Work Smarter, not Harder – How to Boost Productivity in 5 Simple Steps

4 November 2020 | VGL Insights

how to boost productivity

In the shift to a digital workplace, learning how to boost productivity has become a top priority to overcome fatigue and overwhelm. Here are 5 tips on how to boost productivity mindfully, say no, and work smarter, not harder.

As more managers and teams are working remotely, many are left grappling with constant overwhelm. Infinite task lists, flooded inboxes, and unexpected distractions are a routine — no wonder fatigue is one of the most common consequences reported by digital and remote workers.

While a common approach to get things done is to work harder, shifting your mindset to working smarter can actually increase not only your productivity but also your wellbeing.

Here are five simple hacks you can easily incorporate into your daily habits to overcome your overwhelm and increase your productivity.

1. Take Charge of Your Calendar

  • Start with the end goal: What goals do you want to have achieved by the end of the day, by the end of the week? What wins do you want to celebrate on Friday? Begin with your deliverables and deadlines in mind and focus on them.
  • Schedule your priorities: On Friday afternoon or Monday morning, take some time to schedule in your most important tasks. For example, you need two hours of deep work for a report? Block that time off. This also prevents people from hijacking your calendar and ruling your schedule. If the workday is too busy, consider shifting your time so that you start earlier and have an hour or two of uninterrupted work. Make sure to schedule personal goals as well such as exercise and compile the schedule just prior to the time covered to keep it relevant.
    • Colour code 30-90 minutes or according to the type of task
    • Use recurring events
    • Make use of notifications and reminders
  • Tip: Don’t plan 8 hours – no one has all 8 hours to work. Unexpected things happen all the time and that’s okay.
  • Eliminate: Don’t overdo it with meetings. Stop doing things that are not important and not urgent.

2. Batch Tasks & Set Themed Days

These two techniques are a great way to use deep work sessions, but also to bundle similar tasks for shallow work and ‘get into the zone’ and achieve a state of flow.

  • Task batching: Batching tasks into time blocks makes them easier and faster to accomplish. Arrange your schedule so you can block an amount of time for one task or type of activity. For example, block time for brainstorming, editing, planning or writing article drafts. However, make sure not to stack too many blocks of deep work to avoid overworking yourself. And don’t check your email or phone during this time — except you batch your emails into a time block.
  • Themed days: This is a habit practised by Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, who sets themes for each day of the week. This strategy can help with the goal of getting everything done to the maximum potential for a given theme. Themes can include: a day for strategy, a day for marketing, a day for brainstorming or a day for improving processes.

3. Master Your Inbox

Inboxes are one of the necessary evils for knowledge workers. Here are a few simple tips to start mastering your inbox.

  • Have a set time to check emails: Be proactive, not reactive with your inbox. Some people stick to a strict regimen to check once in the morning and once early afternoon if there’s nothing urgent, and they only respond to emails in the evening.
  • Deep work means no email notifications. Turn it off or close the email tab altogether.
  • Purge all unnecessary emails. Create a filter for the word “unsubscribe” and make sure all emails that contain it will skip your inbox and go to a special folder. You can check this folder when you have time to get updated on the organisations you have subscribed to.
  • Create a filing system: Here, make sure to create a filing system that works for you. One way is to create a “DID” system: When something new pops up, decide whether to put it in the “Do something” folder, if it should go in the “Important information” folder, or just “Discard it”. 

4. Say No

Staying true to your set priorities itself is a habit to actively cultivate when learning how to boost productivity.

  • Saying yes to priorities means you have to learn to say no to other activities that may be urgent, but less important. This is a crucial for your mindset.
  • Saying no to the task does not mean saying no to the person. You can tell them that you like their idea or project, but you are overcommitted right now and hope they understand. If you know who would be a good fit to help with the task instead, recommend that person. Prepare a script of a few sentences for yourself and say them in such a situation.
  • Saying no to distractions means controlling the amount of time spent on social media, chatting with colleagues during scheduled focus times and any other distractions that take you away from your priorities. Try to set times where you are allowed these distractions, for example after lunch and around 5 pm. This way, when a distraction comes up, you can postpone it to the time when it’s allowed.

5. Recharge

This is the most important step of all: To be productive, you must recharge your energy levels. There is no sustainable productivity method without time to unwind and recover, and there are no creative ideas and solutions without a fit brain.

The most effective energy reboot hacks are: 

  • Take regular breaks during the day to stay fresh, look outside of your window and get a cup of tea or some water
  • Get 8-9 hours of sleep every night — except you are a lucky person with a DEC2 gene mutation who only need 6 hours of sleep
  • Get 30-60 minutes of physical activity every day
  • Take a 11-15 minute power nap
  • Do a 10-15 minute ‘mind-sleep’ with meditation
  • Eat healthy meals and snacks and stay hydrated to supercharge your brain

The key is to start small. Take one step and establish it. Then move on to the next. And as with all things, find what works for you and adapt as needed. One by one, it becomes much easier to establish healthy habits and learn how to boost productivity — and work smarter, not harder.

What are your favourite productivity hacks? Share them in the comments below! 

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Digital Leadership

 
Join the virtual workshops series “Digital Leadership: Leading Virtual and Hybrid Teams” in November 2020! Learn how to build trust, foster productivity and inclusion online.

If you want to learn more about how to boost productivity in the digital workplace, join the Digital Leadership workshop #2 on “Productive Working Techniques in the Virtual Space” on 16 November!

Meghla El Haque

Meghla is a senior consultant at EUNEPA and is involved in research and content development for leadership development and learning platforms.

Kadidja Naief

Kadidja is a digital marketing manager and project coordinator at EUNEPA and Vienna Global Leaders. 

Meghla El Haque

Meghla is a senior vonsultant at EUNEPA and is involved in research and content development for leadership development and learning platforms.

Kadidja Naief

Kadidja is a digital marketing manager and project coordinator at EUNEPA and Vienna Global Leaders. 

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