You know the feeling. After a long day at work, you collapse onto the couch and think, “Why am I so tired? I didn’t even get anything done today!” There’s definitely a big difference between putting in hours at work and actually being productive. While at work, it’s easy to get distracted by email, coworker conversations, unnecessary meetings, and last minute assignments. It’s up to you to brush these distractions aside and power through your daily to-do list. These productivity tips can help!
The Pomodoro Technique
In the early 1990s, an entrepreneur and author named Francesco Cirillo invented a new, focus-based productivity technique. He named the technique “Pomodoro” after a tomato shaped timer that he used to track his daily work. The technique itself is very simple and can be extremely effective. Basically, the Pomodoro Technique involves focusing on one project at a time for 25 minutes, then taking a 5 minute break. After the 5 minute break, it’s back to another 25 minute focused work session, followed by another break, and so on. After each cycle, put a checkmark on a sheet of paper. After 4 checkmarks (signifying 4 complete work cycles), reward yourself with a 15-30 minute break. Sounds easy, right? Well, the tricky part is focusing exclusively on one task at a time. This means no checking email, no chatting with co-workers, no answering the phone, etc. Once you train your brain to focus during these 25 minute sprints of productivity, you’ll be amazed at how quickly you can work through your to-do list.
Take Advantage of Commute Time
In 2010, forbes.com ranked the Tampa Bay area as the nations worst metropolitan area for commuting to work. Although lot has changed over the past few years to improve commute time, many people still experience more “windshield time” than they would like. Aside from finding some mythical, hidden alternative driving route, there’s not much you can do to shorten a long commute. Consider making the best of it by doing something productive. For safety, please refrain from any task that would take your eyes off of the road (texting, email, etc.) Instead, listen to podcasts or audiobooks related to your industry. Apps like Stitcher make it easy to culminate a personal list of podcasts, and also gives you the option to download them for data-free listening. When it comes to audiobooks, audible.com is a great resource with over 180,000 titles to choose from. Although listening to quality podcasts and audiobooks may not have an immediate effect on your productivity, over time these educational sources can have a huge impact on your professional and personal development.
Synchronize Your Calendars
You probably have a calendar on your cellphone, another hanging up at home, and one (or two) more on your work computer. Consider merging these all down into one single calendar to minimize confusion and increase productivity. Almost all of the major smartphone calendar applications make it fairly easy to add and sync external calendars. For example, with “Google Calendar” you’re able to easily sync both Outlook and iCal calendars to the application. Events from these calendars are then color-coded so that you can easily differentiate between a task for work or a personal appointment. Then, to phase out the old school wall calendar at home, simply make it a point to add important dates and tasks directly to your primary calendar application instead of jotting them down on the paper version.
Take Advantage of Batching
While the Pomodoro Technique requires focusing on a single task at a time, “batching” involves focusing on a single group of tasks at a time. Take a look at your weekly work schedule. Is there a task that you do once or twice a day, every day? Let’s say one of your daily tasks involves creating content for your company’s Facebook page or blog once a day. You may find that on some days (when you are feeling more creative) this task comes easy, and on other days, it’s a different story altogether. Instead of trying to tackle these tasks once a day, consider working on a week’s worth of tasks all at once. By “batching” these tasks together, you may find it easier to focus because your mind stays “in the zone” for an extended period of time. This may seem much easier than trying to “find the zone” for a few minutes each day throughout the week. Then, once you knock out a week’s worth of a specific task in one day, you’ll have more time to focus on other tasks throughout the rest of the week.
By tweaking your work methods using these tactics, you can master the art of “working smarter” as opposed to “working harder”. It won’t happen overnight, but if you stick with it, you’ll soon be on your way to more productive and rewarding workdays!