Shake off the Lockdown funk | Y&M Productivity Hacks

In a time where the world is upside down and we all have a need to look at our businesses in a new way, evaluating the way we work can help us be more effective and our days more efficient.

We are all working in new ways and harder than ever before to ensure our business is successful during such a difficult time – but are we productive? How many of us can spend a full day being busy, but get to the end of the day and wonder…. what we have actually achieved?

If we continue to work in the same way – can we expect to see different results? Here’s our top productivity hacks to help ensure your working time is productive.

1 ~ Stop Multitasking

Whilst it may seem more efficient to do multiple things at once, are you really making progress with the task you are attempting to do? Or are you even doing them well?

Studies have shown that multitasking can actually decrease your productivity by up to 40%. So although it may feel you are ticking off some of your to-do list, none of it was given 100% of your focus and expertise – which may actually cost you more time in the future if you have to go back and redo some of this work. Research has also shown that when those who multitask try to focus on one thing – they are actually work less efficiently than those who rarely attempt to multitask.

This is one of the best, yet most difficult, habits to break. As soon as it feels that time is short – the habit of multi tasking is so easy to slip back into. But having the right tools and a team around you who understand the false-efficiency of this habit, you will be able to focus on individual tasks and ticking off your to do list with confidence.

2 ~ Set a goal each day 

To forget about multitasking, you have to retrain your mind to concentrate on single tasks.

This goes against everything our busy, digital lives encourages us to do but the solution to this problem also lies in the same digital tech that exacerbates it. There are a variety of  productivity apps to help organise your workflow and keep focused on the task at hand. These tools encourage you to set a single goal for each working day, which constantly reinforces the idea of focusing on individual tasks. You can break daily goals into multiple tasks or work sessions, where you’ll only work on that specific task {and nothing else} for the allocated time.

That way … there’s no time left for multitasking!

3 ~ Identify your most important tasks and set a schedule

Before your day starts, whether it’s the first thing in the morning or the night before, create a plan of attack for the day. Start by writing down your tasks that are already scheduled for a specific time, such as your working hours, meetings, doctors’ appointments, etc. Take the time to prioritise the top three tasks for the day. Be clear with what you write and use more than a three-word description.

For example, ‘research Social trends’ is bad. Instead, use  ‘Research the new Instagram algorithm to boost our organic engagement’. This will prevent you from drifting to semi-related tasks that don’t actually accomplish anything.

Then see how you can effectively fill in the rest of the time. Write each task that you want to get completed into your schedule so there is no question what you’re doing next once something has been completed. This will take out any of the guesswork as you move through your day and prevent you from accidentally wasting time because it hadn’t been assigned to anything.

4 ~ Take regular breaks

Building regular, short breaks into working time increases focus and productivity. Studies have shown this gives your mind a chance to recover from intense focus but you have to be smart about how you spend your downtime. Your instinct might be to open Facebook or Instagram but this digital onslaught of content doesn’t allow your mind to truly switch off.

To maximise the benefit of each break, it helps to avoid anything that’s mentally taxing in any kind of way. This is especially true for short breaks where you’re going to have to get back to work in a matter of minutes. For a five-minute break to actually count, you’re going to want to avoid anything that divides your attention, involves any decision-making or requires concentration.

Your mind is hard at work during each session and now you want to focus as little as possible. The best thing you could do is zone out completely and think of nothing or meditate to relax your mind and body. Another good option is to do some yoga or stretches while keeping your mind clear, giving yourself a cognitive break but also an important physical break from sitting down.

While regular, short breaks are important to keep you fresh and focused, don’t skimp on taking a longer break during the day – typically the lunch hour. A longer break allows you to fully unwind and to take a 30 minute walk around outside, or a 20-minute nap, and sit down and eat a proper meal away from your desk. These are all essential activities for overall health and wellbeing, which will spill over positively into your work.

5 ~ Block distracting apps and websites

Research has shown that the average digital worker can’t go more than 6 minutes without checking their email or instant messaging. The digital nature of our work and social lives leaves us constantly checking for notifications and this constant distraction hampers our ability to focus on tasks for even short periods of time.

There are a number of website and app blocker tools on the market. You can create a list of apps and websites which will automatically be blocked during working sessions. You can even prevent notifications coming through during work hours and they’ll automatically come in once the session has finished. Don’t be afraid to use that ‘do not disturb’ function on both your phone and your email.

6  ~ Create a dedicated workspace

This one has never been more relevant than in recent times if you are working from home or remotely. Don’t just sit on the couch or at the dinner table – create a dedicated workspace where you can go to work and then leave it once you’re done.

If you’re working from home, take advantage of the space you have to create a home office dedicated for work and nothing else. You are creating a productive environment to have a productive day and keep it organised. Keeping an orderly work space will make you more efficient and calm. A self-imposed clean desk policy is a good place to start!

7 ~ Know when to say no. 

For some people saying no is hard, but if you really want to elevate your productivity levels then you can’t let people dictate your day.  Often we can take on more than we are able to do – whether that’s time physically or mentally. Others people’s requests do not have to take priority over our own workload.

8 ~ Tame your email inbox

Set aside time each day to check your emails. We could spend all day responding to emails as they come in, monitoring all of the notifications and adding tasks to our day. The ‘Four Hour Working Week’ suggests only checking your email for half an hour twice a day, once in the morning and once at night.

Ask yourself – does this email need my attention or is this just for information? In the digital world we live in, most of the communication we receive is via email – but is it all necessary? How many emails do you receive a day where you are copied in to a conversation that does not need your time and energy when trying to be more productive? Ask you team to copy you into less emails, but also think… do you need to copy people into your email? Could the conversation be more effective if done over the phone.

Once you have actioned an email – move it! Whether that be to another folder if you need to refer back to it or just hit that delete button – having a clear inbox makes us feel less overwhelmed with the thought of tasks yet to be done. There is also that sense of achievement when you look at a clear inbox.

9 ~ Keep a pen and pad nearby

Memories are notoriously unreliable and distracting thoughts can ruin concentration for the task in hand.  If you try and remember everything you need to do, you’re going to end up with a lot of unfinished tasks. Don’t take the risk, write down everything you need to remember. 

Doing this will remove that thought from your mind and you can get back to what you’re doing. Keeping a pen and pad works just fine, but feel free to use an app on your smartphone to do this. It’s really your preference. At the end of the day, go through this list of thoughts or tasks and move them to the relevant place – maybe tomorrow’s to do list?

Keep focused. Have a break. Share your Productivity Hacks with us.

Written by our Guest Author, Debbie Coates.

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