If you constantly feel like you don’t have enough time for anything, and you’re struggling to fit things in on a daily or weekly basis, then you’re definitely not alone. The question is how do you increase your productivity and get the important things done when you’re having a hectic work week?
Time, or should I say, lack of it, is one of the biggest challenges most of us face, and if you’re in the throws of trying to find a new job, leaning a new skill to prepare for a career change, or trying to work on a side hustle, then things get even trickier!
But that’s not all, as women we often wear lots of different hats, we are daughters, partners, wives, mothers, friends, confidants, the list goes on and at any given time, these different roles we play can mean added responsibilities which require even more of us and of our time.
Trying to achieve your goals while staying on top of anything else life might throw your way needs serious focus and time management.
So how can you increase you productivity and what can you do to make sure that the really important things for you still get done, even if your list of important things has grown and is taking a life of its own?
I’ve recently moving back home to help my mum following a knee operation, which led to her being in hospital for almost a whole month. During this time, I’ve had to adapt my schedule to fit in hospital visits, making meals for 3 students, my day job and keeping up with things at She Owns Success, and I can tell you, it’s taught me a whole lot about managing time effectively so I wanted to share with you some of the most helpful strategies that I’ve found when it comes to juggling priorities and increasing productivity.
Here are 10 ways that you can increase your productivity and keep you on track with your goals, no matter what life throws at you.
1. Prepare meals in advance
One of my biggest timesavers has been meal preparation. Rather than cooking from scratch on a daily basis, I’ve found that preparing and cooking meals for each weak as a batch process has left me free during the working week to stay out of the kitchen and able to focus on the important tasks.
Whether you’ve got a big group to cook for, a family, or even if it’s just you, preparing weekly meals on a Saturday or Sunday means that come the busy week, you spend minimal time in the kitchen, and save valuable time which you can use to do something else.
Now It’s not that I hate cooking, I actually quite enjoy it, but when it comes to priorities, especially during the week, when there are just so many other things going on, if I can find a way to eat well, and still save time then I’m all in! And i’m talking at least 2 hours a week saved. Imagine what you can do with an extra 2 hours a week, and that’s being conservative.
My favourite meals to batch prepare can either be made in one pot or simply go in the oven, while I get on with something else.
2. Get organised and plan ahead ( goal setting for the coming week, set priorities and write to do list the night before)
During the past 5 weeks, I’ve seen a very sharp correlation between my productivity and whether or not I’ve planned and organised my day and priorities the night before.
I’m not just talking about writing a long list. One of the most helpful things has been writing down my top 3 priorities. The things that if nothing else gets done, must be competed.
This hasn’t just helped me to keep focused, it’s also helped me to keep making progress, even if I might not have done as much as I would typically have liked, given the situation, which in turn has helped me to stay motivated.
Doing this the night before is critical, as I found that trying to do this early in the morning, made me feel more scattered, and made it less likely for me to get into a focused frame of mind and in flow.
3. Wake up earlier
Another great way that I’ve found to increase your productivity is to wake up earlier. One thing have done lately is read The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. And since I’ve put what I’ve learned into practice, I can definitely say that it’s made a difference.
On those days when I wake up early and follow a morning rituals and routine, I’ve felt more in control, more organised, less stressed and my day has generally tended to go more smoothly.
So, if like me you’ve got into the habit of hitting snooze, then you might want to grab a copy of the book and start your own miracle morning practice.
At the very least, waking up earlier will give you that breathing space before life begins and the tie to do one thing that you want, before it all kicks off, whether that’s reading, meditating or something else.
4. Get enough quality sleep
I’ve always been a bit of a night owl, and when there’s lots going on, this is my go to. But Staying up till silly o’clock, then getting up early, over and over is not the way to stay on point.
After a week with little quality sleep, I noticed that I was getting less patient, felt busier- even though nothing had changed, and less effective.
So, if you really want to stay on top of things, don’t forgo sleep, in the long run it will not be worth it.
Here are a few points to remember about lack of sleep and its effects:
It can impair your ability to think clearly and remember things
It can impact your mood making you more irritable, short-tempered, vulnerable to stress and less able to deal with it.
Lack of sleep can make it harder to pay attention and focus
5. Develop good habits and create a morning routine.
While I’ve already highlighted how waking up earlier has made my days run more smoothly and helped me be more productive and focused, my best days have typically started with a structured morning routine involving, gratitude, a review of my goals and exercise.
While the thought of having a routine might seem boring or restrictive, there are also a lot of great benefits to having a routine.
Some benefits to having a daily routine include:
Removing the need to make daily decisions about certain tasks and instead putting these activities on autopilot, freeing up your mind for more creative thought
More order and predictability in your life
You avoid making impulsive decisions which may not be in your bed interest longterm
You can ensure you make room for self care on a daily basis by scheduling it in and sticking to the routine
6. Schedule time for breaks
The more busy we are the less time we feel we have to take a break from our work. In reality, the benefits of taking a break far outweigh any concerns around time we may have and this is a great way to increase your productivity during busy periods.
