Mastering Work Productivity
Part One: Productivity and Time-Management Series
How to master work productivity is a question for the ages. These days, technology screams for our attention, and time seems to disappear right before our eyes; it’s more important than ever to find solutions for increasing our quality of work without losing our minds.
Here are four simple steps for increasing productivity by the day, week, or month — whatever your preference — which will enable you to engage in better quality work practices.
Step One: Get Creative to Eliminate Distraction
Some of the biggest obstacles to productivity are distraction, noise, and interruption. Try to find a few peaceful places to work.
Tips for Better Daily Work Spaces
- An empty conference or study room at a public or university library is very quiet, and you’re unlikely to be interrupted by people you know
- Designate a private, possibly soundproof room of your house for focused work, with instructions not to be disturbed for a set time — or get radical and build a work shed of your own that’s unattached
- An uncrowded park or quiet natural setting with your notebook/laptop may do the trick — best to leave your phone off or in the car
- If you’re in a workplace environment, try taking coffee breaks or your lunch hour in an unused conference room, quiet lobby area, or outdoor space that’s rarely used
The key here is to get creative and look for peaceful areas to concentrate that you haven’t thought of before. You may want to tour your workplace or building with fresh eyes in search of that perfect spot no one uses.
Great Work Places for Weekly or Monthly Productivity Goals
If you like to measure productivity by the week or month, you may need better options for an undisturbed work environment. Whether you’re trying to write a book, or finish a presentation that’s due in the next few weeks, here are some ways to score additional dedicated work time.
- Ask a close friend or neighbor if you can work at their house while they’re away (I used to get a year of homeschool planning in while my best friend was away for a long weekend)
- If you have a little extra money, invest in yourself by renting a room at a nearby hotel for a day or two
- Maybe you have relatives or friends who own a second home or getaway within a couple hours’ driving time
- Take a pet sitting job — you’ll get paid to hang out in a quiet house where you can be productive away from the distractions of home
Step Two: Carve Out Time for Quality Work
Most people would agree that you must put some time into producing quality work. That is the goal — time. It can seem impossible to find in the busyness of daily life. Practice finding and making time.
- Inform your partner/spouse that you’ll be working on a project for a few hours each weekend; maybe they can take the kids for an outing in exchange for the returned favor to them
- Single parents can ask a friend to do a kid-swap for one or two weekend days per month — just like it sounds, they take yours for a few hours/day, you take theirs another time
- If you’re truly serious about finding time for something important, get up an hour or two earlier
- Ask your boss if you can shorten your lunch and leave a half hour early for a while — or maybe it’s possible to work two longer days per week in exchange for two shorter ones; you can use those extra hours for quality work
- Designate 2-3 nights per week with no TV and use those few hours to tackle unfinished personal or professional projects — or better yet, to begin a project ahead of time so a deadline won’t cause unnecessary stress
- Learn to say no, occasionally, to social invites — this could be drinks after work, spending every lunch hour with people, or weekend football gatherings and parties
We all have time hiding in places we don’t expect. Observe how you spend your time for a week, and see if you can find a few hours to be productive with something that’s important to you.
Step Three: Master Your Concentration Skills for Maximum Productivity
Our society is severely out of practice where it comes to concentrating on tasks for any length of time. Multitasking has become the enemy of focus, and demands for our attention are everywhere.
- Practice having screen-free days or evenings after work — this may be very hard, but you can start small — even two hours away from a screen is good progress
- Work up to having a full weekend day or entire weekend without technology interruptions and see how much productive work you can get done
- Read more books, or a newspaper, regularly — many of us have a hard time sitting quietly and concentrating only on the page in front of us
- Unfortunately, better focus isn’t gained by sheer willpower — it’s a “muscle” that needs strengthening and takes regular practice
- Take a class — something you’ve always wanted to learn, or to increase an important skill — studying will train your brain to concentrate on one task
“Efforts to deepen your focus will struggle if you don’t simultaneously wean your mind from a dependence on distraction.” Cal Newport
Step Four: Work Deeper, Not Longer
You don’t necessarily need several hours at once to produce high quality work you are proud of. What if you could take short chunks of time and commit to working deeper instead of longer?
If you follow the previous steps and practice limiting distraction, finding time, and increasing concentration, you’ve just set yourself up for the most productive step — working deeper.
You’ve Found Time and a Perfect Place to Work: Now Dive In
Power through that hour you’ve captured in the early morning, and don’t let anything get in your way. When thoughts wander, bring them back to your project and keep going. Have a cup of coffee or tea and a light snack for some early morning energy.
Quick breaks to stand, stretch, and focus your eyes on something else for a few minutes can help you maintain focus for your chosen amount of time. They’re especially helpful when you hit a block in your thoughts or work.
For a weekend getaway, or day at a hotel, do the necessary things like eat, bathroom, and stretching breaks. However, set a timer for the few hours you want to dedicate to your work, and don’t accept any distractions. If your mind wanders, use a notepad to capture worries or to-do lists for later.
End On a Good Note and Enjoy Your Success
When your time’s up, stop and reward yourself. Keep working if you’re on a roll, but celebrate the win if you’re done or ready to quit. The more successful you are in these short, deep work sessions, the more you’ll look forward to your dedicated quality work time.
Speaking of quality work and focus, the book pictured above is revolutionary! It completely exposed my lack of concentration and addiction to technology. Deep Work, by Cal Newport, is easily the best book I’ve read in the last two years.
You can get your own copy of the book, Deep Work, here through Amazon. I cannot recommend it enough. (I am an Amazon affiliate, so I earn a small commission if you purchase with this link — at no extra cost to you. But this book is so good, I’d give 1000 of them away myself if I could!)
Seeing what you’ve accomplished is a natural high of its own. Be proud, and realize that you can train yourself to be more productive — even in a world with a million distractions.
READ PART TWO: Time Management and Prioritizing Tips
READ PART THREE: How to Make a Daily Routine and Stick With It
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