“Work smarter, not harder” is a credo I’m trying to embrace to the fullest. Not because I want to avoid putting in the hard work, but simply because effort has a limit. Whether it is the amount of hours you can work, your creativity or your inspiration; at some point they run out. This is why I think it’s important to make the best use of your exhaustible resources. In this article I’ll give you some personal tips on how to increase your work productivity. I hope they’ll work as well for you as they do for me!
Lately the pomedoro technique has proven to be a real lifesaver. Simply put it allows you to make use of a timer, which breaks your day into manageable cycles. The key is to use a cycle to completely focus on one task at a time, and to allow your brain to reset during your designated work break.
Even though I use a very simplified method (30 minutes of work, a 5 minute break, rinse + repeat) it has forced me to take breaks rather than constantly making exhausting sprints. The regular intervals allow you to focus on one task at a time, as you can simply postpone other chores to the next cycle. I feel more relaxed, more inspired and I feel I have more room to get creative.
I use the Tomighty desktop app (rather than a tomato shaped egg-timer) which is free, simple and unobtrusive*. You’re able to configure your cycles and opt for a 5 minute (short) or 15 minute (long) break. During those breaks I usually get some chores around the house done to clear my head entirely: 5 minutes are plenty to make my bed or tidy up the kitchen, and 15 minutes are great for a quick vacuum or a breath of fresh air. If you work from an office make sure to leave your desk to fully embrace your break and reset your workflow.
* At least as long as you turn off the constant ticking sound in the app’s options!
Keeping a bullet journal seems to be the latest trend in time-management. You keep a notebook in which you mark your to-do lists, (call) appointments, chores and tasks. The bullet journal system relies on a series of intuitive scribbles that allow you to keep track of everything at a simple glance.
But why use an analog method to keep track of your tasks and appointments, while there are so many digital options around? I asked myself the same thing. I use my digital calendar in my e-mail client which syncs with my phone and tablet, and Asana for larger (shared) projects. How would another system benefit my workflow?
The answer is simple. I feel a bullet journal replaces that post-it on your screen, or the note taped to the fridge. I don’t use an app or digital agenda to remind myself I need to buy a carton of milk today; it feels too forced – not to mention how these small tasks will drown your digital calendar in a heartbeat. Instead of leaving notes everywhere you simply collect them all in one notebook*, which you can keep on your desk or on the kitchen table.
* Pro-tip: Use a nice notebook which you don’t mind looking at day by day. Also consider picking a sturdy choice which you can throw in your bag or purse easily. You can’t go wrong with a classic Moleskine, and Leuchtturm even has a piece with dotted and numbered pages which seems destined to become a bullet journal.
What I choose to eat has a tremendous impact on how I feel through out the day, not to mention on my concentration and productivity. When I make a grab for something unhealthy it will backfire on me during my workday, sooner or later. Avoiding sugary drinks and snacks will solve most of your problems, as will taking small meals throughout the day to keep your energy levels steady.
For breakfast, choose complex carbohydrates that will leave you saturated for a longer period of time. One advantage is that you won’t be longing for snacks during your workday, but also that these won’t give you a strong but quickly fading energy burst. Choices like oatmeal (or one of my favorites, overnight oats), yoghurt and muesli*, an omelette with vegetables or a fruit salad are the way to go.
* Make sure to check the ingredients before purchasing a pack of granola or muesli. Some are stocked with tons of sugary flakes and crisps that taste good, but are completely unnecessary for your diet.
For lunch I prefer having soup or a salad. Vegetables are healthy and will keep you full through out the day, and they make it easy to stack up on all your necessary nutrients. For snacking I usually (try to) go for a banana or a hand full of mixed nuts.
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What do you do to maintain your productivity through out the day? Share your tips in the comments!