Hands up. How many of us have truly great productive skills ?
The truth is, we never really take the time to analyse our productivity, nevermind improve it.
I’ve worked in Medical Sales for seven years so have had to learn to be super productive and better at time management to achieve the results expected of me.
Trust me when I say it’s taken me a few years and a few books to hone my skills.
I use the following 12 productive skills that you will help you be more focused, determined and hit all the goals you set yourself.
If you’re interested read all about the productivity books that have helped me and will, of course help you too.
Small disclaimer: I have included affiliate links in this post which means that if you click on a link and buy an item, I earn a small amount of money with no additional cost to you.
12 Productive Skills to try today
1. Plan for the Week ahead
It seems difficult to do but in actual fact this is the key to success.
Rocking up Monday morning and deciding what to do that day just isn’t productive at all. You’ll spend 30 minutes working out what that is or even worse using up valuable time on emails! They’re the worst.
This productivity hack comes from the wonderfully charismatic Dan Meredith off of How to be Fucking Awesome. This was a game changer for me and has been the reason I reach all the goals I set myself. Thanks Dan!
On a Sunday afternoon, write down absolutely everything you need to get done for the upcoming week. I mean EVERYTHING. Nothing is too small or off bounds. Do this until you cannot think of anything else to write.
Go through the list and number each task 1, 2, or 3. 1 being the most important, 2 being mildly important but not time sensitive and then 3’s for everything else. Make sure you really scrutinise what task is what. Ask yourself is this really a 1, hint social media strategies are always 2 on my list and creating content is 1.
Now grab your diary and pick 3-5 tasks per day and schedule them in.
Make sure to add a mixture of 1, 2 and 3. I usually pick a couple of 1’s and 2’s and then a 3. It all depends on how long you estimate a task to last so bear this in mind with how many you go for. I never do more than 5 as it usually never happens and I feel annoyed that I haven’t completed everything. Finishing all your tasks in one day means major celebrations, cup of tea and candlelit baths for everyone!
Voila, you’ve organised your whole week and prioritised your activities in less than an hour on a Sunday! Go you.
It will take you a little while to get the hang of it but once you have, I assure you, you’ll be shocked just how much you get done.
2. Tackle most important task first
It’s Monday morning, you pull out your diary and check your tasks for the day.
You see the number 1 task but you’re not feeling it and would rather doing the number 3 task instead as that one is easier to do and much more fun.
Our brains are wonderful at derailing our productivity and any time it can get out of doing a really boring or long-ass task, my god, it will pull out all the procrastination stops.
I need a drink to do this! Oh, perhaps i’ll pop to the toilet as well? Better check my emails one more time in case anything important comes through? I wonder what Claire is up to this morning, I’ll quickly text her. You know how it goes.
You put number 1 for a reason, it’s important and time sensitive. It needs to get done ASAP so just get it done already.
When I start to feel like this, I bargain with my inner Chimp (for more information read The Chimp Paradox) and say “When we get this done, we’ll get a nice cup of tea, a fancy biscuit and have 20 minutes playing around on Pinterest, ok?” Sarah’s Chimp is appeased and cooperative.
It sounds utterly ridiculous but it works. Every time.
3. Stick to one thing at a time
Hopefully, if you start to follow the two productive skills above, this shouldn’t be too much of an issue.
However, as humans we do like to overcomplicate and bite off more than we can chew. Multi-tasking is a huge No-No for productivity.
Multitasking is a lie.Gary Keller author of The One Thing
For some reason, our brains think we are getting more things done when in actual fact, it takes us twice as long to complete the tasks we are multitasking on.
Focus on one thing at a time, do it well and when complete, move to the next task on your list.
4. Avoid Distractions
It goes without saying that to be more productive you need less distractions.
Now this can be tough if you sit in an office or you’re team leader, where anyone at anytime can disturb you. However, there are ways to deal with this.
I know some of my friends put a note on their desk, wear headphones when they don’t want to be interrupted or even hot desk somewhere else to make sure they can focus.
Probably the biggest distraction though is our phones. Have you ever checked your Screen Time setting on your phone? I couldn’t believe how much time I spent on there, sometimes 7 hours a day!!! Think of how much stuff I could have got done instead.
