone wants to be more productive, but without having to think about or stress over it too much. Fortunately, there are simple ways to accomplish this goal without giving up everything that you enjoy. Because increased productivity often means doing less instead of more. Here are five ideas to get you started.
1. Focus On A Single Task To Improve Productivity
We all have days that feel like a blur – running here and there checking items off our to-do list. Completing errands and whittling away at our tasks should result in satisfaction. Yet, when looking back on the day’s activities, it can be difficult to figure out what we’ve accomplished.
A lot of people think that being busy equates to higher levels of productivity. However, that’s simply not true.Research shows that multitasking decreases the effectiveness of our work.
The human brain can only focus on one thing at a time.
Multiple interests competing for attention can overload our mental circuits and reduce their capacity. Not to mention the time required for our brains to switch gears from one task to the next.
Simplifying the process is a much better approach to productivity. Because when you focus on one task at a time, you’re able to devote your full attention and mental bandwidth to it. Creativity flourishes and you’re able to work faster, smarter, and produce better results in the long run.
Apps like Elisi can help. Our intuitive interface makes focusing on a single task at a time easy and prevents you from getting overwhelmed. Displaying just the right amount of detail for each entry keeps you motivated and on track.
2. Turn Off Notifications and Remove Social Media Apps
If you’re having heart palpitations after reading this, rest assured you’re not alone.
Addictions to phones and social media is a real issue nowadays. Although mobile devices are meant to make us more productive, they often create the opposite effect.
Yet, it’s nearly impossible to resist their physiological temptation.
Science shows that responding to alerts and notifications on our phones releases dopamine. A powerful brain chemical that controls behavior and “rewards” us for taking beneficial action. Dopamine also strengthens neural pathways and encourages us to repeat these activities in the future.
Checking for updates creates a kind of Pavlovian effect where our brains are conditioned to respond to this stimulus. Even worse, most social media apps provide never-ending sources of content. They create an “infinity pool” of distraction with no clear end or stopping point in sight.
The exact opposite of what you need to be productive.
But no worries – you don’t have to become a recluse or swear off technology to get more done. You just need to be intentional with how you interact with your device and apps in general. For example:
Disabling alerts and notifications – can reduce the temptation to frivolously check email or social media. If you aren’t facing the barrage of dings and vibrations to start with, you’re less likely to think about them.
This also minimizes the lost productivity (mentioned earlier) when switching between tasks.
Removing social apps – frees you from the anxiety of wondering what you’re missing out on. If you don’t have these apps installed, you can’t access them any time of day. Many who’ve taken a break from social media report it can be liberating.
No one is saying you can’t use these apps – just set rules around how you do so.
Like scheduling specific times of day to go online and holding yourself accountable to these limits. Or rewarding yourself with 10 – 15 minutes of interaction for every 45 minutes of productivity.
Also, consider saving your interactions for when you’re near a desktop computer vs your mobile phone. You’ll still know what’s going on, but without having the urge to check again every 5 minutes.
3. Scheduling In Downtime Increases Productivity
For many of us, our natural tendency during breaks is to reach for our phones or devices. We check email or catch up on social media posts from friends. Because we live in an “always-on” society, if we’re not connected it feels like getting left behind.
Although briefly satisfying, constant stimulus hurts long-term productivity.
Productivity expert and author Chris Bailey says our minds alternate between two main states –hyperfocus and scatterfocus. And depending on which mode they’re in, they function in completely different ways.
In hyperfocus mode, our brains work hard to accomplish the tasks we want to achieve. Think of this period as the time where physical or mental labor is required to complete an assignment.
Scatterfocus is the exact opposite. Here we brainstorm and create a roadmap of how we’ll get from point A to point B. Scatterfocus is about seeing the big picture and analyzing where we can make the greatest impact.
Not surprisingly, the two form a mutually beneficial relationship. You can’t figure out what needs to be done without contemplating the possibilities. And you’ll never get there without doing the work.
Our subconscious does some of its best work when we are idle. Including solving complex problems, pondering lingering issues, and coming up with new ideas.
If you’re stuck in hyperfocus mode, you don’t have time to concentrate on long-term growth.
Instead of checking email or Facebook at lunch, let your mind wander or try and relax. Take a quick walk outside, get some sun, and enjoy nature. Spend a few minutes relaxing or meditating. Or sit quietly and think (allowing yourself to daydream).
Giving your mind some space may be the most productive thing you’ll ever do.
If you feel guilty about taking breaks, it’s probably because you don’t think you can. Next time try giving yourself permission beforehand. When you schedule downtime alongside your productive efforts, it becomes easier to relax and enjoy the moment.
Otherwise, you’ll worry the entire time and defeat the whole point of the process.
4. Keep a “Distraction” Book With You
When you’re concentrating, one of the easiest ways to lose focus is by latching on to whatever thought pops into your brain. Yet, in a highly-connected world, it’s incredibly easy to do.
Open a new browser tab – and next thing you know – you’ve wasted an hour surfing the web with nothing to show for it.
This issue stems from the fact that we believe we’ll forget or miss something if we don’t act immediately. We abandon whatever we’re doing to investigate our fleeting impulses before they pass us by. And go completely off-track in the process.
A much better (and easier) approach is to keep a “distraction” notebook with you.
If you’re working on a task – and notice your mind wandering – stop immediately and write your thoughts down in the notepad. Then continue on with your mission. Once you reach a legitimate stopping point in your work, or the time comes for a break, use the opportunity to revisit the items in your notebook.
Working this way offers several advantages:
Frees mental space in your brain – leaving a task unfinished creates clutter in our minds and makes it harder to relax. Mental distraction creates a nagging sensation that’s hard to get rid of. Writing down your ideas gives your brain permission to release these thoughts.
Removes guilt – associated with relaxing when you think you should be working. Your brain feels satisfied in knowing you’ll address the task later which allows you to close the thought loop.
Increases productivity – offloading your thoughts (without killing your momentum) keeps you on track and moving forward. A distraction book prevents you from veering off course and wasting precious time.
Although you can use an app to capture your ideas, stick with traditional paper and pen if possible. Simply because anytime you go “electronic” you run the risk of temptation from other programs that may slow you down.
5. Stop Beating Yourself Up Over Productivity
It sounds cliché, but improving productivity is more of a journey than a destination. Anyone who says they have it all figured out is either lying or delusional. There’s no one perfect formula that works every time for everybody.
No matter how hard you try, eventually you’re going to slip up.
When it happens, don’t beat yourself up. Because the more you do the less likely you’ll be able to recover from it. Acknowledging that we’re human (and people make mistakes) is a fundamental element of improving productivity.
Take a breath, regroup, and start over again.
Evaluate and learn from your mistake – rather than dwelling on it. If you stumble early in your journey, set smaller, more achievable goals to help build your confidence. As your productivity muscles grow, you’ll feel more comfortable taking on larger tasks.
You’ll also expand your mindset and uncover what you’re truly capable of.
In the end, productivity isn’t about being perfect. It’s about using the time and resources you have wisely toaccomplish goals and increase your happiness.
One of the keys to achieving more is to do less. Focus on a single task at a time, remove all possible distractions, and schedule in essential downtime. You’ll not only get more accomplished faster, but likely have better results to show for your efforts.
And isn’t that what being productive is all about?
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