Did you know: 96% of people look at their smartphones within an hour of waking up in the morning (and a whopping 61% take a look within the first five minutes).
Although it seems harmless, this causes us to have a “reactive” day.
Think about it.
If the first thing you do when you roll out of bed is open your e-mail, read your text messages or listen to your voicemails, you are essentially putting yourself second. Whether good, bad or no news awaits, you let other people set your mood for the day.
Most of us are guilty of this, and it inevitably affects our productivity.
Source: Harvard Business
Here are four tips to boost your productivity
1. Do your most important tasks first
This means prioritizing the tasks that require the most brain power. Do this at the time when your energy levels are highest. For the majority of the population, this is at dawn or in the morning. Ideally, you make sure you allow as little external stimulation as possible during those peak hours. Emails, phones, colleagues – keep them to a minimum or better yet, provide a block of time when you can work undisturbed. Avoid distractions. Once the most important task is done, you have already won your day and can take up easier tasks.
2. Plan your day as early as the night before
A productive day does not happen overnight. It requires planning. If we write down what we plan to do – and when and where we plan to do it – we are much more likely to achieve our goals. The book“Atomic Habits” is a very good workbook for this.
Laura Mae Martin, Google’s productivity consultant, gives lots of tips in this e-book on productivity. To begin, she writes down her top three priorities in the template she created, The Daily Plan. Under the first priority it says, “Until this first task is finished, everything else is a distraction. “So that’s my one task that I need to get done.”
She then uses the same template to plan her day on a micro level, by the hour. “Even if I just write down that I plan to exercise between 7 and 8 a.m., I’m more likely to do that.” Martin’s process also includes mini to-do’s; tasks she can do between meetings because they only take a few minutes, such as making a phone call or answering emails.
Tip: Take control of your day with a schedule. Try Martin’s template for a week. The ideal time to fill it out is at the end of the workday so that everything you want to get done tomorrow is still fresh in your mind.
3. Develop rituals for different types of work
This may sound strange but by building up different associations to certain types of work, the process is easier and you get into full concentration faster. Being conscious about where you work is another way to add structure to your day.
When doing creative tasks like mailings/content/graphic design, for example, I always put on a background playlist that makes me get into creative mode faster.
When brainstorming, Charlotte and I often go for a walk or sit outside; fresh air helps to think out-of-the-box.
Think about the main types of work you do, and start creating habits/rhythms around them. The rituals may have to do with the physical location or time of day you perform a particular task. For example, on Friday mornings I write blog posts.
Tip: Of course, it takes some time to make a steady connection with this, but if you do, it gets easier and goes faster the more you practice. Your brain will begin to associate signals – such as your physical environment and the time of day – with certain types of work.
4. Schedule free time or buffer time
It is easy to assume that the most productive people are booked up 100% of their day. That is more of a fable. No one can be 100 percent productive. On the contrary, often you then just take longer on the same content.
Leaving room between “work blocks” for unexpected things, private or work-related is highly recommended because there always is. This will ensure that your schedule is and remains achievable. Having no free time in your schedule leaves little room for yourself to have spontaneous conversations, or moments of creativity and inspiration. Or simply for times when your energy is low and your ability to concentrate is at a low ebb. If your schedule is completely full then you are guaranteed to have to delete things because the previous tasks are overrunning. Unfinished agenda items are demotivating, and if it happens often, it creates stress. Finished points actually provide motivation and give a “win” feeling that will actually make you relax more and feel better about your day. And you radiate that, which in turn can have an effect on your self-confidence.
Tip: A completely blocked day can give you a false sense of productivity. If your schedule seems full, consciously schedule time to do nothing. You can use this time as buffer time for things that run out or unexpected tasks that pop up during the day. Or you can even use it for planned spontaneity – time to come up with unexpected ideas.
Productivity is not about the number of hours you work, or how many to-do’s you can cross off your list. It’s about doing what it takes to work in an efficient and time-saving way. And that starts with a conscious daily schedule. Don’t leave it to chance – use the tips above to get started.