Getting sluggish at work? Having a hard time finding the the balance between fun and creativity, and a productive workflow? With hundreds of distractions on an average workday, it can get quite distracting to focus on things that are important for work.
It’s safe to say that we’ve all been there, trying to procrastinate our way out of doing the difficult tasks first. We are all guilty of having taken more time than necessary to check our emails, to browse sites like Reddit and Twitter for temporary mental satisfaction.
Hacking your productivity has become a trend in its own right. Everyone’s getting hooked on books and apps that promise one-stop solutions to all your productivity problems, but often dismiss the fact that being productive, and willingness to put in the work, begins with yourself and your attitude.
Creativity is a big part of work happiness, without having the space for freedom of creative expression you quickly burn yourself out by doing the same tasks repeatedly, or by deliberating avoiding certain tasks because they feel hard to do and provide little to no creative inspiration to you.
Not everyone has been blessed with the perfect job opportunity, and some of us are stuck in the office most of the day, repeating the same mundane tasks all day long.
One thing that worked really well for myself, was to prioritize my tasks according to their difficulty and importance. Instead of pushing difficult tasks at the back of the to-do list, I would work through the difficult stuff first to leave breathing room for finishing things that I know take a lot less time.
That way, not only would I be using my energy in a way that help to balance out the rest of the day, I wouldn’t have to work through complex tasks during the afternoon, time of the day when I’m more inclined to take it easy and focus on stuff that I know, takes fraction of the time to finish.
This approach has also lead to more time for creative freedom, knowing that difficult tasks are already finished, I can find more time to focus on things that really spark my creative capabilities.
Take a look at this infographic to learn about my productivity hacks for prioritizing tasks, which has helped to bring great balance in my day to day workflow.
Let’s go through these together. It’s easier than you think to improve your task priority, and following along the preceding tips will ensure that you’re always doing your best, whilst maintaining a healthy balance of work, creativity, and rest.
#1: Create lists
Start your day by listing things that you absolutely need to get done, things that would be good to get done soon, and things that you’d like to do if time allows.
This is simple. Get a pen and paper, or use a digital notebook, and write down the to-do list for the day. Prioritize based on importance, and put emphasis on tasks that propel your growth and work satisfaction.
#2: Cut out email
Minimize your frequency of opening emails until you have worked for at last 90 minutes, ideally allocate time of the day for replying and sending emails.
I’m guilty. You’re guilty. We’re all guilty of spending too much time in our email inbox.
This habit can be turned around, and one of the best ways for doing so is to limit yourself to the number of times you open your email in a 90 minute window, ideally you want to do it only once, and only if absolutely necessary.
#3: Task difficulty
Get the hardest, most difficult, tasks out of the way first, this way you can focus on doing what you enjoy, whilst having time to work on your creative projects.
Here you turn the focus away from mundane tasks, to tasks that require a significant investment of energy and time.
What I learned over time using this approach was, it’s easy to procrastinate the end-result of a difficult task, but it only takes a little bit of friction to get your juices going, and you find yourself getting the big stuff out of the way quicker than ever before.
#4: Follow goals
Ask yourself often, “Is this helping me achieve a goal?”. If it isn’t, either get rid of it, or put it under a different tab in your priorities list.
Work can get overwhelming when you’re part of a big project where “free thinking” is allowed, and while such an approach of allowing employees to come up with their own ideas is wonderful, and not everyone works in places that allow it, you still have to caution yourself of not getting over the top with creative ideas that might only end up being that, ideas.
Take into account your ultimate goals, and frequently question your actions to stay on track with what’s important.
#5: Take a break
Listen to your body, your mental state of mind. Take short breaks during rushes of productivity to keep the momentum going, respect your limitations.
I have worked a number of jobs that provided me with ample amounts of things to do, and often I would try and rush to the end of the to-do list pile only to find myself burned out, often for many days straight.
Since then, taking breaks and giving myself time to recharge has been one of my priorities for a successful day at work.
#6: Work as a team
Take into consideration how others can help you with your projects, goals, and ideas. Remember that asking for help often leads to quicker solutions for sophisticated problems.
Those of you who work in team environments, always remember that people around you can be invaluable sources of insight and inspiration. Working by yourself on a difficult problem can deteriorate your productivity, but also make you fall behind on a set schedule, so remember to ask your team for advice. They’ll appreciate you for doing so.
A note on multi-tasking:
Research has not only shown that multitasking doesn’t work, but also that it’s bad for your brain. When you multitask, two things will happen: You will perform several tasks with below-average quality, and your brain will become less effective when you try to focus on a single task. — Tor Refsland
Meditation helps to clear your mind off of any clutter. The process of quieting down your thoughts opens the door to a more creative environment in your mind. So rather than having a rollercoaster of thoughts going all over the place all of the time, you’re able to naturally relax into a state of clarity which helps you focus on a single thought with attention, and mindfulness. Meditation is a wonderful technique for cultivating a broader perspective in life, including that of your work and passions.
Want to learn a solid meditation practice at home? Read my How to meditate guide that will show you ways to get started today.
You can practice meditation at work, at home, or somewhere in the park during your break. It’s an effortless task, and can take up as little or as much time as you prefer.
How to meditate at work.
- Step 1: Find a quiet space — Sit comfortably with your back straight, take a few deep breaths and slowly close your eyes. Become aware of your surroundings, breathe consciously and relax.
- Step 2: Let thoughts go — Fundamentals of meditation teach us to observe the present moment, rather than attach yourself to thoughts. Let that stuff go, make a mental note of letting go.
- Step 3: Just breathe — Enjoy the process of sitting still for a moment, notice the sensations of your breathing pattern, and relax. Take as long or as little as feels comfortable to you. Just breathe.
This last process outlined is visibly simple, but good and practical enough for you to try.
My productivity levels since starting meditation have reached completely new heights, which I attribute to meditations ability to clear your mind in ways that you haven’t really experienced in life before.
Before meditation my mind was like an awfully organized library, whereas today this library has been neatly organized so that everything and anything I require is accessible with ease.
What’s your day to day workflow for being more productive? I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas in the comments below. It’s fascinating to learn about productivity hacks that others use to improve their work experience, and ultimately their life.