15 Simple Habits That Increase Your Productivity

Sometime today you will hit the wall. You will be physically present in the place you work. But you won't have any focus because you are tired, hungry and distracted. You grab your phone and check out social media, catch up on text messages, or sneak in an episode of Parks and Rec on Netflix. There are a million things you want/need to get done, but you can't find the gear to get it together.

Maybe this will help. Here are 15 simple habits that increase your productivity.

Get More Sleep Tonight

Are you getting 6-8 hours of sleep? If you are trying to burn the candle at both ends, you simply will not do your best work. All it takes is a few days in a row of sleeping five hours or less, and you might as well show up drunk at work. Seriously.  Please go home tonight and get more sleep.

Exercise Tomorrow Morning

Most of us are not doing enough physically in our work to justify our lack of exercise. And because we are neither unicorns nor exceptions to the rule, our bodies and our work suffer. Want some free advice? Exercise every day that you work. Set some sustainable goals. Find a routine that you enjoy and will help you reach your goals. Pro Tip - exercise first thing in the morning. You'll be more rested. And you won't have the excuse that the day got away from you.

Eat Breakfast Like Your Grandpa

Three cups of coffee is not breakfast. And adding a muffin, toaster strudel or pop tart to your grande frap latte is a recipe for a mid-morning crash. Trade out the carbs for a simple and inexpensive breakfast of three eggs and two pieces of bacon. You will never go wrong with bacon. And for every cup of coffee you drink, flush out your system with 16 oz of water. 

Emancipate Yourself From Email and Social Media

Do you leave your email program open during your work day? Might as well send out an invitation asking people to interrupt you every chance they get. How often do you check Facebook or Twitter while you are on the clock? That little habit will throw you off your game as you trade in the ability to focus for a wild wide that somehow ends up with you watching a must-see video of a man saving the life of a shark. Try this. Check email no more than three times during the day for a set period. Same thing with social, adding this small twist: spend more time producing content than simply consuming content. 

Focus, Focus, Focus

The idea that you can do your best work with your attention divided is a pipe dream. So help yourself focus by turning off your phone and shutting down your email and social media programs. And here's a pro tip - turn off that podcast you're listening to while you are trying to think or write. You either won't be able to lock into your work, or you'll completely miss what's happening on this episode of Radiolab

Take Breaks

If you are trying to kill it all day long without ever taking a break, you are working against yourself. As workers, you and I are more likely to thrive as sprinters rather than attempting to treat work like a marathon. Here's an idea - work with insane focus for an hour and then take a five minute break. Go somewhere different. Do something different. Then come back and crush it. 

Work Smarter

Here's a secret: 80 percent of your success comes from 20 percent of your effort. Your best work does not come from doing everything well. You need to know what success looks like for you in your work, and then you need to pay attention to what you're already doing that contributes the most to that outcome. Rewire your work so you can prioritize the tasks that matter.

Delegate and Collaborate

One way to focus on your best work is to choose delegation or collaboration over isolation. Working together might require reconfiguring the job description of a direct report. It probably means re-thinking how work gets done with your peers. Regardless, keep chipping away at the mythology of the well-rounded, omni-competent leader. 

Do The Hardest Thing Next

Focusing on your best work will never eliminate hard work. Look at your calendar or task list. What will be your biggest challenge today? What do you wish wasn't staring you in the face? Go do that right now. I mean it. Knock it out. I'll be here when you get back. 

Automate the Important

If you do not have a system for staying organized, communicating effectively and managing tasks, you will wear yourself out spinning plates. I use Evernote (organization), Slack (communication) and Asana (task management) to automate what matters most to me. I also use auto-responders when I am saying the same thing to multiple people via email. 

Kill Status Meetings

Meetings can be an effective way to make decisions and get things done. Far too many meetings do neither, camouflaging wasted time under the guise of staying on the same page. Instead of taking time away from actual work by getting everyone together to talk about what they're doing, use task management software (another plug for Asana) to free up calendars and unclog email. 

Quit When It's Quitting Time

Fifty hours. I don't care when and where you spend those fifty hours. But get your work done within those fifty hours and then spend the other 118 hours of your week not working. Are there seasons where you need to work more than that? Yes. Is fifty hours a magic number? No. There's a healthy range between 40-60 hours. But if you're consistently working 70 hours a week, you are either working stupid (working long rather than working hard) or you are trying to play God and attempt too much. Leave work at the office. Take email off your phone. Work when you're working. Be home when you are at home. 

Simplify Your Planning

It is a smart play to plan ahead. But planning your work is not the same as doing your work. You don't need to build out a project plan in intimate detail. Just make sure you and your team are on the same page about what gets done next. Develop a system that allows you to plan your week in 30 minutes. Don't get caught in the mushy middle of confusing planning with productivity.

Choose Productivity Over Activity

Get things done. Execute. Crush It. Focus. Work Hard. All good things but unless you clarify success, you may be confusing hard work with productive work. Finish this statement: when I focus on XYZ (no more than three things), everyone wins. Until you can answer that question and rewire your work to focus on those things, you're wasting time.

Choose Production Over Perfection

The myth of perfection will cripple your ability to get things done. From lesson plans to art to blueprints to sermons, we waste time when we insist that great work must be perfect work. Use deadlines. Put time limits on yourself. Go for great. Ignore the noise that demands perfection.

What are some other habits that you have adopted to increase your productivity? Share them with us in the comments section below. 


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