Summer is coming to a swift close and it's time for us to turn up the productivity. It can be an ugly word, but if you look at productivity as making the most of your available time, you can maximise your output without making a pact with the devil.
Start time blocking
This is a time management method allowing you to focus solely on designated tasks during an allocated time. The opposite of multi-tasking, you time block by looking through your to-do list, scheduling one task or type of task, and while you are working on that, everything else is on hold including answering emails, messages and the phone.
If time blocking seems restrictive, look at it from a macro perspective. Block out time for emails, working on clients or planning, but leave it high level so you get into the practice of working in one zone at a time without distractions and leaving a little wiggle room.
Schedule days accordingly
Hand in hand with time blocking, scheduling similar tasks can make your days much more productive. If your job is both left and right brain active, and to a degree many are, consider a day of creativity and then other days of administration, client meetings or analytical tasks. Switching between the two and expecting your brain to configure quickly is difficult, even with a break in between.
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Slay your inbox
A clogged inbox is your nemesis. Regardless of your system, you can create labels or folders for people or organisations you receive regular correspondence from so emails bypass your inbox and go straight to those folders. Time block clearing emails first thing and then at intervals throughout the day where you reply to emails and action what is required. Use flags or stars to prioritise messages and if you've read something but need to come back to it, mark it as unread. Keep email subscriptions and promotional emails away from work addresses and don't be afraid to hit unsubscribe or mass delete those you don't want or need.
Master basic tech tools
Your calendar will be invaluable once you master time blocking so make sure it syncs to all your devices. Set realistic time limits to apps on your phone that you may waste time on during the day. Aim to complete your work at work so you needn't stay late or take it home with you because you've been distracted and wasted time online. Noise cancelling headphones can help cut unnecessary noise. Even if you are not listening to anything, the noise cancelling feature can drown out a lot.
Plan, plan, plan
Trying to be productive without a plan is futile. Whether you make a plan for the week ahead on a Friday afternoon or you make one at the end of each day for tomorrow, knowing what you are doing before you get to work means your head will already be in the game. Granted, sometimes we get thrown a curveball which must be attended to immediately but knowing what you are doing and when you are doing it means you can dive in and get the job done. Don't feel guilty for taking time to plan either. No boss or manager has got to their position without it, so they should recognise you are taking the time to plan positively.
Remember that no human is productive every hour of every day. Taking breaks and prioritising rest, leisure time and sleep is as important as anything above. If you are really unmotivated at work, perhaps it's time to seek an exciting new challenge this new year.