In many career paths, how productive you are at work often depends on how well you manage your time. You have only so many hours in the day to get a variety of tasks done. It can be a challenge to clock off on the most important ones while still having enough personal time. After all, having time for your family, friends, and hobbies is just as important.
For professionals who are looking for ways to maximize their time and increase their productivity, here are five useful tips. Try any of these for yourself and see the difference they’ll make in your daily productivity levels.
Create a Schedule That Balances Out Your Work and Personal Routine
It’s important to be productive at your job because it’s your main source of livelihood and a means to attain personal fulfillment. However, you shouldn’t let your leisure time, rest time, or time for other important obligations in your life be neglected because of work. True productivity has a holistic aspect to it. You should aim to create a productive work schedule not only for the sake of your work but for all the other things you hold dear.
For example, if you’re of the Islamic faith and do salah or the five daily prayers, schedule your productive hours around meeting this religious obligation with ease. There are various scheduling tools out there that can help you balance your work and your religious duties, like the Muslim Pro app or the reminder app on your phone.
Designate Hours for Particular Tasks
One way that you can improve your day-to-day productivity is to designate particular hours in the day for particular tasks. Set aside the first hour of the morning to check on important emails, and agree on a daily afternoon schedule for short meetings with your team.
In other words, make it a habit to be able to complete certain tasks within a certain time window. You’ll find yourself procrastinating less and becoming more focused and efficient with your time.
Put Your Most Difficult Tasks at the Top of Your Daily Queue
Motivational speaker and author Brian Tracy popularised the term “eating the frog” when it comes to taking control of one’s workday. Of course, the term is not to be taken literally—it simply means to do the tasks that you dread the most before you move on to other ones.
Addressing the most difficult or the most cumbersome tasks early on in your workday will allow you more time, as well as more energy, to take care of everything else. To be more productive, take Tracy’s metaphorical advice and face your biggest obstacle as early as you possibly can during the day.
Practice Doing Work in Short, Productive Bursts
Do you always start the day with the optimistic assumption that you’ll be able to finish a demanding task in one prolonged sitting? If you do, then it’s time to think differently. This mindset may actually be quite counterproductive, as you could end up wasting precious time while waiting to gain momentum or waiting to get into the right mood.
Consider the opposite approach of un-chunking big tasks into smaller ones that you can accomplish in short bursts. Then, take breaks in between these productive windows. This approach has actually become more mainstream through popular productivity hacks like the Pomodoro technique, which divides productive periods into 25-minute sprints and 5-minute rest times.
But there are other alternatives that you can try, such as the Desktime method (52-minute sprints with 17-minute breaks) and the Ultradian rhythm method (90-minute sprints and flexible extended breaks).
Identify and Minimize Distractions
Lastly, when looking for ways to improve your productivity, remember to take a step back and become more aware of your biggest hurdles to effective time management. Perhaps you have the tendency to stretch a short coffee break into a long one. Or, maybe you’re prone to holding overly long conversations with other staff members, and you haven’t quite gotten the hang of ending those conversations on a firmer note.
Take special note of the things that distract you from being productive and find a way to resolve each issue. For example, you can set a timer for yourself to signal between your breaks and productive windows. Every time you enter into a new conversation with someone, practice telling them about your agenda, limiting the discussion to the most important topics, and politely taking your leave so that you don’t leave your other tasks unfinished.
As seen in the tips listed above, structure, routine, and discipline are often the biggest drivers of productivity. This is by no means an exhaustive list, however, and it may be good for you to look up other productivity and time management hacks from sources like the Muslim Pro app LinkedIn page.
Optimal work schedules vary from person to person, and what works for you may not necessarily work for someone else. But make it your goal to increase your productivity on your own terms and to become a full-fledged master of your work time.