The internet is full of different kinds of productivity advice. There are online courses, complex methodologies, or even full-blown systems consisting of both a methodology and a software package.
This all makes it seem like achieving good productivity is likely a tough task. And there are two sides to this problem.
On one side, reaching your full potential when it comes to productivity can take time and require much dedication and hard work.
On the other, just improving your productivity up to a level where you can actually get almost all of your work done on any given day, only requires setting a couple of habits and learning a few new tricks.
And this is the approach I want to take today. There’s no complex methodology explained in this guide… Just 4 pieces of advice that you can use right away, and get more stuff done during your workday.
1. Start planning
I know that this sounds obvious, but you’d be amazed how many people don’t plan their days at all. They just happen to be taking action on anything that stumbles their inboxes or comes as a thought/idea.
The habit I’m proposing here is to start your day by doing a brief plan and also reviewing your work from the previous day.
Look at all the things you were able to achieve, the things you didn’t complete, and the things you have to complete in the near future. Then create a list of doable tasks that you can take care of (complete) during the current day (and “doable tasks” being the keyword here).
There’s no point in just setting lists that are impossible to get done. They will only create frustration that you’re not productive enough, when in fact, the list is the problem, not you.
2. Master the tools
Since it’s the 21st century, working without using any of the available tools (online apps, software, etc.) is simply a sin.
When it comes to productivity, I only have a handful I can honestly recommend to you:
- Remember The Milk. A great list management tool. You can create a number of task lists / to-do lists, and assign various parameters to each task. There are also a number of keyboard shortcuts that make working with the tool really fast. Oh, and it’s free.
- Google Calendar. I’m sure I don’t need to explain what this is. Quite simply, when you have a meeting or any other activity that needs to happen on a specific date and time, simply put it in your Google Calendar and set some reminders.
- FreeMind. This is a great mind mapping tool. What’s great about mind mapping is that it gives you a way of representing your thoughts on a computer screen. Mind mapping is actually much more intuitive than creating, say, a Word document or something.
- Teambox. If you’re working with a team of people collaborating on projects then Teambox can be of great use to you all. The tool is free (if you don’t exceed a given number of projects), has a great user interface, and offers a number of features that every project manager will find handy.
3. Have frequent breaks
This is probably the oldest trick in the book, but it works just so well…
My approach is this (and it’s not the first time I’m mentioning it online): Start by working for 50 minutes, then have a 10 minute break, then work for another 50 minutes, then have a 30 minute break, and then repeat the whole thing.
For me, this is the most effective way of working. I encourage you to find out if it works for you too.
4. Don’t work for more than 6-8 hours
Eight hours should really be the top limit of the number of hours you can work in a day. I know that you probably still have some things, projects with deadlines, and so on, but you really won’t be very effective after your 8th hour of working.
For me, the perfect mark is 7 hours. Sometimes I can get it up to 8 productively, but sometimes, if I have a bad day, I have to stop at 6.
I guess that the perfect approach would be to try it all out and get your own optimal number of hours you can work effectively.
That’s it for my 4 pieces of advice but feel free to let me know what simple tricks you use to remain productive in your day-by-day work.
Karol K. (@carlosinho) is a freelance writer, blogger and online entrepreneur. Feel free to visit him at his website to get his review and advice that can help you if you’re planning to buy Market Samurai.