For some people, it seems that they are able to accomplish a huge volume of work in a short time while not compromising on quality. Then there are the people who work 14 hours a day and seem to advance little on task completion. While one explanation for why this divide exists is simply ability, there are things we can do to improve how we work and the quality of our output while also creating a greater work-life balance.
Eat, Sleep, Drink
When you are energised you are motivated. Boozy Wednesday’s tend to lead to unproductive Thursday’s and frantic Friday’s, followed by a regret-filled beer o’clock on Monday’s; and the cycle continues.
Choose your life. Create a routine that works for you. Walk home from work if you can, sit down to a healthy meal and plan to be in bed by 10pm. Incorporating your friends and family into this picture can be tricky. If you need to choose one thing to start improving, make it your sleep routine. Have a bedtime. Have an alarm clock that you actually respond to by getting out of bed. Sleep in a dark, cool room with fresh sheets and good pillows. You spend about half of your life sleeping, so clearly it is important. Do not compromise on your sleep. Make it a priority.
A Single Task
You might think organised people are unimaginative. You might think lists are restrictive. You might be wrong. When you understand your daily priorities, you can manage your time. When you have time management skills, you can spend more time daydreaming.
When you create a list of tasks and place them in order of priority, you ease your stress. You are no longer juggling. You have a list. You can see the work getting done. You can answer any questions about when you might expect that task to be completed.
Productive people know how important having a task list is. It is not immutable, it is a guide to your day – and most days unfold much like yesterday and the day before in many jobs. You know what your core tasks are, so write them down and get to it. The completion of one task also gives you space to have a break, refresh and reset for the next task; another key to successful productivity – breaks.
Write it Down
Your memory is not as awesome as you think it is, especially if you’re a cortisol-driven insomniac. People who seem to have a handle on things are either freaking out and faking it till they make it, or they are writing stuff down. Brilliant ideas at 3am are not always brilliant ideas at 9am. If you wake up at 3am and start mulling that idea until 7:55am only to drift off as your 8am alarm blasts you into a hostile new day, you are likely to think that 3am idea was worth the lost sleep, present it to your colleagues, who can see it’s been a rough night, so they placate you and pretend that yes, you are brilliant. The next day everyone is avoiding you so they don’t have to talk about your idea.
Or, you could have a pen and notebook on your bedside table so that at 3am, when the idea of firing a convertible into space playing the same song on an endless loop just to satisfy your overweening ego comes to you, you can jot it down, get back to sleep, then read it in the morning with clarity. Obviously no one who was thinking clearly would commit such a self serving act of arrogance in a frontier which we, as yet, know very little.
It is an obvious one, but it should be said that when you choose to focus you get more done. Emails wait. Facebook is a drug. No one cares what you had for lunch. When you are working, you need to be working. If your relationship is so insecure that you can’t face the day without messaging, then you have bigger issues than focus.
Commit to your work. Listening to music or have a chat in the office is part of recharging. Scrolling through pictures of people from high school and reading a rant about how Aunt Betty stubbed her toe on a garden fork in the bathroom are not your priorities.
Your focus should be on the task list you set. Each task should be broken into about 40 minutes. At the end of the task, you should stand, stretch, have some water, then reset and start the next task.
When you commit to improving your productivity and the quality of your output, you are saying that you value yourself. Whether you are the company leader or the run about, your commitment to productivity is all about you. When you feel good about what you are doing, you will feel energised to do it all again tomorrow. The rough days or even weeks are easier to brush off. You are more creative, inspired and ready to innovate. Commit to your productivity and change your relationship with your work.
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