If all my years of freelancing has taught me anything, it’s this; productivity will always be elusive.
But with that being said, there are some golden productivity rules that I implement into my daily work schedule to tip the odds in my favour.
I’m not going to give you cliche advice like; take breaks, get regular exercise, or turn off your smartphone. That’s old news that you should already be acting on.
Besides, those are indirect avenues to productivity. In contrast, the rules I’ve laid out below can be directly applied to your work day – every day.
Rule #1: Write It Down
Before you complain, writing your tasks down isn’t cliche. It’s outright fundamental.
As Albert Einstein once said, “paper is to write things down that we need to remember. Our brains are used to think.”
Writing things down will not only help you remember them, but it will also clear your mind.
The daily tasks that you try to mentally grasp each morning never truly align in your mind for long. Instead, they descend into a chaotic blur, leaving you feeling overwhelmed. Writing it all down is the solution.
Rule #2: Never Multitask
You might think that multitasking is the key to getting more done, but it’s not as simple as that.
Regardless of the fact that females do indeed multitask better than their male counterparts, multitasking essentially means doing more things less efficiently.
Why? Because according to the renowned psychologist Guy Winch, PhD, nobody truly multitasks. We just task switch.
“When it comes to attention and productivity, our brains have a finite amount,” he says.
“It’s like a pie chart, and whatever we’re working on is going to take up the majority of that pie. There’s not a lot left over for other things, with the exception of automatic behaviors like walking or chewing gum.”
So, when we multitask, we’re really just switching between multiple activities. This just leads to wasted time as you switch and recalibrate — not to mention, all that switching means that you’ll never reach your optimum level of concentration for any one task.
Rule #3: Communicate With Wisdom
Emails eat into productivity like termites.
To minimize their chomping time, make it a habit to call or instant message people for things that don’t merit an email.
For long messages that will demand copious typing time, arrange a short call instead. As for those more common email chains that contain mostly chit-chat, opt for WhatsApp or Google Hangouts.
Sure, most of your professional communication will still require you to type out emails, but for regular and more casual conversations, ditch your email client for something more efficient.
Rule #4: Do Hard Stuff First
When you write a to-do list, it should begin with your most gruelling task.
By getting your largest task out of the way as early as possible, you set the tone for the rest of the day, supercharging yourself for the rest of your smaller duties.
If you leave that monster assignment until last, not only will you have less energy by the time you get to it, but you’ll also have less time to expend.
Rule #5: Keep a Routine
It doesn’t matter what your routine looks like – it varies wildly from job to job. What matters is consistency.
There’s nothing our brains like more than regularity, so devise a daily routine that’s manageable, and then stick to it.
In fact, Charles Duhigg, the best-selling author, articulates the power of routine in his book, "The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business:
"Routine basically gives us the mental freedom to think about what's actually important. That way we don't have to think about all the mundane aspects of life. Getting to relegate all those things to sort of an automatic thought process, we gain all the mental bandwidth we need to do the really important things in life.”
So, show your brain some regularity, and it will reward you with some extra thinking space.
Become a Productivity Junkie
Productivity is just as addictive as procrastination.
If you apply all five of the above rules to just one day of your working life, you’ll discover an eagerness to continue with them throughout the rest of the week and beyond.
It may not be easy at first, but the increased work efficiency – as well as the satisfaction that comes with it – will be totally worth it.
About the Author
Kaya Ismail is a wordsmith and founder of Employ the Internet. He is a seasoned content marketer with a love for video games and coffee.