It is the middle of the night. You are still working with no visible light in the end of the tunnel. You are tired and angry. Angry at your job that took over your life; angry at your boss who keeps piling projects on your plate; angry at yourself because you missed your kid's soccer practice, again.
Unfortunately, too many of us are familiar with the feeling. Too often we wish we were doing something else. We hope that as soon as this project is over or that work emergency is dealt with, your productive and fulfilling life will begin. What we seldom realize is, that today and now is our life and we are the only ones who can make it better.
Having been a student of productivity for several years, I would like to share with you tips that help me advance at work and have a personal life. Your quest for life and work balance might require personalization, but the principles are the same.
Tricks To Being Productive
Stop, reflect, evaluate. The first step to a productive life is stop everything you are doing, step back and look from afar at your work load. You have been in reactive mode way to long and lost perspective. Examine your goals, your priorities. Is everything on the right course moving towards the desired outcome? Is it still the result you want? Look back at what you have accomplished and how it all fits in the big picture. Define what is left to be done to complete each project.
Clean up the clutter. Look around yourself. Is your work environment helping you to be productive? Is your office organized? Can you find everything you need when you need it? Get rid of the noise and distractions. That includes human distractions – friends that suck the life force out of you, co-workers that constantly waste your time, people who are always late. Say "no" to these distractions too and keep company with people who value your time.
Improve process. If your ship is on the right course, ask yourself, can you get there faster? Too often people follow the same process for too long, not comprehending anymore the purpose of each step. Zoom in on your processes, examine the steps, find improvements, discover ways to be more efficient.
Delegate. That's right – you are not the only person who can do that task. It is likely, there are people who can do that task better than you. But you wouldn't know who those people are until you start delegating, would you? Many tasks just need to be done. Give other people an opportunity to impress you while you stick to what you do best. While you are at it, outsource tasks you hate to do.
Track time. Tracking time is a chore, I know. But without it, how would you know how you spend the time? Use time tracking to find tasks that would be cheaper to outsource. Next, put time limits on your tasks and stick to them. No need to be a perfectionist. It may surprise you, that with time constraints your brain will force you to be more efficient.
Develop routines. Routines are the well-known secret of productivity. Yet, many people overlook it. First routine you have to develop is your day reviews at the end of the work day and first thing in the morning the day of. Your day roadmap will help you stay on course and avoid surprises. Second, develop routines for reoccurring tasks – phone calls, email, social media, etc. Set times when you check your email, engage in social media, read new articles, return phone calls. Eventually, these activities will become welcome breaks from analytical tasks boosting your productivity. Do your most important tasks when you are most productive.
Eliminate interruptions. Stop your multitasking and try focusing on one project at time. Cut out all distractions. Plan chunks of 40-60 minutes for project work. Don't you see – the reason you stay up so late is because there are less distractions when everyone is asleep. If necessary (and possible), switch to a vampire schedule for a short while to catch up on all your tasks. You do not have to be dead to the world forever. Schedule social media breaks and you will feel a part of the community.
Take a break. This one is a must. You are no good to anyone if you are tired, sleep deprived and distracted. Take a walk or stairs. Better yet, exercise every day: play basketball with your kid or go bike riding; swim some laps or go rock climbing. Whatever rocks your boat – make it a routine. It is good for your health, for your memory, and for your energy level. Set a hard boundary between work and personal life: no work calls or email after hours. And don't forget to take vacations. The world will not stop without you. I promise.
Get a productivity buddy. This one is simple: find another busy person who is willing to be your productivity buddy. At the beginning of the day, have a short conversation about what you plan to accomplish that day. At the end of the day, report to each other what you managed to accomplish that day. That's it. It is the accountability that will trick your mind and will make you more motivated to complete your to-do list. Maybe, there is a little competition in there too. But hey, whatever does the trick.
When you are stressed at work, when you are resentful and angry, you carry your attitude everywhere you go. It affects not only your work quality but your relationships making everyone around you miserable. Take baby steps or giant leaps to be more productive, but do something to make better use of your time and focus on what's important. Doing something is better than nothing even if it fails. Keep at it and you will be more productive – that's a guarantee.
"Don't waste your time or time will waste you" – Matthew Bellamy
"Time you enjoy wasting isn't wasted time" — Bertrand Russell
Know what is wasting time and what is not. Being productive does not mean completing the most tasks. It is focusing on what is most important. Fulfill your purpose at work and enjoy your life with your friends and family. Life without balance is a life without enjoyment.
What are your tricks to stay productive? What works for you? Please share.