If you get distracted easily by your phone, make sure you hide it from view, turn it on silent and turn your notifications off. You’ll see a difference in productivity immediately.
5. Only check emails three times a day
Emails are the best and worst way to communicate all in one. It’s great that you can contact someone anytime and anywhere in the world but it means that we can never truly switch off.
A skill I have developed is to only check and respond to my emails three times a day. Morning, Midday and late Afternoon.
I never check emails first thing in the morning. Instead I make a start on my most important task, get it done then around 10am open my emails and respond to anything that I need to.
Then I check again after lunch time and before the end of the day.
What I have done in the past, is put an out of office on stating that for anything urgent to call my mobile. It gives you peace of mind that you’re not missing anything that need immediate attention.
6. Schedule regular breaks
Studies show that our brains can only focus for around 40 minutes at a time. Obviously, this varies from individual to individual.
I feel I can focus for an hour then have a 10-15 minute break and start up again. You will know what your limit is.
It is so important to refresh and switch off regularly. Your brain will continue to be motivated to complete all the work if it’s well rested.
7. Use a productivity app to help
So I know this seems counterintuitive when I said put your phone away but there are great productivity apps that can help you improve your productive skills.
First, Evernotes is great for organisation and sharing ideas with other team members.
Secondly, I love the Forest app. You plant a tree for however long you want to focus, if you go on your phone, the tree dies. Simple.
I like it as it stops you going on your phone but also you have a visual representation of how long you’ve been productive each day. It really spurs you on plus, if you use it regularly you start to plant ACTUAL trees. Completing all your tasks and saving the world at the same time? Sign me up.
8. Ensure projects/tasks are SMART
Thanks to my sales background I cannot start a big project without getting SMART.
Every time you create goal or start a project in needs to be Specific. Measurable. Achievable. Realistic. Timely.
Make sure you’re super specific on what you want to achieve, measure its success, it has to be achievable, not out of this world and you need a deadline.
Applying the SMART process to planning projects will ensure you are set for success.
9. Reward yourself for completing a task
I briefly mentioned this in productive skill 2.
Our brains love rewards especially when we finish something that we really didn’t want to do.
I make sure that after every task, I reward myself with something for keeping motivated and getting the task done.
Usually, it’s something small, like a cup of tea, a walk in the woods with Ralph (my sausage dog), or an episode of my current favourite TV show.
However, when you’ve completed a big project, I suggest going bigger on the rewards. Buy yourself something nice or treat yourself to a spa treatment.
Whatever you like to do, make sure you give yourself a pat on the back for keeping up the productivity.
10. Factor in procrastination time
We are meant to procrastinate, our brains love it.
So why not factor it in? Take a task 3 item and schedule into the part of the day your brain clouds over and your motivation lacks.
I procrastinate on Pinterest scheduling, research for posts or photo editing. Tasks which I don’t need to use much brain power and that are easy enough to complete without tons of motivation.
11. Establish a routine that works for you
I suggest writing down your own productivity pathway to help you keep focused.
When I started trying to be more productive, I created my own process so that I had a reference to use if I got stuck or lost motivation.
Your routine will evolve as you take the time to learn more about productivity and time management. So the skill is to keep trying things and adding them to your routine. Never stop learning and growing.
12. Don’t over complicate the process
Final skill, and this is simple.
Don’t over complicate it. You don’t need to do all of the productive skills I’ve mentioned. Try a couple out if you were drawn to any but don’t try to do all of them. It’ll be too overwhelming all at once.
Also, please don’t feel annoyed at yourself if you have a day now and again, where no matter what you do, you just cannot get anything done. This happens!
Two days ago I sat for 4 hours trying to write and nothing came out. I just called it a day on writing and did other tasks instead. Be mindful. You know you better than anyone.
As soon as you start attacking yourself, the less work will be accomplished. It’s just knowing when you are procrastinating and when you lack the brain power to finish a task. Know the difference.
Want to read more check out the books that have helped me below:
I promise that with time you will be more productive. The main thing is to just try!
Please let me know if you are going to try any of the skills I have mentioned or do you have any tricks up your sleeve, you’d like to share? Comment away.