5 Methods To Help You Stay Productive
Simple ways to break the monotony and truly focus.
Have you ever looked back at your week and realized you intended to be productive, yet somehow you barely accomplished anything? Everyone, at some point in time, has fallen victim to losses in their productivity. This can happen for many reasons, including illness, stress, or emotional conflict. Unfortunately, when it comes to work, the world does not slow down despite a lack of focus. There are still deadlines to meet and tasks to be completed every week.
So, what can you do when you are feeling unproductive? There are many different methods designed to help people stay productive during the day and each comes with its own benefits. The only way to know what truly works for you is to try out different methods for a period of time and to watch for improvements in your productivity. There is no singular fix that will help everyone, so it is best to look into multiple approaches and see what benefits you most. Sifting through all the different approaches can be overwhelming, so we have broken down some of the most common techniques that might help you become more productive!
Before we get into the different methods, it is best to start with the basics. Try to get a healthy eight hours of sleep every night. Helpguide.org states that “most healthy adults need between seven to nine hours of sleep per night to function at their best.” Some general aspects of your routine that will help with sleep performance include regular exercise, a healthy diet, less caffeine and alcohol, and effective stress management. Regulating these aspects of your lifestyle will allow you to develop a better relationship with sleep and help you stay more productive during the day. However, there are also many other methods and techniques to give you a boost if you are still finding it hard to stay focused.
To start, there is the “Law of First Things” method. This is a tactic followed by people like Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates. The theory states that the first thing you do in the morning will affect how productive you are for the rest of the day. It suggests that when you wake up, you should not open your phone and immediately read emails, clear notifications, and respond to work-related responsibilities. Instead you should do something productive in another aspect of your life. Some widely acknowledged suggestions include 30 minutes of exercise, meditation, reading a book, or working on a hobby. Doing this before you start work will give your brain the chance to wake up and practice mindfulness. Without this, our brains become conditioned to respond to external pressures from the moment we wake up. Giving yourself the space to take care of your mind and body first may help you stay productive throughout your day.
The “Law of First Things” is not the only theory that suggests that exercise and meditation are two crucial aspects to morning routines. Exercise in the morning is widely known to be a productivity booster because it reduces anxiety and stress. Many sources also suggest that meditating in the morning helps you set your intentions for the day and ready yourself for your workload. For some, meditation can feel overwhelming or confusing if you have never done it before. You might be someone who does not enjoy postponing work in the morning, but prefers to dive right in.
If that is the case, then you should try “Reflection” as your chosen method. Instead of doing a general meditation, you can reflect on the workday that lies ahead of you. Taking a moment to do this in the morning, during your commute or before you begin to work, can help you to map out your daily goals. It is what author Jessica Lindsey calls “reattaching” to work, after having detached the previous night. Lindsey outlines three questions to ask yourself in the morning that will help you mentally prepare for the day ahead:
Why does the work I do matter to me? How does my work impact the lives of others? Asking these questions helps to remind you of what motivates you at work. Continuously asking yourself this question will help you to derive purpose in the work you are doing and will outline why it is important.
Who are the people—both at work and in my personal life—who support me and my professional success? This question helps outline which people are there to help you when life gets overwhelming. Reflecting on this brings a sense of belonging and community into your work. It can also remind you of who exists in your personal life as part of your support circle.
What would I like to focus on today? This final question helps you set your daily goals and assign yourself the tasks you want to complete for the day. This will help you focus on the relevant work you need to get done that day and will help you stay productive.
The next method is the “Eat the Frog” method. Mark Twain once said that the first thing that you should do in the morning is “eat the frog”. What this means is that the first thing you do in the morning should be the hardest task on your to-do list. Immediately getting your most daunting task out of the way will make the rest of your day easier. The morning is when we are filled with the most energy and have faced the least amount of distractions, so it is the perfect time to attempt the hardest of your tasks. By tackling the biggest issue first thing in the morning, you will give yourself an immense sense of achievement.
To try this method, decide what your hardest task will be when you are settling down the evening before. This will be the “frog” and it will most likely be something you need to do but do not want to, something you want to do but have not found time for, or something you are dreading the most about your day or week. The actual “frog” will vary depending on what is on your to-do list. Then, once you are awake the next day, get right down to work. Once that task has been completed, you are free to shower, make breakfast, and enjoy the rest of your morning. It can give you a great sense of accomplishment and motivation, and also works as a solution to procrastination.
Now that we have discussed morning productivity techniques, we should address what to do the night before. If you are someone who finds that their mind is racing in the evenings, the first thing to do is create a nightly routine for yourself. Getting ready to wind down for the night at the same time helps regulate your circadian rhythm and gives your mind time to relax in the evenings.
“Detaching from work” is the first method to try. If you are someone who finds that work takes over your relaxation time, you may soon experience burnout. In order to maintain productivity, you should be mentally detaching from work during your free time in evenings and on weekends. This creates a balance between your professional and personal life.
Here are some tips on how to detach at night. If you are someone who works mainly from their computer, try to make sure you are closing out your workday properly. This means closing all tabs on your browser that are work related and shutting down your communication or project management apps. Obviously if you are needed urgently, you can still check messages or emails, but closing down your work at the end of the day makes it easier for your mind to focus on relaxing. Without doing these two simple tasks, your brain is constantly being reminded of work while you are trying to relax, and therefore you never fully detach from work during your evenings and weekends.
The final method is called the “Brain Dump”. Keep a pad and paper next to you in the evenings so that when your mind starts to fill with thoughts, questions, and reminders for the following day, you can write them down to actively externalize your problems. Doing this will give you a concrete list of tasks to work on in the morning. Even the smallest tasks such as a conversation you would like to have or a note you would like to give someone should be written down so that you can clear your mind of it while still knowing you will be taking care of it the next day.
There is no guarantee that each of these methods will work for you and your lifestyle, so it is best to try each out for a few weeks and see if there are improvements in your productivity. Though losing focus and drive is common, it is also our responsibility to determine what the problem is and how to fix it. Good luck!
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