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Productivity Tips for Ordinary People

5 min read

As someone with a full-time job and studying part-time, productivity is definitely of interest to me.  Ironically, I have spent hours reading on-line articles about the habits of high-achievers who go to the gym at 5am every day and read 3 journals before starting work. However, a lot of these tips were a bit unrealistic for me and left me feeling worse about my productivity levels. Here is some productivity advice which might work for more ordinary people like me:

  • Become aware of how you are really spending your time during the day and the week. Ask yourself if you are giving priority to the right things.
  • Turn off your phone and the TV for a while. I considered getting rid of my TV but I just couldn’t do it. However, even a ‘no phone and TV hour’ per day will make a big difference to what you get done.
  • Break up difficult projects in to manageable pieces and plan them out in your diary. Starting something is often the most difficult part. Just plan to do 5 mins to start with. Often you find you get into the flow of it and work a bit longer.
  • Work out when you are most alert in the day or week and plan your most intellectually challenging activities in accordingly. There is no point trying to write a presentation in the afternoon if you always feel sleepy.
  • Don’t try to multi-task. Do one thing at a time. Pick the most important one first.
  • Use a to-do list and diary system that is simple. Review both regularly and tick things off – it’s so satisfying.
  • Remove distractions – delete time-wasting apps from your phone, unsubscribe from email newsletters and put your phone away for most of the day.
  • Aim for completion rather than perfection – Be strategic about your tasks, most things just need completion at a satisfactory standard. Keep perfectionism for only those most important activities and even then, know when to stop.
  • Manage your emails more effectively. If you can put some rules in place with your colleagues or friends you will find you save a lot of time. Check out the Email Charter for ideas: http://www.emailcharter.org/
  • Waiting for a nice expanse of uninterrupted time to start a project is a mistake. If it is important, start today, even if It’s just for 5 minutes.
  • Maximise your time – doctors’ waiting rooms and train journeys are great for getting things done – always have something with you that you need to read.
  • Try to identify what is making you procrastinate on something. Is something unclear to you? Are you lacking confidence? Do you need to talk it through with someone else before you start?
  • Use social media only with a clear objective – browsing is rarely productive. You don’t need to know about everything in the world. Information overload can be very exhausting.
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