The modern professional suffers from a constant struggle: striving for greater productivity while keeping toxic stress at arm’s length. Employee burnout is prevalent in the modern work environment, especially in light of the effects the COVID-19 pandemic has had on workplace dynamics.
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Working remotely may seem idyllic at first, but as many soon realize, the lack of in-person interaction can cause several problems. Communication and collaboration become more difficult, and staying productive when you’re sitting in your comfy chair at home is a challenge.
With that in mind, let’s explore some of the best hacks and tips for staying productive in the modern world.
1. Manage your time wisely
Time management is a skill that few master, yet it’s imperative for achieving your goals in a reasonable amount of time. We’re all capable of being productive over the course of a few weeks or months, but how do we cut down the timeline and produce our best work in a matter of days or hours?
There are several effective systems for managing your time, which include the following:
Time blocking, the act of blocking out periods of time for different activities, is used by many successful people such as Cal Newport, author of best selling book ‘Deep Work’. It’s a simple system to develop and maintain, but it requires planning in advance and categorizing your activities.
Essentially, to make time blocking work for you, you have to color-code your activities and then assign blocks of time for them in your calendar. Be it 30 minutes on Monday morning for responding to emails or two hours on Friday afternoon to write up a report, these time blocks will help you structure how you spend your time.
As well as minimizing wasted time, time blocking can help you hit your goals faster, as you’re deliberate about what you spend your time on each day.
The pomodoro method is all about finding a working rhythm that suits you. For example, the most common approach is to set a timer for 30 minutes during which you work on a project, and then 5 minutes during which you take a breather, get a glass of water, or stretch your legs.
This on-off system is effective because it reduces the chance of burnout, and allows you to focus on a task intently for a short period of time.
2. Check in regularly
If you’re a team leader, or work as part of a team unit, it’s important to check in regularly with anyone you work with. Regular check-ins can prevent communication disasters, and ensure that everyone is on the same page at all times.
One of the biggest obstacles to progress in the workplace is small setbacks, since these compound over time and can extend the timeline for a project. These small setbacks are often the result of a lack of communication, as one team member is unclear on how exactly to accomplish a task or misinterprets the instructions.
When you organize regular check-ins, you can also create a better end product as you can open the floor to discussion and incorporate the input of everyone as you go.
3. Use reliable performance metrics
Without performance metrics, it’s almost impossible to know how well you or your team is doing without relying on guesswork.
There are various metrics you can use to track progress and performance, including time, tasks completed, and project-based OKRs (objectives and key results) and KPIs (key performance indicator).
Tasks completed is a simple way to track productivity, and is a metric you can track with a virtual to-do list app, project management system or employee tracking software.
Time is an important metric that you can measure with a time tracker to learn exactly how much time each team member spends on work-related tasks.
OKRs and KPIs
OKRs provide you with a clear framework for hitting specific goals, whereas KPIs give you a general idea of if you’re moving in the right direction.
4. Prioritize your workload
If you’re at risk of being buried under your workload, then it’s a good idea to sort your priorities out. By that we mean you need a system for establishing high and low-priority tasks.
Task management apps and to-do lists are effective for prioritizing tasks, as they allow you to add notes, label, and even flag or color-code various tasks based on their importance.
When you lay out which tasks are high priority, you can eat that frog (a productivity method pioneered by author Brian Tracy who penned the book of the same name) and take care of the tasks that are really eating away at you.
5. Minimize distractions
Distractions are in many ways the most significant obstacle standing in the way of you and your most productive life. As such, you should do everything in your power to minimize them, so they have less power over you.
Anything from phone notifications to non-essential work meetings can detract from your ability to get important tasks done, and as a result, are best avoided or dealt with.
Distractions can have a lasting (negative) impact on your ability to concentrate, as it can take several minutes to refocus on a task once distracted. Don’t give distractions the opportunity to grab and dominate your attention.
6. Rest up
The last tip on productivity is to cease from doing anything. It might sound counterintuitive, but if you don’t get the rest you need, how can you expect to give anything your all?
Take short, frequent breaks at work if you can, and especially if you work from home when you have the freedom to do so. Get up, move around, and keep your energy levels high. When the day draws to a close, make sure you get a great night’s sleep.
Avoid screens after a certain time, read in bed, and if possible, place your phone on the other side of the room so you’re not tempted to scroll.
Being productive is as much about being healthy and reducing external distractions as it is working hard. Make sure you rest, take frequent breaks, and minimize incoming notifications as much as possible.
Then you can start to develop systems, assign priority levels to tasks on your plate, and track your productivity with reliable metrics.