Written by Professional Academy Management & Leadership Tutor, Kathryn Knights
Scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed this week I came across the following quote from unknown author via the Motivate Yourself Podcast: 'Discipline is just choosing between what you want now and what you want most'. It made me stop. Is what I'm doing right now helping me achieve what I want most?
The modern world is filled with distractions that stop you from achieving your goals and impact on your overall productivity. Being productive is about working smarter, not harder, and making the most of each day. In my ‘Do Less; Achieve More’ blog I mentioned removing distractions as a way of improving productivity. Here I delve further into that area, helping you avoid the things that are killing your productivity.
Sleep more and you will get more done. A McKinsey study showed a direct correlation between getting less sleep and workplace inefficiency. The prefrontal cortex, where the problem-solving functions of the brain are housed, is degraded if we don't get enough sleep.
Plan ahead and start winding down 90 minutes before you need to be asleep. This includes turning off electrical devices. Read, have a relaxing bath or meditate. All of these things will help you have a much more relaxing night’s sleep and help you wake up feeling refreshed.
Most people think that the answer to their productivity problems is using the right app. Whilst technology can certainly assist your productivity it is not the primary solution to your productivity issues. When you have no clear idea of what your problem is or what the solution looks like you’ll end up in the vicious cycle of switching apps and fiddling with settings. And all the while your precious time is ticking away and not being used productively.
Avoid checking your phone habitually throughout the day – three times is enough. Most of the things you are looking at on your phone are just noise that are distracting you from your real priorities. It might be hard to swallow but nothing important happens most of the time. If you are in the middle of something do not answer your phone unless it is an emergency (emergencies are rare).
Don’t keep your phone next to your bed at night or you’ll be too tempted to look at it. When you use your phone the LED screen gives off blue light, which studies have shown can damage vision and suppress production of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate the sleep cycle.
You get out what you put in, especially when it comes to food. If you eat a varied and nutritious diet you feel sustained, alert and your fundamental health will be in better shape too.
Your first meal of the day is what kick starts your metabolism and replenishes blood sugar levels so you can focus and be productive throughout the day. When blood sugar levels are low it's much harder to focus and you're more likely to feel tired, irritable, and impatient. Eat a breakfast that’s a balance of high-fibre carbohydrates with lean protein e.g. fruits and whole grains. These will raise your sugar levels slowly, avoiding that mid-morning crash.
Fatty and sugary lunches make us sleepy. So go heavy on the protein and healthy fats and easy on the carbohydrates. If you buy your lunch start getting into the habit of reading the ingredients label. That soup, sandwich or ready meal that’s labelled as low fat is probably loaded with sugar instead.
People often start their day by completing easy tasks first, leaving their more difficult work for later. This is a bad idea because, more often than not, the difficult work never gets done.
Research has shown that you have a limited amount of willpower which decreases throughout the day. It’s best to get your important and most difficult tasks done at the beginning of the day – leaving the afternoon for those easy items on your ‘to do’ list.
Getting up and moving about is a simple and effective way of making you more productive. You’ll be surprised how taking regular 10 minute walking breaks can help drive new thinking.
If you have a meeting scheduled with another colleague why not go for a walk rather than sit in a meeting room? The fresh air will help clear your head and you’ll be getting those major limbs moving too – win:win.
Being a perfectionist is not a good thing if you want to be productive. It means you’ll spend more time than required on a task and you’ll procrastinate, waiting for the perfect moment. In business if you wait for the perfect moment you’ll be too late. Strive for excellence, but make sure your efforts are focused on what's best for you or the organisation you work for. Criticism and failure is not a bad thing. Learn to embrace it and use it to make you great.
You can’t do everything yourself. It is unwise to spend your time doing tasks that your team members could pick up. Investing some time in letting other people carry out some of your tasks means you will have more time to spend on the tasks that will stretch your skills. Delegation shows that you have trust and confidence in others and will also develop the skill set of your team.
If you need further advice, get in touch via Linkedin.
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