The Big Four Musts to Being Productive
Everyone wants to be productive. Unfortunately, not everyone knows the best way to do so.
Research shows that humans have a shorter attention span than goldfish. In the age of smartphones, it has now become harder to remain focused on a specific task. It's even worse when the task is on your phone. You're continually receiving push notifications from messages, social media accounts, email, etc. I can count how many times I've tried to do something on my phone, only to be distracted by a notification and realize just an hour later than I hadn't completed the task I set out to do.
This pattern is the same trap you can sometimes find yourself in when running your business. With so many moving parts involved with entrepreneurship, it's easy to lose track and sight of essential tasks.
I have fallen into a trap where I'm set out to do something but end up distracted by various factors in my environment. It could be my TV, a.k.a. Netflix, my phone, Instagram, the traffic outside my window, etc. It was so bad at a point that I could only listen to music during specific tasks. I don't know about you, but I am the type of person to start dancing to my music randomly. I also do this when I walk on the street, and I've had my fair share of stares; however, music is my jam! So, when I am trying to be productive, it does me no favor to start dancing and spend 30 minutes pretending to be in a music video and holding my remote control as a microphone in front of a mirror.
So, how have I been able to smash my goals and have consecutive productive days constantly? I had to develop a system. I've never been much of a person for systems. I feel it's too restrictive and I'm not always "on" when my calendar says it's time to get shit done! However, I've had to learn that for me to get work done, a system has to be in place. If you're like me, with a full-time job, it can be even harder to remain productive especially when you've just put an 8-hour shift at work. Who wants to come home in the evening on a Wednesday and get more work done? Not this girl! But in the spirit of "adulting," I've had to grow up and put a system in place for those days when being productive is an absolute must!
1. BLOCK OUT TIMES
Blocking out times is essential to tracking your progress and making sure you are getting the right things done. No point in "getting shit done" if it's not quality.
I practice this in my job as well. I usually block out 9 am to 10 am every morning just to regroup and catch up on emails or work that happened the evening/night before. Since I work with partners in various time zones, it's not out of the ordinary to have meetings at odd hours of the day. I've had to block out my mornings to clear out the backlog, and it really goes a long way. With my business, I also block out time from 7 pm to 9 pm to get quality work done. These two hours are my time to focus in a world with so much moving parts. Whatever task I set to do within these two hours get done, no excuses.
A sample time block could be time "Reading time," "Blog-post writing," "Social media," "Yoga," etc. Doing this gives your day structure, and you end the day knowing you got work done. There is no greater feeling than crossing off your to-do list.
2. MUTE NOTIFICATIONS
If you know me, you know my phone is always on silent. No exceptions. I don't care if I'm at home chilling and doing nothing with my life, my phone is forever on silent. My parents hate it, especially my mum, because she can't always get me on the first try. However, having my phone on silent helps me keep a level head and reduces the noise that is, well, LIFE.
I also mute all social media notifications. I used to mute my email as well but learned the hard way; you can miss out on some critical emails because the more you mute, the more you forget they even exist. Removing notifications for social media has helped me remain focused when I'm using my phone. Since I am trying to limit my social media time, I find that not knowing every time someone likes my picture or sends me a DM, makes it easy to forget Instagram even exists, and I can focus wholeheartedly without interruption. Thankfully, with the new Apple update, you can manually limit your social media time, so when you try to open your Instagram app, for example, it tells you when you've hit your limit.
3. TASK MANAGEMENT IS ESSENTIAL
Using a task management software is essential to remaining productive. I always use task management software as a way to do a brain dump. Whenever I wake up, I assess the day ahead and plan out what things I need to get done, mostly, my priorities. I write these down on Evernote until I have a comprehensive list. I write as it comes to my mind so I could repeat the same task twice, but in a different way. Once I have the finalized list, I then transfer the priorities to Trello. Trello is where I create boards, based on the priorities, and then jot down "how" I am going to accomplish them. I check my boards throughout the day, so I'm never in a situation where I have to question the work I am doing and if it is right.
Task management software also gives you the opportunity to see a snapshot of your day and what you accomplished. As I mentioned above, no greater feeling than checking off your tasks. When you can accurately see the completed work, you have the confidence that you are productive and 24 hours did not pass you.
4. FOCUS ON ONE THING AT A TIME
Multi-tasking is the enemy of productivity. No seriously, it is. I used to be so proud of the fact I was a skilled multitasker who could get anything done, at record time, if I might add. My ability to multitask was one of my selling points during interviews because, at a job, you are expected to wear different hats at a time. However, as I started to work on my own business, I realized quickly that the multi-tasking mentality could be the death of me. I read an article that said multitasking reduces your IQ points by 60 percent! That's a lot of points. The reason being is your brain is continuously working in overload because you refuse to focus on one task at a time. The more time you spend multi-tasking, the more you realize you did less work than you expected. News flash; you were not productive today.
So, I have been more conscious of focusing on a single task at a time, without distractions. My mind runs at a thousand miles a minute and, so usually, when I am working on something, I remember an item I forgot and then move on to that task. The cycle begins this way, and it's 10 pm, and I didn't fully complete any of the tasks I set out. Even as I am writing this blog post at 10:25 pm, I have been very conscious not to check my phone or take a "break" to do something else. The goal I set for myself this evening is to finish this blog post, no matter what.
I know it's easier said than done, especially when you have multiple things you have to do in one day and whoever said 24 hours was enough doesn't have a to-do list. It takes practice, and I am still practicing these steps daily, however, by being consistent, I have been able to remain productive, even on days when I don't feel like it. How do you stay productive? Comment down below; I'll love to hear from you.
Written by Victory Omotayo