Firstly, have you ever worked on one task for hours on end? Depending what the task is, chances are, after hours and hours, you’re likely to get bored or fatigued.
Taking small breaks as you work through will not only reduce the chances of you getting bored, you’re more likely to stay focused for longer and increase your productivity.
Secondly, taking breaks is good for retention and recall. Studies have shown that it’s not just sleep that’s good for brain function. Rest periods while awake can also improve your memory.
Finally, taking breaks away from work will give you the space and time to review your goals and to make sure you’re working to the right things.
Have you ever been stuck on a task, unable to make any headway, then stepped away for a short period. What happened? You probably found that when you came back to the task, you were able to come up with some solutions that you couldn’t think of before.
Taking breaks has also been found to increase our ability to think globally and see the bigger picture.
7. Practice saying no
Since so many of us struggle with lack of time, developing our ability to say no is one of the most crucial skills we can learn in order to get more of our time and life back and is a simple yet highly effective way to increase your productivity.
But this can be easier said than done. There are lots of reasons why saying no can be so difficult including fear of conflict, not wanting to hurt or disappoint people and worrying about what the other person might think.
But, if you want to succeed in your career and in your life, and since you’re on this site, i’m guessing you do, then saying no is something that you need to practice and get used to. However hard it might be.
If you’re not convinced, then just consider this famous quote:
The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything – Warren Buffett
8. Time block and batch your work
One thing that I’ve come to realise is that multi tasking, or shifting from one task to another very different task is not productive. For me, I find that it prevents me getting into the right mindset needed to complete either task very well. For instance, if I need to do something creative, then I need to be in a creative frame of mind, so alternating between creative and non creative tasks makes both more difficult.
Not only this, there’s also the element of set up and tear down time with certain activities. If something takes 15 minutes or more to get set up for, then it just makes good sense to do that thing in bulk/ batch because longer term you save on preparation. Like in the case of batch cooking.
This means, blocking out chunks of time to really focus on activities without distraction ( until a planned break, of course), and also completing groups of the same, or similar activities in blocks together.
Batching doesn’t only increase your productivity, it also helps you get into the zone or into “flow”.
So, if you’re not doing it already and you want to increase your productivity then this is a great place start.
Here are just a few examples of some things you could try batching to increase your productivity and efficiency:
- Checking and responding to emails
- Making calls
9. Cut out distractions
I recently listened to a podcast episode where Anne McKevitt, Serial entrepreneur and business advisor to the super successful, gave her top tips for focus.
As her top tip, Anne advised that if you have something really important to work on, it’s a good idea to check yourself into a hotel and turn off all contact t the outside world.
This might sound extreme and might not be the answer if you’re trying to finish that presentation before your next team meeting, but it does highlight the importance of cutting out distractions, if this is the advice given to those at the top.
When you consider that overtime you are distracted from a task, it can take 23 minutes to regain focus, a hotel doesn’t sound like such a bad idea. If you’re surrounded by distractions, people popping by your desk, or popping their head into the office, unexpected phone calls, and checking and responding to emails, 23 minutes can quickly add up to many hours lost.
So, even if you don’t check into a hotel (at least not yet anyway), you might want to find another technique for cutting out distractions so you can stay in the zone.
Here are just a few strategies for cutting out distractions in order to increase your productivity:
- Let people know that you are unavailable, for how long and when you will be available again
- Turn off email and other notifications
- If you love tea ( like me) grab yourself a thermos flask ( large) so you need less trips to the kitchen and your drink stays hot for longer
- Organise your workspace so you have all you need around you and within easy reach so you’re not spending time searching for items to get your job done
10. Don’t take on too much/Be realistic with your time
We have a tendency to overestimate what we can achieve in a day or a week and underestimate what we can achieve in a year or 5 years.
The impact of this is that we end up with too much on our plates, are likely to complete less by being overwhelmed and less focused and subsequently end up beating ourselves up over it because we’re not achieving the things we want.
Instead of trying to do everything now, why not be super selective and choose to do less.
This way, you’re likely to complete what you start, stay motivated and will accomplish more over the long haul.
Here’s a great process that you can use to help you select the most important things to you so that you can focus on achieving those, and nothing else ( As used by Warren Buffet)
- Write a list of up to 20 things you really want to achieve in your career and life
- Of these, pick the 5 that are the most important to you right now
- Cross off the rest and only do things that move you towards those 5 things
Remember you can achieve anything you want, but you can’t do everything at the same time and sometimes less is definitely more. The best way to increase your productivity is to be more selective and brutal with your time, you’ll be able to achieve far more of the things you really want long term. Not to mention, learning to be selective and only focusing on the most important tasks will mean your working week is a lot less stressful and much more successful.
How do you stay productive during the work week? Share your tips in the comments below.