It’s that time of year again to start our New Year’s resolutions. One common resolution is to be more productive with our time. We’re all guilty of procrastination on some level, and 2018 can be the year to banish it for good! Okay, well maybe we can all settle for just getting a little more work done.
Here are eight ideas to improve your personal productivity in 2018.
1. Keep your brain sharp
Ever walk into a room and forget why you’re there? It happens to the best of us, but it’s a sign that the brain isn’t running as smoothly as it could.
Imagine how much time you’d save if only you didn’t have to stand there scratching your head, and then retracing your steps to remember what you needed from that room.
If you want to stay productive, your brain is your most powerful tool. When your brain is sharp, not only will you remember more, but you’ll be able to process information faster and make better decisions.
To keep your brain working at its peak, eat three balanced meals every day and avoid excess alcohol. Alcohol affects the brain by diminishing your memory and overall cognitive abilities.
2. Actively avoid distractions
Here you are sitting down to finally tackle your work email, and you get a Facebook notification that your best bud just went live. How could you miss that?
So, you watch and then tell yourself you’ll just spend five minutes reading updates after. Then, it’s time for that email. But something else comes up.
Technology addiction is a major source of distraction these days, but it’s not the only one. To avoid distractions, put your phone on airplane mode or “do not disturb” while you’re working on something important.
Also, avoid opening your browser or other apps while you’re working. And set a beginning and end time for each task.
For example, you may plan to read emails between 1:00 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. If you have a deadline, you’re less likely to get distracted and walk away from what you were doing.
Scheduling is an important part of being productive, but it’s important to understand that things don’t always go according to plan. If something important comes up while you’re going about your day, remain flexible. You should be able to create a new plan on-the-fly to account for everything you have to do.
Sometimes, you simply can’t do everything. In these moments, just let it go. As long as you’re trying your best to improve productivity, there are always things you can add to tomorrow’s plan.
4. Create a routine
A good routine could be the difference between being productive and being a procrastinator. When you handle one thing every day at the same time, there’s no question about what you should be doing at that moment. You just do it because it’s your routine.
If you don’t already, start by getting up at the same time every day. Your morning routine should include exercise and breakfast to set the tone for a healthy and productive day.
From there, focus on adding any repetitive tasks to your routine. Some spontaneity is good, but a day full of the stuff leaves too much of your day open for procrastination.
5. Take more breaks
Taking breaks when you’re trying to get things done may seem counterintuitive, but recent research tells us that we may be more productive after a break.
One study even suggests that we’d be doing ourselves a disservice to focus on a single task for a prolonged period of time.
But just because you’re breaking from one thing doesn’t mean you can’t be productive in another area. Maybe you need to take a break from work, but you can use that time to work on your exercise goals with a walk around the building.
6. Focus on measurable results
Motivation is a key factor in staying productive, and there’s nothing more motivating than checking items off of your to-do list. Start your day with things you can easily check off, and then you can spend some time on tasks that will remain ongoing.
Next, make it a habit to measure results from your tasks. If you can track progress and know that your efforts are producing a good outcome, you’ll be more motivated to continue with other tasks. Sometimes, that feeling of accomplishment is all that keeps us going.
7. Try a productivity app
If you’re stuck, consider trying one of the many productivity apps on the marketplace. Many of them are free to use, so it’s worth a shot. What works for one person may not work as well for another, so keep trying different things to see what sticks.
Here are a few popular productivity apps:
- Pomodoro – Instead of being one app, Pomodoro is a category of productivity apps based on the Pomodoro Technique, which purports that we’re most productive when we take mini-breaks every 25 minutes. Developed by Francesco Cirillo in his college years, this technique allows you to focus only on one task for a short period of time before you take a break and get back to work. The idea is kind of akin to the concept of taking everything day-by-day. Instead, with the Pomodoro technique, you’re taking everything in 25-minute increments.
- Any.do – Any.do has a simple interface that most users appreciate. It consolidates your calendar, emails, and to-dos and allows you to set reminders for anything. This app can help remind you to keep your day on schedule.
- Gyst – Gyst is an app that helps you stay organized by consolidating texts, contacts, and calendars in one place. You can also use this app to help prioritize.
If these don’t resonate with you, don’t worry. There are more to choose from on iTunes or Google Play.
8. Learn to delegate
The great thing about these tips is that it doesn’t matter how productive you are today. Regardless of whether you spend your days scrolling through Facebook, going from meeting to meeting, or chasing the kids around the mall, you can use these tips to make more out of the time you have.