Have you ever felt overwhelmed by your never-ending to-do list?
We’ve all been there.
For many, being more productive means doing more: completing more tasks; filling the day with back-to-back activities; getting up earlier, and going to bed later. Wanting to be productive often feels like there’s a little voice haunting and pressuring you to reach your goals faster, to accomplish more, to use your time better, to be organized and in control.
This approach can work in the short term and produce results. However, in the long run, it’s a recipe for exhaustion and burnout.
Productivity isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon.
Being more productive isn’t about going at full speed on a lot of tasks, but rather about consistently moving forward by using the time you already have and making the most out of it.
Here are 3 productivity tips that will help you be more efficient with your time:
1- Apply the Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro technique was created in the late 1980s by an Italian student who, struggling to focus, decided to commit to 10 minutes of focused study time by using a kitchen timer shaped like a Pomodoro, the Italian word for Tomato.
The way it works is that you break your day into Pomodoros, which consist of a time frame of 25 mins. After every 25 minutes- or Pomodoro- you should take a 5-minute break and after every 4 Pomodoros (i.e. 2 hours), you take a longer break of 15 to 30 minutes.
Each pomodoro should be assigned to a certain task, and that’s the only task you should focus on for that time duration. Smaller tasks can be combined together in one pomodoro.
This technique allows you to combat your distractions and become more aware of what you do with your time. It also allows you to reflect and plan your days more accurately and efficiently so that you can build more consistent work habits.
You can use a timer to schedule your pomodoros, or download an app that will serve as a scheduler, reminder, and motivator.
2- Be SMART
The goals you set for yourself should be realistic, clearly defined, and achievable.
To help you figure this out, you can use the SMART technique, which lets you know each goal should be:
A specific goal will give you details and allow you to focus on what needs to be done.
A measurable goal allows you to track your progress and stay motivated.
An achievable goal lets you stretch your abilities, but remains attainable and possible.
A relevant goal ensures that this task matters to you and aligns with other relevant goals.
A time-bound goal gives you a target date and a deadline to stay motivated and organize your time.
You can use this template by Smartsheet to write and break down your goals.
To ensure that your goals are successful, you should also understand that even though you want to be productive, you’re also human and there’s only so much you can do in a day. Once your task list becomes manageable instead of overwhelming, you can start including slightly more challenging goals every once in a while, which will allow you to grow your confidence and believe in yourself.
Include enough breaks into your schedule.
Understanding the way you work best, and being at peace with the fact that downtime can actually make you more productive, will help you avoid a burnout and allow you to be more efficient in the long run.
3- Use your energy wisely
No one knows you better than yourself.
When scheduling your day, take your own rhythm into consideration and identify your most productive time of day. You can then prioritize your most important or urgent tasks and do them at that moment.
Using the Eisenhower Matrix, also known as the Urgent-Important Matrix, can help you prioritize your tasks depending on urgency and importance. This technique is based on dividing your tasks into 4 different categories:
1- Do: This is for the urgent and important tasks that need to be done first and immediately.
2- Decide: Schedule a time to do it. This includes the tasks that are important but not urgent.
3- Delegate: Find someone who can do it for you. What’s urgent but less important, delegate to others.
4- Delete: Eliminate it. What’s neither urgent nor important, don’t do it at all.
Being able to decide what is most important to you is a skill that will allow you to move towards your goal with more confidence and efficiency.
Use this template by eisenhower.me to organize your tasks into four color-coded quadrants.
Finally, remember that everyone has different goals, jobs, and ways of thinking. So don’t be afraid to adapt known techniques in a way that works for you. Take the time to create your own system that fits your lifestyle and helps your long-term productivity.