If you’ve been struggling to focus and stay productive, you’re not alone. According to researchers, students and workers alike have experienced difficulty focusing throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Plus, the thrill of working from home has worn off for those who went remote for the first time in 2020, and many have found themselves increasingly susceptible to distractions. For this reason, managers and business owners may find themselves looking for ways to keep themselves or their employees focused and working toward their goals.
To help you and your team regain focus and get on track for the new year, we’ve gathered some tips for productivity. Try out these ideas and remain patient with yourself as you do so. With the right attitude and a little determination, you can make 2022 a productive and successful year!
Here are 8 tips to boost your productivity.
1. Do One Task at a Time
To be truly productive, you need to have a single focus when working. Research has shown that multitasking is not only ineffective, but actually negatively affects both productivity and brain health. Plus, when dividing your focus between two tasks, you’re not giving either one the attention it likely needs and deserves.
When you perform one task at a time, you can let yourself get in the zone or “flow state,” as it’s known in psychology. The flow state is where we are able to do our best work – and where we can find more enjoyment in our work, too.
2. Establish ‘Productivity Rituals’
Setting up productivity rituals is a way to build lasting habits around being productive. The fun part? These habits don’t necessarily have to do with work – they can be rituals around getting in the mindset for work by clearing your head, resetting, or refueling. Your productivity rituals can be whatever you want them to be, but some common ones are:
- Enjoying a cup of coffee just before starting the workday
- Going for a midday walk to clear your head
- Taking a 10-minute meditation break
- Refueling with a nutritious snack in the mid-afternoon
You may already have some similar habits in place, but if not, consider what small rituals you can fit into your day to help you refocus and feel your best. Productivity rituals help us fill our cup so we can get done what we need to do.
3. Create Strong To-Do List Habits
To-do lists are a classic and effective method for productivity. Even if you already use to-do lists, there may be some new to-do list habits you could add to boost your productivity. Here are a few ideas:
- Keep it short: Long to-do lists can increase feelings of overwhelm, so try to keep it to 5 items or less. Make separate morning, afternoon, and evening to-do lists to keep them short if you need to.
- Plan ahead: Write the next day’s to-do list at the end of the prior workday, so you don’t have to spend time figuring out your task list each morning.
- Experiment: Try different to-do list organizing methods to find what works for you. Some people like to list their most important tasks first; others prefer to list the fastest or easiest tasks at the top.
- Break it up: Try breaking big projects into smaller tasks on your to-do list. This can help time-consuming projects feel more approachable and manageable.
4. Outsource Tasks
Being productive doesn’t mean you have to do it all. There’s likely a lot of tasks on your to-do list taking up time that could better be spent on more valuable work, like selling – or relaxing, if your busy schedule is cutting into your personal time. Take some of the weight off your shoulders by delegating time-consuming or “busy” work wherever possible. Find new ways to outsource tasks: whether chores at home, by having groceries delivered or getting support from family members; or tasks at work, by delegating to others.
5. Set Strong Boundaries Around Distractions
To stay productive, it’s important to block out distractions and set strong boundaries around them. Try making a “not-to-do" list to outline the distractions you’re working to reduce or avoid. This will help you set your intentions and decide what boundaries feel right for you. Some examples of boundaries for distractions are:
- Leaving your phone on do not disturb – or in another room if you have to.
- Telling those around you when you can and can’t be interrupted – whether your family at home or coworkers in the office.
- Blocking any time-sucking websites that often distract you during your dedicated work hours, such as Twitter, Facebook, or the news.
- Setting strict time limits on work meetings so they don’t cut into your time to focus.
6. Group Your Interruptions
Instead of having countless interruptions throughout the day, try to group interruptions so your workflow is paused fewer times. A good tactic for this is to stay focused on work for the first 55 minutes of the hour, and then save distractions, interruptions, or personal tasks for the last 5 minutes of the hour (similar to the Pomodoro Technique). For example, plan to check personal email or texts, refill your water bottle, or grab a snack during your 5-minute break. Taking one short break to do these side tasks is better than interrupting your workflow countless times to do each task individually.
7. Gamify Productivity
Fun can be a powerful motivator. Research has shown people perform better when there is some type of instant gratification, reward, or feedback. This doesn’t mean productivity should always be treated like a game, but you can gamify productivity by finding ways to incorporate reward and gratification into your daily habits.
Take a moment to feel proud and celebrate yourself when checking an item off your to-do list. Or time yourself to see how long you can stay focused for, then try to beat your best time. Incorporate fun rewards for your team to support their productivity, as well.
8. Be Willing to Practice & Try New Things
Don’t be hard on yourself – adjusting to new habits takes time! Stay willing to try out new productivity techniques and really give them a chance. All skills take practice, and forming new habits requires patience with ourselves.