Ever since human beings began creating things, we’ve been driven to find better ways to be more productive. These days, there are numerous demands on our attention, and staying productive can be a real challenge. Social media and online tools make it hard to stay focused on work.
Smartphones have compounded the issue because we can now carry our work home. How often have you responded to work emails at 3 in the morning?
Here are 6 ways to organize your work and become more productive, along with the tools that can help you achieve this goal.
Multitasking has become fashionable. We’re plugged into different devices throughout our day, and it can be tempting to think that we can keep track of everything at once. However, research has repeatedly shown that multitasking is bad for your productivity.
Our brains love focusing on one task at a time and cannot handle the repeated requests that multitasking makes of them. While this fact is simple to understand, we have a hard time putting it into practice. Psychologists theorize that calling ourselves multitaskers gives us a shot of pride, and this gets us to believe we can pull it off.
So how can you reconcile the need to feel like a multitasker while dealing with a brain that isn’t designed for it? Researchers at Yale might have found the answer. Framing sub-tasks within a larger task as part of a multitasking activity makes us enthusiastic while getting our brains in peak productive shape.
Organize your work using tools such as Trello or any other Kanban board software. Create different swimlanes and break down tasks into subroutines. By doing this, you’ll create the impression of multitasking and will preserve your productivity.
Set Intelligent Goals
Goal setting is an important part of any task. Your goals let you know when the task is complete and whether you’ve been successful or not. The problem is that most people either set unrealistic goals or ones that can’t be measured.
Choose process-oriented goals, instead of result-oriented ones. A process-oriented goal will help you measure progress easily since you can create mile-markers along the way. For example, if you set a goal like “Finish reading this book in 10 days”, you’re leaving a lot of wiggle room in how you choose to go about achieving it.
You could read 10 pages today, 100 tomorrow, and so on. It’s better to create a process-oriented goal such as “Read 50 pages every day”. Such a goal is easy to follow and makes it easy to mark your progress. A tool such as Serene helps you power your goals by giving you focus boosts, which makes achieving productivity easy.
Create a Framework
Organizing the way you work is the best way to ensure productivity. The typical way we work is to start working on our tasks and then take breaks when we feel tired. Eventually, we lose track of how long our rest breaks have been and fall behind on our task list.
While taking breaks from focused work is necessary to achieve productivity, spacing your work and rest intervals is challenging. When you begin your day, you’ll be able to focus for longer periods compared to the end. So what’s the ideal interval time?
The Pomodoro technique is an example of a framework that simplifies work interval scheduling. The technique is simple. Set a timer for 25 minutes and work on a task, blocking out all distractions. Once the timer goes off, take a 5-minute break. This is one Pomodoro.
Once the break is over, schedule another 25-minute work interval and a 5-minute rest period. After 4 Pomodoros, take a longer break of 15-30 minutes. This framework makes it easy to compartmentalize your tasks and maintain productivity throughout your day.
Block Distraction, and Schedule it
The need for blocking distraction is easy to understand. The less distracted you are during your work intervals, the more you’ll get done. However, our brains aren’t designed to be in work mode all the time. We need to relax as well.
Prioritize rest and distraction as much as your work intervals. Plan what you’ll do when you’re not working or are taking a break from your intervals. You’ll have something to look forward to and will be truly refreshed when you return to work.
Needless to say, you should block distractions completely when working. silence your phone and turn off your notifications. Schedule a fixed interval during the day when you’ll respond to emails, or respond to them at the top of every hour. Tools such as Freedom and LeechBlock will help you put this into practice.
Choose the Right Collaboration Tools
One of the biggest sources of distraction can be your own team. Constant pinging and clarifications can wreck your productivity. It’s not as if you can ignore these messages either. With many tasks requiring collaborative inputs, staying productive can be tough.
The cure to this problem is to choose good collaboration tools that prioritize productivity. Examples include Slack, Flock, and Wrike. These tools organize tasks into easily understood UI and help your team remain focused on the job at hand.
Combine collaboration tools with the right working framework and you’ll realize massive productivity gains instantly.
The biggest productivity drain is email. Ever since it was invented, people have tried to figure out how they can ignore the allure of an unread email in their inbox. One possible hack is to set aside fixed times for when you’ll respond to emails.
One of the reasons people need to check their email regularly is to follow up with a lead or to manually execute certain workflows. You should automate these tasks using email management software such as Aweber or Mailchimp.
Your Gmail signature is another location that is ripe for optimization. Instead of manually sending people your social media links, include it within your signature, along with your photo and other relevant information. If you send cold emails, a great signature can make the difference between a follow-up email or a response from your prospect.
Many Tools, Many Techniques
There’s no single secret that unlocks boundless productivity. It’s a process that involves many tools and techniques. Find the one that works best for you and put it into practice.
Use tools that automate repeatable tasks, and you’ll boost your productivity massively.