We all want to be productive. But… (There's always that 'but'.) You get distracted when there's less structure in your life. The last two years have brought more unstructured time for our minds. That makes us flit to the next thing before we really even get into the first. That's a problem.
Can productivity hacks help here? To some extent: yes. But to change that, you should create a structure or routine. For instance, use a planner, avoid emails on weekends, or designate time for work-related and personal meetings. Look at those things like at bricks of certainty. They are supposed to keep you attentive a long way.
Why Is Time so Precious?
Time management is essential. No doubts here. Today, people use different apps, write down their plans for the day. Or google how to find out an ideal productivity method that would help them stay productive no matter what.
Being a co-founder of a software developing company, I can already track the point where my team is stepping on the burnout route. Each team has a member that starts underperforming or just grumbling about life in general. That is the first sign that people need some support from a team lead and HR manager in the first place to overcome these times.
Besides, my words are proven by Asana's report depicting 2020 in such statistics where 71% of respondents experienced burnout, 87% worked late, and 26% kept on missing deadlines.
Despite a role or position, many of us tend to put things off till the last minute. Why? Let's be honest, we are all bombarded with information. That spins up ideas, but also makes us lost in those ideas too. So the question 'How to be more productive?' bothers CEOs, founders, C-level managers, software engineers, accounting managers, marketers equally.
Productivity hacks work. True or false? Let's try to find that out.
Post Pandemic and Productivity Hacks
Covid-19 and the pandemic itself are often manipulated and complicated. Try to look at it from a distance. We tend to talk about it as a collective experience and how we got through it. Yes, many people have been beamed up from the offices to homes one week in March around the whole world. Was it actually collective? Not really. My experience differs from yours for sure.
As well, getting back to the office is quite unique for each of us. Some feel excited; others are overwhelmed, distracted and less productive, or annoyed. But did you miss your coworkers?
Yes, flipping back and forth between isolation at home and office socialization can be jarring. But we have already proved to evolve and adapt quickly. And I'm sure that many companies like ours support a hybrid strategy: work from home or the office, or mix up the schedule. This aims to help get back to the work from the office without getting sucked back into always-on mode. Feeling alert and stressed doesn't make you productive.
My schedule is mixed, too. Sometimes I work in the office; sometimes from home. And one of the team leads asked me: 'Dima, it looks like you are always on the go. Today you work from home, and tomorrow you are in the office. Where are you the most productive?' I thought for a second or two and said: 'The place itself doesn’t matter. Just choose the place where any kind of distractions is minimized, and you can focus. If music helps you get into the working rhythm, listen to it while you are working.'
Office vs Work-from-Home: Which one is better? The place itself doesn’t matter. Any place is perfect until there are no distracting factors. Well, I hear you saying that
A. working from home means that your wife, kids, or pets will interrupt you somehow, and
B. in the office, that might be your colleagues who got many work and non-work questions.
What to do? (No. Desert island isn't the quick fix.) Choose the place where any kind of distraction is minimized, and you can focus. Music can help you get into the personal work rhythm. That way, you have 3-4 productive hours, which is a lot for a day.
How to Be Productive?
Productivity is an admirable quality and skill many people try to develop. How often do you think about how to do more without sacrificing performance? A lot, I suppose. Multitasking is dead, right? But we still juggle too many tasks and do that at the expense of our families and social life.
Rituals for work promise to reinforce good habits, enhance productivity blockers, build relationships with co-workers, and motivate you. Those rituals can be pretty creative, and there is a lot of information about them on the internet.
You know what? Those rituals are often dead simple: drinking a cup of coffee in the morning, setting your phone black&white, getting dressed to work, or listening to the 'music at work’ playlists, and so on. Let's say it mildly: they just don’t work.
Like the bespoken productivity techniques that suggest you eat the frog or piece of an elephant, apply the 80/20 principle or task batching. They are all passive and exhaust themselves faster than you adopt them in your routine.
Digital habits. That is an integral part and really impacts the performance and results. Nothing groundbreaking, just a few digital habits worth getting used to.
- Get your list of reliable resources (not bloggers, but experts in your industry or niche) to be aware of the latest news and trends.
- Define the limits for email check and response, Slack, social media check-ups.
- Mute the notifications while you’re working.
- Plan shorter meetings or switch the least important ones to the email thread.
- Choose the place where any kind of distractions are minimized, and you can focus.
What Productivity Techniques Work?
We take on more projects, peek at every ping and buzz of our laptops and smartwatches, and tightly believe that everything we're doing is of utmost importance. And that sounds fine, right? On the flip side, even the most ambitious, smart, and passionate of us can't manufacture mitunes out of thin air.
How about thinking about your time like a finite resource? Apply your budgeting mindset and embrace the reality of allocating your hours. Or saying "No" to some projects, meetings, and tasks. It sounds a bit scary, doesn't it? But it proves to be workable and productive in the long run.
Among the numerous productivity techniques, I’d suggest you try
- Time blocking. Find a time and place where you can work at least 3 hours without any distraction from family or colleagues.
- Journal your plans, goals, and tasks for a week/month/quarter/etc. It sounds trivial, but it actually works. You visualize, track and control your tasks, reduce overtime and prevent burnout.
Managing time isn't only for individuals. Companies should identify areas where their employees are spending significant time poorly (i.e., ineffective meetings or failed collaborative efforts.) If we start enhancing time management efforts on the individual level, we'll see improvements across each team and department.
Why Do Many Productivity Techniques Fail?
Productivity hacks promise better time management. Well, there's no guarantee that your job is going to become completely stress-free after you start using productivity tools or techniques like 'time blocking' or 'eat the frog'. But checking off some to-dos set you on the right track. A good starting point.
Can productivity hacks save you from reaching the end of your usefulness? That's actually a good question.
Many tips, rituals and tricks fail for a simple reason: they focus on a particular technique or system. You get the general idea of a productivity system that is supposed to solve all your productivity problems. But they also should guide you on how to change your perception of time and behaviour. If you don't get every element, the puzzle isn't complete, and the hack doesn't work.
Approach your time the way you approach your money. It is a finite and quite limited resource. Managing your time at work can be difficult. Especially, if you have to switch from office to WFH and vice versa frequently. You may change the scenery but preserve the standards.
As for productivity hacks, sometimes there's just no work-through-it fix that can adequately address the problem. So, instead of learning the hard way which productivity hack works, try to build strict digital habits and stick to them. Be careful with creating rituals, as they may lead you in the wrong direction.