5 Tips that Can Increase Your Productivity

by Miranda Marquit · 14 comments

How many of us wish there were more hours in the day? Sometimes, it seems as though you just don’t have enough time to finish everything on your to-do list. I know that first hand, because there are days I struggle with productivity too.

Whether you are trying to get more done at work and impress your boss so you can get a raise, or whether you just want to do more around the house, increased productivity can help you feel better about what you are getting done. And, of course, if you work from home or have a side business, increased productivity is vital.

Here are 5 tips that can help you increase your productivity:

1. Prioritize Your To-Do List

Your first step should be to prioritize your to-do list so that you are able to focus on the most important items first. Having a task list can help you stay focused on what needs to be done, and prioritizing it helps ensure that the vital items are accomplished first. There are a number of tools, including Tasks in Gmail and various to-do list applications for your smart phone, that can help you do this. My favorite, though, is a small whiteboard, or the every-trusty paper and pencil.

2. Focus on One Thing at a Time

Stop multi-tasking. Really, stop. Multi-tasking just splits your attention and slows you down on multiple projects. Devote your focus to one task at a time. Do that well, check it off, and move on. Don’t let other items intrude on you while you are working on that one task.

3. Schedule Time for Smaller Tasks

Some tasks are smaller, and can be accomplished quickly. They also seem to go together. Answering emails might be one of these tasks. Instead of answering each email as it comes in, schedule a specific time to work on email. You might decide to work on email for the first 15 minutes of your day, and then check back in after lunch. Whether it’s email, social media promotion, cleaning up your work area, or engaging in a number of small, connected tasks, schedule a specific time to do that.

4. Set a Timer

One of the popular ideas for increasing productivity is to set a timer. This works especially well with tasks that can’t be easily finished in one session. Break it down. Instead of trying to work on it until it’s done, set a time and work on it for 45 minutes to an hour. You might be surprised at what you can accomplish with this dedicated focus. Then, take a break and start something else. You can come back to this larger task another time.

5. Schedule in Break Time

One thing that helps me is to schedule in time for a break. I schedule in half an hour for lunch each day. I eat my lunch while I read a good book. This allows me the chance to relax a bit and recharge. I also like to take time out for a short meditation. A break can help you refocus your energy and come back to your project refreshed.

What are some of your productivity techniques?

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Don says:

    Lots of good comments. I use a bit of mind control to focus. If distracting thoughts come in I just refuse them or jot down an important item so I won’t forget it.

    For breaks at work (carpentry residential), I let the body really rest physically and think about anything else but the task I’m doing.

    In the office, at home, I get up for a few minutes hourly and move a bit. Might take a mid day nap now that I’m an old guy.

    Knowing when I’m best at different tasks is also helpful. For me, office work best from about 6-10 AM if I can wait and schedule it then, workouts about 3-6 PM. I rarely do physical work after 6 PM.

    In general I exercise regularly both aerobics and resistance plus some stretching which greatly energizes me throughout life and calms me as well. I think very clearly after a workout and even shoot target better with my bow. Brisk walks at a minimum if your not the jock type should be very helpful and avoid over eating too, a real energy drain. best to everyone, d

  • Using the To Do List will always help. And always write it down on paper.

  • Jolie says:

    I can multitask better than most people because I have ADHD, but I do my best work when focusing on one thing at a time, like the article suggests. But my boss insists I take each interruption as it comes, and then gets upset when I forget or misplace things as a result! What gives?

  • Sean H says:

    I love the timer idea…I’m going to try that!!!

  • Thad P says:

    I 100% agree about scheduling a time for doing smaller tasks. Just queue them up and get them done. I also find walking away for a break of great help. Getting up from the desk and moving does wonders for my productivity.

  • Long says:

    A To-Do list that is prioritized is important. Having one that is visible is even more important. I noticed that when I started digitizing everything, and my to-do list went paperless, I was less productive. It’s easy to apply “out of sight, out of mind,” when a to-do list doesn’t stare you in the face all the time. I to write lists of different categories and put them on the wall that my desk faces. Every time I sit down, I can see what I need to do.

  • moving home says:

    Good advice. I have been a firm believer in point 5 for a long time. Taking a break can really improve productivity. Working for too long can end with you working really slowly, being distracted by small things every couple of minutes and in the end causing you to disdain doing work. Take a break every couple of hours and make sure its long enough for you to feel refreshed when you go back to work.

  • Brandon says:

    Great points. Prioritizing your to-do list is by far the most important. Doing the five easy to-do items won’t really help you get anywhere especially if you believe in the 80/20 rule.

  • Sean J says:

    “Stop multi-tasking. Really, stop. Multi-tasking just splits your attention and slows you down on multiple projects.”

    This X 100! I’ve seen productivity increases by simply focusing on one task at a time, for a scheduled amount of time. I’ve been able to focus on the current task more effectively and feel less overwhelmed. Good point.

  • Carl Lassegue says:

    Taking a break is so important. It’s really hard for most people to keep their focus for extended periods of time. By taking a break, you will come back refreshed and more productive.

  • Jean says:

    Maintaining a to do tasklist is a must. You can think of certain things to do but later on forget about it when you finally get some time to attend to chores.

    I try to only set myself up for tasks I know I can complete or else I schedule them for another day if possible. I hate ending up in a situation where I’ve dug myself in a deep hole and running out of time.

    -Jean

    • Padgett says:

      I’m with you Jean. That to-do list really keeps your eyes on the prize–especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Somehow seeing it all written out slows things down and makes them feel attainable.

      • Jean says:

        Indeed, it is somehow very much reassuring when you have your tasks laid out in front of you in writing so you know that’s all you have to do.

        -Jean

    • Marbella says:

      Hi Jean,
      Maintaining a todo tasklist is a must. I agree to 100%, but I live in Spain, the sun is shining, the wine tastes very good as well as traditional Spanish cuisine, beautiful women, etc. so I use the Spanish word “manjana” and we do it tomorrow instead.

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