How to Improve Your Productivity in 10 Easy Steps

We all have the same number of hours in the day, but doesn’t it seem like some people get way more done in that time? They balance their side hustle, career, family, self-care, and other obligations while maintaining a healthy level of small-talk at the office. How? Through mastering your productivity skills, you too can wear 100 different hats in and day and still go to sleep stress-free. Check out the following tips to improve your productivity and lead a more efficient life.

1. Plan plan plan !
If you don’t have some form of planner or day schedule, get one. This is crucial for multiple reasons. First, being able to see which due dates or meetings are coming up will allow you to be prepared. Secondly, you can track habits that will ultimately lead to meeting your goals. For example, if you want to create a website for your side hustle but never seem to get around to it, make a note each day in your planner: “20 minutes on website building”. Every day you do the task, check it off. Planners, online or on paper, are crucial to being organized in your productivity.

2. Create your own deadlines
When you have deadlines at work, do you do everything you can to complete the work on time? Yes, and that’s how you should treat your own deadlines you set for yourself. If you want to run a marathon this year, launch your own company, or deepen your relationship with your spouse, having your own deadlines can light the fire you need to get to work. Start scheduling a couple small tasks every day that will eventually lead to you reaching those goals. Schedule a twenty-minute run before work today for your race next month, do research on launching a company and set a launch date, or spend time bonding with your love before your vacation next year. Sometimes you need the self-imposed pressure of a deadline to take your goals seriously.

3. Stop multitasking
This one’s hard for many busy-bodies out there. When you’re in the middle of typing a report and you hear your phone buzz with a new text message, do not check it. I repeat, stay on track with the task in front of you. Once the report is finished then you can have social media and cell phone time. An easy way to help yourself with this one is to turn off your phone’s notifications when you’re supposed to be working on something else. If it’s an emergency, people you love know where you work and will contact you. Put your phone away, close your email tab, and focus on the task at hand.

4. Put time limits on everything
Sometimes, if you focus on one project until its fully complete, other projects will fall to the back burner. The most efficient use of your time is to prioritize your top three most important tasks for the day, and then schedule the time you will work on them. You can even set an alarm when the hour is up, and you need to switch gears. The same goes for conference calls and phone calls. Some people are super chatty, but you have things to do! After twenty minutes, tell your colleagues you got to go. If it’s your mom on the phone, tell her you’ll talk to her later (and make a note to call her back later).

5. Do a time audit of your week
This is a helpful tool to see where your time is being wasted during the day. For one whole week, commit to tracking everything you do and the times you do it in a notebook. For example, from 6:00 to 6:30 I got ready for work. From 6:30 to 6:35 I scrolled through my Facebook feed. From 6:35 to 7:00 I walked the dog. etc. It’s tedious, but after a week you can analyze how much time you spent being productive. Remember that spending time with your family and relaxing are important tasks that deserve your time, watching four hours of Netflix on a Wednesday night does not.

6. Create an inspiring workspace
When you’re at your desk you should feel inspired by your surroundings, not stressed because it’s too cluttered or dirty. When you have too many objects that don’t inspire you laying around (i.e. paperweights, dead plants, product manuals, etc.) you won’t feel motivated to hustle. Take everything off your desk and walls, and only put back things you use or love. Put the rest of the junk in the trash, or at least in the back of the filing cabinet. Consider creating a vision board of your goals and dreams; you can look at it every day and know that all your hard work will pay off eventually.

7. Take regular breaks
Even if you must schedule these into your planner, make sure you are taking a quick break every 90 minutes or so. Stand up, stretch your body, and smile. If you can, go stand outside and breath the fresh air. Think about how awesome it’s going to be when you achieve your goals and how grateful you are for what you have. This could be a perfect time to go chat with your work friends or check in with your spouse. Once you’ve reset your body and mind, get back to work.

8. Spend your commute wisely
Most people spend 30-90 minutes commuting to and from work every day. That’s a solid chunk of time you could be doing something productive. Instead of scrolling mindlessly through your feed, try making a to-do list for the day and choosing what your main priorities are. This is easier for commuters who take the train, but if you drive there are still things you can do. Use that time to listen to a podcast or audiobook about your industry or side hustle. Learning new things keeps your brain sharp and your stories interesting, unlike zoning out and forgetting how you ended up at work.

9. Work smarter, not harder
You’ve likely heard this tip a thousand times because it’s one of the best bits of advice out there. It can apply to lots of things; stop spending all your time making unimportant tasks perfect. Get them out of the way so you can really focus on the important stuff and let go of your perfectionism. Or, stop taking lots of jobs with clients that underpay you; choose fewer clients and jobs, and pick ones that pay you more. This tip is about being time-efficient because you have a lot on your plate and don’t have time for nonsense. Spend your time wisely by being picky about how you fill it.

10. Just say “no” !
If you’ve done the time audit from tip #5, then you’ve likely seen where your time is being wasted. For many people, that’s time spent with acquaintances you don’t even like or going to events you feel you must. When you start seeing how the momentum of being productive delivers results, you’ll want to spend less time doing things that don’t benefit you, your loved ones, or your goals. Start saying no to invites that will be filled with small talk, and instead hang out with friends that bring meaning, fun, and value to your life. Skip the work events that aren’t obligatory, and your boss doesn’t even attend. You are in charge of achieving your goals, and therefore, your time.

If you want to improve your productivity and start achieving your goals, now is the time to start. Use these tips to get started and gain momentum; it’s up to you to continue implementing strategies that help you win, not waste time. Whether you want a raise at work, to run a marathon, or improve your personal relationships, your goals are important and worth your time. Improving your productivity will only bring you closer to them.