Do you rely on your creativity for a living? Are you self-employed and looking for ways to get more done in your time? Or do you find that working in a busy office gets in the way of focusing on your own work?
Here are some tips taken from Manage your day-to-day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus & Sharpen Your Creative Mind (2013), edited by Jocelyin K. Glei (with contributions from 20 different experts).
1. Start your day with important or difficult tasks
According to various studies, the time when we have the most energy in our day is a couple of hours after waking up. This is also when a lot of people start their working day (and if you don’t, you should try and see if this makes any difference in the way you work). So this is the ideal time to dedicate yourself to your priority tasks.
2. Don’t check your emails first thing in the morning
Yes, it’s a quick thing to ease you into your day, but if you think about it, you’re basically using your most productive time of the day by focusing on other people’s priorities, rather than your own.
3. Take regular breaks
Various studies show that we can maintain peak function for only about 90 minutes at a time, so it’s best to pause and relax regularly in order to recharge.
4. Get enough sleep at night
Most people need in the region of 6-8 hours of restful sleep per night, so make sure you don’t rely on endless cups of coffee to stay awake. Try and improve the duration and quality of your sleep instead, and you’ll see the benefits in the day.
5. Work regularly
A lot of people who rely on creativity in their jobs find that it’s hard to work when you’re not ‘inspired’. Author Gretchen Rubin suggests to work regularly – if you do, you will find that inspiration will come more easily and from various areas of your life too.
6. Train your will power
You can do this in other areas of your life (like developing healthier habits, for example). Exercise your will power regularly, and you’ll be able to use it to better focus on your work too.
7. Stick to one task at the time
Multi-tasking is only possible when one of the tasks doesn’t require our full focus and attention. So we can walk and talk for example, but try to read and type a text at the same time? When you multi-task, your attention switches from one task to the other, and you end up taking longer to complete your tasks and being less efficient on both.
8. Set aside time in your day that’s free from distractions
Ideally, when you focus on your work, you want to be free of other distractions, like your phone for example! Start making a conscious effort not to pick it up absentmindedly to check your social media when you’re bored or looking for a distraction and switch your phone off or put it on aeroplane mode when you know you won’t need the internet.
9. Block time out in your diary
If you can, when you know you have a task to complete, book a meeting in your diary to let people know that you’re unavailable. Use 90-minute, interruption-free slots to concentrate fully on your work and take a break at the end of that time period.
10. Practice conscious breathing techniques
Try sitting with a straight back and taking a few deep breaths at your desk. Apparently when we sit at desk and stare at a computer screen, we have times where we hold our breaths or engage in shallow breathing. You can see how this isn’t very good for us!
11. Stop striving for perfection
If you wait for things to be perfect, you’ll end up spending much more time on a task than what you need to. Sometimes waiting for perfection means we’ll never take action! Just get started – it’s much better to re-work and amend something you’ve done than starting from scratch the day before a deadline.
12. Take time to ‘do nothing’
It seems counterintuitive, but scheduling in time to ‘do nothing’ and think of nothing in particular gives your mind a break and can in turn make you a lot more creative and focused afterwards.
13. Exercise and spend time cultivating your hobbies.
Make sure you don’t cut down on time spent looking after your body, mind and soul. Exercise and hobbies do this for you. And the more you engage in these activities the more efficiently you’ll find you work.
Do you have any other tips to increase productivity? What works for you?