“Personal productivity is a key factor between those who succeed in their chosen field and those who do not,” says Career Strategist and Productivity Coach Roland Thomas. So how do you banish the distractions and get what you need done? Here are Thomas’ top five tips for giving your productivity a boost.
1. Have a “must get done” list
Putting too many things on your list is a distraction in itself, says Thomas. “You simply cannot pay 100% attention to one thing and at the time have your mind busy with the other things that need to be done,” he says. “There is a big difference between a daily To Do List or to create a Must Get Done List with a few items only. I personally recommend to you to plan for every day with a max 2-3 things which are absolutely necessary to get done and find a way to outsource or postpone the rest.”
2. Work in 55 minute bursts
In a variation of the 25 minute “tomato timer” approach, Thomas recommends breaking your day into 55 minute sessions with 5 minute breaks in between. Knowing you have a set break not far away reduces the temptation to procrastinate and, if you’re really concentrating during those 55 minute sessions, you could easily double your productivity in no time at all.
For bigger projects, you should increase the number of work blocks rather than increasing the time between breaks. “Setting up a really short amount of specific time to accomplish certain tasks will create an extra urgency in your brain and stimulate it to work faster and find the solution within that time increment no matter what,” says Thomas. “Create an emergency feeling in your brain and use the extra power to elevate your alertness.”
3. Tackle the distraction at source
Everyone has their own sources of distraction, whether it’s unhelpfully checking your emails for the millionth time, indulging in a bit of fantasy football or flicking through pictures of someone else’s holiday on Facebook. Even if it’s work-related, every time you stop to send a tweet or reply to a text you are breaking your concentration and your productivity goes down, so stave off those little tasks for your next break or for a dedicated work slot. “Once you have been interrupted, it can take some 23 minutes to get back to your task,” says Thomas. “Find out the causes of what personally disturbs you during work and create a ‘perfect’ working environment.”
4. Focus on one thing at a time
“Keep in your mind that you need to do X now and get Y as a result today, no matter what, and do it until it is done,” urges Thomas. How you choose to assign your work slots is up to you – you might prefer to get the big stuff out of the way early on, or you might prefer to blaze through a number of smaller, more manageable tasks first to pick up momentum for your day.
Whichever you choose, says Thomas, stick to it for the whole 55 minutes. There are some interruptions, like phone calls from clients, that are impossible to put off, but most of the time, if something crops up unexpectedly, or if you’re struck by a new but unrelated idea, scribble it down quickly and finish what you are doing before you come back to it.
5. Have a “done” list as well as a “to do” list
Failing to tick off everything on your to do list can leave you feeling deflated, so make sure you balance it with a far more motivating daily achievements record, noting down the important things you have managed to get done that day.
“Every day you can evaluate your achievements based on how productive you were,” says Thomas. “I personally created a simple system to categorise and evaluate my daily productiveness based on the aims that I set up earlier that day against what is left.”
“The level of productiveness one day tends to affect my emotional state for the next,” explains Thomas. “When you have identified your personal recipe about being super productive and reached the point that you know almost everything about what works for you, simply repeat the procedure day after day after day!”