Moment of truth: How many hours per day are you productive?
Did you know that the average employee is only productive for approximately three hours per day?
Although employees are 13% more productive when working from home (on average), and overall worker productivity in the U.S. has increased by 5% since the start of the pandemic, we have short attention spans, and we live in a digitally-driven era where we are constantly in “distraction and reaction” mode to notifications, messages, and social media.
Needless to say, we can all improve our productivity to some degree. However, before you can improve, you need to understand what you need to improve. This means understanding your productivity “boosters” and “killers”.
Here are some common productivity killers:
- Feeling stressed or overworked
- Remaining sedentary
- Pursuing perfection
- Lack of sleep
- Not delegating
- Poor work-life balance
The key to boosting productivity lies within your daily habits. If your habits promote a productive environment, then, in turn, you will be more productive. It’s that simple. (Well, in theory…)
So what does that mean for you? Here are some things you can do right now to supercharge your productivity.
1. Look at your goals every day.
Many experts define productivity. When we think about what it means to be productive, we might think of doing all the things. Not necessarily. Productivity is about making progress toward achieving goals, which looks different for each person. In fact, making even just a small amount of progress toward your goal each day can help boost productivity. How? Making any progress toward your goals will motivate you to continue.
Not sure what your goals are or which goal to work on? The best way to do this is to break down your larger goals into smaller ones and focus on achieving the smaller goals to start.
Remember that every goal has a roadblock—and that is our fear of failure.
2. Develop “healthy” productivity habits.
Like your goals, your productivity habits likely won’t be the same as those of your friend, partner, or colleague. What works for one person may not necessarily work for the other. We all have different things that motivate us. The key is finding what works for you and building those habits into your daily routine, and following that routine consistently.
Here are some “healthy” productivity habits:
- Going to bed around the same time every evening
- Waking up around the same time every morning
- Eating a healthy diet
- Meditating and/or praying
- Time-blocking your schedule
- Scheduling time for deep or focus work
- Using a habit tracker
Remember, it takes an average of 21 days for a human being to develop a new habit. So when introducing new habits into your routine, or building a routine, give yourself time for the new habits to stick.
3. Use an app to track your to-do list and top priority items.
Here are some apps that can help you track your todos, habits, and more:
- Mint for money management, budgeting, and financial planning
- MyFitnessPal for calorie counting, tracking exercise, and health goals
- Habit or a scorecard to develop and track new habits
- Todoist, Asana, or Notion to track personal todos
- Notes or reminders app on your computer or device
Notion, in particular, is a rather NOTE-worthy tool that continues to grow in popularity. Notion is also coming out with a new AI notetaker. There are some interesting ways to automate Notion with some other apps in addition to those mentioned above—some of which you may not even have thought of!
4. Increase your focus.
Find your flow. You will have to experiment with what you need to do to get into your “flow state“, and also what time of the day you experience it most, but once you’re there, it’s an awesome feeling. By making time to get into a good, productive flow, you increase your focus, and do better work, which further increases your productivity.
Here’s a visual that shows the “focus cycle”:
You can also use an app that blocks distractions and notifications for certain periods of time so you can focus. Google Calendar allows you to block out times in your calendar for “Focus Work”. See the example of my calendar shown below:
Here is also my personal system that I follow for focus work:
Julie’s Personal System for Focus Work:
1. Make a cup of coffee.
2. Shut down Slack, email, phone.
3. Turn on music.
4. Review my calendar and cancel unnecessary meetings, if possible.
5. Write out goals, themes, thoughts, and feelings, daily affirmations, moments of gratitude, and “themes” for the day, and reflect.
6. Based on those “themes”, I list my top priorities and areas of focus for the day.
7. Tackle something I’ve been procrastinating.
5. Listen to music or podcasts.
Related to the point above, one way to get into your flow state is to listen to music or podcasts. This depends on the individual; however, it has proven to work. It can also help tune other distractions, noises, or interruptions, allowing you to focus on the present task. Wear headphones to prevent you from getting distracted by other sounds and things.
6. Make lists.
Whether you are an old-fashioned analog person that needs to write a list on a piece of paper or if you prefer a digital application, never underestimate the power of making lists! Do whatever you need to get organized and prioritize your to-do items.
7. Make space.
All in all, you need space to be productive—and only you can define what that “space” is and what it looks like. Space can be physical space, mental space, or even space in your schedule. Schedule time to be productive and make it a priority. When you schedule time to be productive, you will also simultaneously improve your discipline.
All in all, remember to be kind to and honest with yourself. Be realistic about what you can achieve in any day, week, or month. Avoid saying “yes” and overcommitting to projects or people. This only leads to stress and burnout, which decreases motivation, decreases productivity, and can even negatively impact your health.
This goes back to the first point—reviewing your goals. This exercise might lead you to revisit your commitments and responsibilities and ditch what isn’t working in your life. There’s something very real to be said about the power of simplifying your life.
Productivity for Every Day of the Week
Now that you have some productivity tips, tricks, and habits are your disposal to experiment with, how do you put them into consistent practice?
Here is an example of how you can approach each day of the week to ensure you are your most productive self:
I get it… Sundays are a time of rest. Who wants to use their time on Sundays to think about the work week ahead? (Depending on your religious beliefs and upbringing, Sunday is called “The Sabbath” for a reason.) However, even just spending 20 to 30 minutes looking ahead, planning, and preparing your schedule for the upcoming week can make Monday that much easier.
If you’re not a fan of that, there are other things you can do to set the tone for the week ahead, such as:
- Plan out and prepare meals
- Do laundry and lay out clothing for each day of the week
- Mentally prepare by looking ahead at scheduled events (meetings, presentations, travel, your kid’s soccer game, and so on)
- Schedule time for the activities you want to work on or accomplish
If you did a little week prep on Sunday, then this can help you ease into Monday. However, if Sunday prep doesn’t work for you, spend Monday mornings planning your schedule and preparing for events, meetings, or other activities that might be on the horizon for the week. Avoid immediately diving into your email on a Monday morning or jumping straight into a meeting. Allow yourself time to plan and prepare.
By Tuesday, you’re likely into your groove. You’re fully immersed in “work mode” and have a good sense of what the week will be like and what you need to get done.
If possible, make Wednesdays your designated “no meeting” day. You’ve now had Monday and Tuesday to kick off the week, which might involve stand-up meetings, team meetings, and so on. Now it’s time to focus and get stuff done on Wednesday.
Start thinking about wrapping up for the week. If possible, get your largest tasks and projects out of the way today so you can coast into Friday easily. Additionally, be honest and realistic about what you think you can achieve by Friday afternoon, and adjust your schedule accordingly, if needed.
Round up the week. Today is the day you get things done that you maybe haven’t gotten around to all week or have been procrastinating. Then, at the end of the day, celebrate your accomplishments and a week of kick-ass productivity!
Rest and do something fun!
All in all, productivity doesn’t have to cost a lot—if anything at all. However, a lack of productivity can cost a lot.
The choice is yours.