We hear a lot about productivity and how it’s one of the “secrets” to success.
After all, productivity is the basis of working smarter, not just harder (though working hard is certainly an important quality to embrace). This drive and mindset helps to complete projects or reach milestones within optimal timeframes.
And being productive is not just about spending less time on tasks—it’s more about maximizing the time you are occupying in a more valuable way. In doing so, you’re able to avoid jamming hurried work into a specified amount of time, and instead produce good work.
Productivity is definitely a hot topic in our society, especially since the introduction of modern technology. With all of our devices, notifications, and access to content, it’s easier than ever to give in to distractions that take your focus away from a particular task.
Even if you adhere to deadlines most of the time, it’s still helpful to take an audit of your productivity levels (or lack thereof) and put a process in place to improve them.
Understanding Your Productivity
Feeling rushed or unfocused creates stress, which develops into a dangerous cycle of anxiety and dread that just further delivers negative blows to our productivity.
It’s critical to be truthful regarding your work habits, instead of just sweeping concerns under the rug to be handled “next week” or at another future time. Or, worse, just lying to yourself about your level of productivity to begin with!
It’s common to hear people say, “I do my best work under pressure.” Though that may possibly seem true in some instances, the truth is that the worry of a looming deadline likely kicked their butts into overdrive just in time. However, if they learn how to be more productive in less-stressful moments, their work (and work-life balance) could greatly benefit.
Do you properly plan for projects and tasks? Even if you get something in on time, do you find that you wait until the eleventh hour to get it done? Do you feel that if you gave yourself more time (or more concentrated time) on a project, that the result would have been better? How distracted do you feel during the day?
These are important questions to ask—be honest when answering.
Trust us, it’s better to ask these questions internally before a misstep causes a supervisor to ask them for you.
But how objective can we be with ourselves? It may be easy to make excuses or allowances for how productive we are during a chunk of time, but the truth is that we need some hard data to back it up.
That’s why tracking time on your devices can be so helpful. It’s not in an effort to shame or punish yourself, but rather to get a clear view of how and where you spend your time. Think about it: It’s going to be pretty hard to make adjustments to your behaviors if you don’t really understand what you’re doing wrong in the first place.
Freelancers know that tracking time is absolutely critical, especially since it is a primary tool for accurately charging clients for work. However, it can be a really insightful resource for anyone, regardless of one’s employment status.
By using software like Timing, you don’t even have to add time tracking to your overflowing to-do list. By automatically tracking all the time spent on your Mac, Timing helps you get an ordered view of the time you are spending on websites, within apps, and even working in documents or spreadsheets—without you having to do anything on your end.
Now, in order to get the most out of a time tracking program, it is a smart idea to invest some time upfront to properly organize your projects and tasks. You can also go into the Timing app and manually add activities (say a phone call, or an in-person meeting), to make sure your reporting is as accurate as possible.
All together, this will eliminate the need to wonder where you’re spending all your time when you should be dialed into a project—it’s all right there at your fingertips!
How to Increase Your Productivity
Once you have a grasp on your productivity, you might be able to decipher some areas of weakness. Perhaps you scroll aimlessly on social media a little longer than necessary, or you get caught up on certain tasks that are needed to move onto the next step of a project.
Whatever the case, look at these problem areas as opportunities—the times or activities you can examine and work on to bump up your productivity.Look at your problem areas as opportunities—the times or activities you can examine and work on to bump up your productivity. Click To Tweet
Below we dive into some ways that you can tackle these extended moments of stalled work.
This might seem obvious but procrastination and lower levels of productivity go hand in hand. But sometimes it’s freeing to realize that the first step of a project may be the hardest.
Especially when we feel overwhelmed about a task—whether about the timeline in which we have to complete it, the amount of brain energy it’s going to consume, or even doubting our ability to do it well.
Fear is one of the biggest motivators in life, and in this case it can cause us to put off to tomorrow what can be done today. All of the other tips below will help you to avoid procrastination, but also just the comprehension of why you might be delaying something can help you overcome it.
If you’re not excited to dig into a project, ask why—you may find that the solution is clearer (and easier) than you think.
Jumping right in may help you get going, but having an overwhelming amount of work or a project with many hurdles or changes in direction can be extremely frustrating. These are the times when we tend to throw up our hands and say, “I’m not doing this.”
In order to keep your momentum consistent, you need to stay motivated.
A good trick? Take whatever you have in front of you and turn it into many smaller steps. For example, instead of putting a general project on your to-do list (such as [client name] website, or write blog article on X topic), it can be helpful to break it down into bite-sized pieces.
You likely know the steps involved, so use that knowledge to write a list of achievable tasks. It may be a longer list, but you will find yourself feeling motivated and more confident as you cross each item off.
If you follow our blog then chances are you’ve already been schooled on the importance of taking breaks during the day. Just check out one of our recent articles, The Benefits of Daily Work Breaks.
(And, for good measure, you should also learn why taking extended breaks is necessary, too. Give this a read: How to Prepare for Time Off as a Freelancer.)
Having time—whether in smaller daily increments or larger chunks to travel or recharge—are healthy for mind, body, and soul. All of this equates to a happier work situation.
Similarly, carve out appropriate time to sleep. Burning the candle from both ends will result in exhaustion, which affects your brain function and makes you foggy (read: less productive).
The key to being productive is to understand when you’re struggling and work to understand why.
You could be preoccupied with something else, not fulfilled by work, feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work you have, or simply just tired.
Realizing what might be hindering your productivity is the first step to solving it, so cut yourself some slack and avoid putting yourself down—we all have areas of improvement to work on!