Why is it that sometimes the day flies by, and other days you stare blankly at your email, trying your hardest to stay focused?
This, my friends, is the struggle with productivity.
There are many factors that play a role in an individual’s productivity, which are specific to an individual's working style and personality. Some are even environmental.
Motivation levels, the time of day, what you ate for breakfast, or how much you sleep all play a role in your level of productivity.
The truth is that there are as many productivity styles as there are types of people.
What Does Productivity Mean to You?
Before we dive into how you find your productivity style, ask yourself: What does productivity mean to you? How do you measure productivity?
Does “being productive” mean you accomplish everything on your to-do list? Winning over a new client? Brainstorming new ideas or solving a particularly difficult problem? Maybe it’s completing something you’ve been procrastinating.
By taking the time to answer these questions, you can identify your productivity style.
A Few Surprising Facts About Productivity
According to research published by the McKinsey Global Institute, 28 percent of the work week is spent reading or responding to emails. And it takes an average of 64 seconds to return to your original productivity level before you dove into your inbox or responded to a distraction.
Although 64 seconds doesn’t seem like a lot, think about how many times a day you are interrupted or distracted by an email, text, phone call, or instant message. Now, think about how much time you typically spend responding to those distractions.
Now, add in an extra minute or two every time you try to go back to your original task and productivity level.
Add this amount of time up over the course of a typical work week.
At the end of the work week, you then take a look at your to-do list, and take note of all the things you never got to—and remorse inevitably follows.
This not only leaves us feeling unworthy, shameful, or even guilty, but in some cases, it can cause us to overwork. On Friday afternoon, if you look at your to-do list and think, “Gee, look at all these things I never got to… I guess I’ll put in a few hours on Saturday morning and try and get them done.”
Now your 40-hour work week turns into 45, maybe even 50… if you are lucky.
The worst part about this is you think you are maximizing your productivity by working more, however, this actually has the opposite effect.
In fact, 87 percent of professionals overwork on a regular basis, which only increases stress and reduces productivity.
Productivity Begins with the Right Mindset
We’ve talked about how different individuals have different personalities and working styles, but there is one thing we all have in common: Productivity begins with the right mindset.
In order to get in the right mindset every day, take 20 minutes to “train” your mind on how and what to focus on before you tackle work or even open your email.
If you skip this step, then you are more likely to become distracted throughout the workday, which decreases your focus, and ultimately your productivity.
Doing truly meaningful work, especially the kind of focus that is needed to solve big problems, requires long, uninterrupted blocks of time. Fragmentation hurts productivity.
5 Tips for Finding Your Productivity Style
The good news is there are many things you can do to A) find your productivity style, and B) maximize it. And here are a few:
1. Choose Your Task Management Method.
The first step is to figure out what task management method works best for you. In most cases, you probably already know this one, because it has what you have been using all this time…
Do you use an app or tool? Do you write down a to-do list each day? Do you use your email as your to-do list? Do you use a spreadsheet?
The possibilities are really endless. Simply type in “to do list” in your app store, and you will see hundreds of tools and apps to download to help you increase productivity and get more done.
And, remember, the task management method that works for your best friend or your colleague may not necessarily be the best method for your productivity style. (And your needs may change over time.)You may need to try different task management methods to find the best possible fit—and this article can help.
2. The Power of Sleep.
Believe it or not, the best thing you can do to improve and increase your productivity is to get more sleep.
In fact, studies have shown that decreased productivity due to a lack of sleep costs companies and organizations approximately $1,967 per employee on an annual basis. Furthermore, the primary reason for employees’ lack of sleep is due to work overload, which causes a negative, cyclical pattern.
If you are struggling with falling asleep or staying asleep, there are some things you can do to help, such as:
- Avoid the screens! Put away your phone and shut off the TV at least 30 minutes to one hour before going to bed.
- Try reading. Reading is proven to help reduce stress and relax the mind. Even reading for 15 to 30 minutes prior to going to bed might be enough to help you sleep.
- Exercise. If you are a late-night gym-goer, or you like to wind down the day with some stretching, exercise can also help relax the mind and reduce stress.
By simply getting a little more shut-eye every night, you will likely see an increased focus during the day, you’ll get more done, and you’ll even enjoy the day more.
3. Mind Map to Mindfulness.
As we mentioned above, productivity is a mindset. However, it can be challenging to try and get into the right mindset to be productive. After all, some days are easier than others!
If you are having a day when you are struggling to get into the right productive mindset, then try a little mind mapping exercise.
Here are the steps to do that:
- Begin with a word, question, or image and draw or place it in the center of a document or blank page.
- Draw a line from your starting point in the center to another related word, question, or concept. Add as many lines and levels as needed.
- Then, start brainstorming ideas and related concepts, drawing lines and arrows to related words and concepts. By this step, you should find that ideas are flowing a little easier.
4. Use a Whiteboard.
The best way to draw a mind map is to use a whiteboard. At Rindle, we are huge believers of the whiteboard. As you can see from our step above, we crafted a simple mind map of what productivity would look like along with different avenues and ways to achieve it. This exercise took less than five minutes and gave us a ton of ideas for writing this article.
5. Stop Multitasking.
We all do it… In fact, you might be trying to read this article while you are on the phone with a client or a team member, or responding to a Slack message.
We all have a million things that we want to get done over the course of a day. However, there are only so many hours in a day, and we are only one person. We try to “beat the clock” by multitasking, however, this really doesn’t always help us get anything of quality accomplished. Even though you might feel like you are being productive by working on more than one task at a time, the cold, hard truth is that multitasking exacts a horrible toll on productivity.
According to Agile Estimating and Planning, by Mike Cohn, studies have shown that the amount of time an individual spends on value-adding work drops rapidly when the individual is working on more than two tasks at a time.
Yes, there will be cases when working on two tasks at a time makes sense, such as when you are waiting for one task to finish, then you can work on the other. However, multitasking becomes a real issue when project activities finish late.
How Rindle Can Help Boost Your Productivity
All in all, the best way to tackle a task is to just start. We get it. Starting the task is the hardest part.
If you are reading this article because you are trying to figure out your productivity style, then give Rindle a try. With Rindle, you get an all-in-one project management tool with multiple features and functionalities—including task management.
Take control of your productivity style, and get more of the important work done. Give Rindle a try today.