Work Smarter Not Harder: Habits That Help Boost Productivity

If you’re struggling to stay productive, or you’d just like to be even more productive than you already are, you may be on the lookout for a few tips that might help you reach all of your goals. But how do you make being productive easier on yourself, especially if you also need to avoid burnout?

I might be able to assist you, along with the help of a few industry experts who know a thing or two about productivity. Is it worth it to take breaks? Should you try to get better at multitasking? And how do you combat mistakes while you’re trying to get things done? Allow me to break down a few things that might be helpful to your overall productivity goals.

Prioritize Your To-Do List

According to some industry experts, it is pretty helpful to determine your priorities for the day before you make your to-do list. “Set your priorities and just focus on those,” says Loic Claveau, the CMO of Prom. “You may have a really long list of things that need to get done, but you’re limited in the number of things you can actually do. Pick two to four tasks to prioritize that day, and then tackle the rest of what you can. Everything else gets moved to tomorrow.” 

It sounds like writing your task list in order of priorities might be really helpful. This is similar to what Jack Ma, the former executive chairman of Alibaba Group, says, “If there are nine rabbits on the ground and you want to catch one, just focus on one.” This is a relatively simplified version of what Loic Claveau, Maxim Kan says, but the same principle applies to your work life, in general. 

Instead of attempting to go after every task at once and aimlessly deciding which ones you plan on completing, it makes more sense to pick just one item to work on. Then, maybe you’ll be able to complete the rest of your tasks later.

Meditate

Seeing meditation on a productivity list may be somewhat of a surprise, but some of our experts appear to agree on its effectiveness. “Meditating every day has to be the biggest thing that has made an impact on my productivity,” begins Vincent R. Chan, the Chief Financial Officer of Christina. “It helps me to clear my mind and renew my focus whenever a task is starting to get me a little too overwhelmed. It doesn’t take much, you might be surprised.” According to many studies, just five to ten minutes a day of meditation can make a really significant difference for the average person.

John Cheng, the Co-Founder + CEO of Baotris, is able to corroborate the effectiveness of meditation. “I love my routine now, especially since I’ve added meditation into the mix. I can think more quickly and get more done, I feel less stressed, and my mental health is actually getting better,” says John Cheng. “I really recommend it to everyone.” 

It sounds like putting meditation into your list of daily habits, whether in the morning, before bed, or in the middle of the afternoon, allows you to increase your productivity. Feel free to pick a time that works best for you and soak in the calm of the silence. Based on these analogies, your work-life balance will thank you.

Take Regular Breaks

There’s a reason so many employers are required to give their employees regular breaks throughout the day. In addition to avoiding overworking their workers, employers may have also noticed that their employees function better if they get the opportunity to rest.

“If you’re ever feeling overwhelmed by your work, try taking a break,” explains Benjamin Meskin, the President of Cabrella. “This is a great way to get your mind off of the problem and come back with fresh eyes. Stepping away from a task has always allowed me to get more done, especially if I’ve gotten stumped or blocked in some way.” Your break at work might include eating a snack, going on a walk, or taking a quick nap if your schedule allows it.

However, taking a break doesn’t mean you have to stop working, especially if you’re working on a tight deadline. It might be enough to simply switch tasks and come back to work later, according to Sara Alshamsi, the Chief Operating Officer of Big Heart Toys. “When I’m struggling with a problem, I know I have to move on to something else. That’s especially the case if I’m not able to ask someone else for help or their own ideas. You’d be surprised what happens when you get the chance to switch gears and come back to an issue.”

So the next time you find yourself tripping up over a task, either at work or in one of your personal projects, try working on something else. Allowing a different part of your brain might allow your subconscious to work on the original problem in the background, allowing you to come back to your original tasks with fresh eyes and new solutions to your problems.

Avoid Multitasking

As much as many people swear by multitasking, some of our industry experts claim that it isn’t very good for productivity at all. “Instead of trying to do multiple things at once, stop multitasking,” advocates the Head of People & Partners of Flaus, Lindsay Hischebett. “When you’re ‘multitasking,’ you’re kind of just switching gears over and over again, so everything just takes longer. So save yourself the time and try not to do it all at once.” By multitasking, it looks like we’re actually spending less time working and reducing our personal levels of productivity overall.

Additionally, according to Mark Sider, the CEO, Co-Founder of Greater Than, multitasking also makes you more likely to make mistakes. “You trip yourself up and take so many missteps while you’re multitasking. It probably has a lot to do with your brain getting confused, but studies show you’re more likely to make mistakes while you’re trying to complete multiple tasks at the same time. Save yourself the trouble and get some of your time back because multitasking really isn’t worth it.”

Not only does multitasking cause many of us to work less, but it also causes us to make more mistakes. This means we’re spending more time making adjustments to resolve or obscure the mistakes we’ve made, slowing us down even further than we might have thought.

Be Willing to Make Mistakes

This doesn’t sound very traditional, but you may also want to be more willing to make mistakes while you work. According to Henry C. Link, industrial psychologist, and self-help philosopher, “While one person hesitates because he feels inferior, the other is busy making mistakes and becoming superior.” What this very strongly implies is that, if you’re holding yourself back because you’re afraid of making mistakes, there are other people who are willing to make mistakes and better themselves.

In addition to being willing to make mistakes, it may also be important to address tendencies toward perfectionism. Asker A Ahmed, the Director of iProcess, says, “Try not to worry about being perfect. In my experience, trying to get everything to be just right really just means that nothing gets finished or turned in. It really just slows the entire team down, and it makes it hard to make any progress. Just let yourself make mistakes, and then fix the really big ones later. That really keeps everything moving.” 

Perfectionism tends to hold us back more than it moves us forward, even if we’re trying to correct mistakes we’ve made previously. While correcting some mistakes may be helpful to the overall success of your project, making sure it’s completely perfect means it might never move past the early stages.

Reward Yourself

It might also be a great idea to reward yourself for your productivity, as kids aren’t the only ones who like to have their accomplishments acknowledged. “Every time that I reach a new goal,” explains Raina Kumra, the Founder / CEO of Spicewell, “I try to reward myself with something that makes me excited. Maybe I’ll throw a party with my friends if it’s a big enough deal, or I’ll give myself a budget to treat myself to something nice. It’s a great way to make me feel accomplished.” Of course, it’s a great idea to do anything that makes you feel rewarded on a more personal level.

Tyler Read, the Founder and Senior Editor of PT Pioneer does something similar. “I try to reward myself each time I finish a task. Nothing big, but it’ll be something little like a piece of candy for something that doesn’t take too long. And I’ll try to do something bigger when I’ve finished a really big project, like maybe taking a day trip to somewhere I’ve been meaning to go. It’s incredibly helpful.” While rewarding yourself for menial tasks might not be the best idea, congratulating yourself for anything outside of your daily norms might encourage you to keep working steadily.

If you’ve been struggling with productivity, you might find the above tips and tricks helpful. This will likely be the case whether you’re working on personal projects or are striving to get more done while you’re in the office, and we all wish you luck in your productivity goals.

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