How often do you complain that there’s not enough hours in the day to get the things done that you want to do? Do you feel like it’s constantly “crunch time” and the result is overwhelming stress? Take note of the following strategies to improve your performance and efficiency, which will lead you to a more relaxed, successful, and enjoyable life.
1. Surround Yourself With Positive People
The people you surround yourself with can affect your level of happiness, your productivity, your passion, and your well being. Associate yourself with people who are go-getters, engaged, productive, smart, and have good attitudes.
Spend some time evaluating the success, positivity, enthusiasm, level of engagement, and optimism of the people you spend your time with. Are they people who you aspire to be like? Are they role models or mentors? Do they encourage you to be the best you can be?
There’s lots of ways to connect with motivational people. Find groups of people with similar personal and professional interests utilizing tools such as Meetups. At school, seek out clubs and organizations. At work, seek out positive people and remove yourself from those who drain your energy. Think of these people as your “dream team.” Leverage these relationships and cultivate a mutually supportive environment.
2. Get Enough Sleep
Anybody who’s suffered through a day at work or school after a night of insomnia understands that lack of sleep can take a toll on your productivity. According to the study, Frontal lobe function, sleep loss and fragmented sleep, “…experimental studies involving total sleep loss, sleep reduction and clinically related sleep fragmentation report impaired performance on tasks of frontal lobe or executive function, including measures of verbal fluency, creativity and planning skills.” Note that “Executive Function” of the brain refers to processes such as problem solving, planning, memory, and reasoning. Clearly, impairment of these functions through lack of sleep can negatively affect your productivity.
Our motivation and creativity is at its highest during the day and we need sleep to replenish it. So what can you do to get more sleep? If you don’t have a medical problem, you can try some of these techniques:
- Turn off electronics 30 – 60 minutes before bed. Light exposure before sleeping suppresses the hormone melatonin which helps you sleep.
- Keep temperatures cool. WebMD recommends to keep the room between 65 and 72 degrees.
- Limit caffeine. The National Sleep Foundation recommends limiting the amount of caffeine you drink to one or two 8 oz. servings daily.
- Wear socks at night. Cold feet can prevent a good night’s sleep.
3. Utilize Good Methods for Document Organization and Retrieval
Do you create and receive a multitude of documents, photos, notes, and other files? Finding the right files when you need them is essential for optimal productivity. In fact, according to the study I Can’t Get My Work Done! by harmon.ie, “users waste 30 minutes a day (16 days a year!) searching for documents, on average.”
If you’re anything like me, you’re tempted to toss your documents on your computer’s desktop or leave them in your email inbox and organize them later. Big mistake. Promptly organizing your files in folders in categories makes it easy to find your files later. If you’re using a Mac, your Spotlight search utility (the magnifying glass in the upper right or Command + spacebar) can be your best friend. Keep in mind that you can use Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) with the Mac’s spotlight.
To help you get more efficient, do research on good ways to organize and tag documents so you’re not wasting 30 minutes each day, which could be put to better use, such as studying for exams or completing projects. Use note-taking apps and applications with tagging capabilities, such as Evernote, for easy note retrieval. Organize your documents by project, event, etc. so you can easily find them in context with your life’s projects.
4. Covet a Flexible Schedule
Some of the latest studies show that those who are allowed to work from home part of the time and have flexible schedules are more productive. These employees report that they spend the time that they would normally use commuting on doing their jobs. In fact, some companies report that employees are more engaged and committed when flexible corporate policies are available, which in turn, increases their productivity.
5. Minimize Digital Interruptions
How many times a day are you interrupted? According to the study I Can’t Get My Work Done! by harmon.ie, “45% of today’s workers can’t work more than 15 minutes without being interrupted.” The majority of these interruptions (57%) are the result of email, text messaging/chat, application hopping, and personal online activity (Facebook, etc.).
If you’re finding that you’re often interrupted by digital distractions, examine ways to maximize your focus. Check your email in chunks and then shut it down. Turn off notifications for email, chat, text messages, Twitter, and Facebook and check those services during regularly scheduled times.
6. Stop Procrastinating
We’ve all been there. You have a deadline looming, but can’t get motivated and focused to complete what needs to get done. We all have natural tendencies to avoid anything that seems like it could be painful, and we choose more pleasurable activities such as playing video games, chatting with friends, playing golf, or watching the latest cat videos on YouTube. There are several reasons that we procrastinate including overwhelm, inability to prioritize, fear of failure, perfectionism, poor time management — the list goes on and on.
Procrastination is one of the most difficult areas to combat. One of the best strategies is to find the root cause of your procrastination to end it. Identify when you’re procrastinating and record the reasons why. Be cognizant of your avoidance habits. When you recognize that you’ve developed a bad habit, learn strategies to break it. It usually takes about 3 to 4 weeks to break a bad habit or develop a new habit. When a project is looming, make an action plan. Break down the project into smaller tasks and prioritize.
7. Automate Repetitive Tasks
Perhaps someday we’ll be able to automate unpleasant and repetitive tasks such as doing our laundry or dishes, but until someone builds a better robot, we’re stuck with these chores. However, using clever web-based software and apps can automate some of the repetitive tasks that steal your precious time. One of my favorite automation tools is IFTTT. IFTTT is “If This Then That.” It’s a web-based service that performs actions based on your criteria. It sounds very “techy,” but it’s actually easy to use because there’s several “recipes” that others have created that you can use or modify. For example, if you’re a blogger, you can use IFTTT to instantly share your blog post to all your social media channels automatically. If you’re a Social Media Manager, you can save all your tweets to a Google spreadsheet so you can refer back to them later. If you’re a news buff, you can save popular news to read later in Feedly. How cool is that?
8. Choose a Career Path that is Personally Meaningful to You
Some of the latest studies show that those who are more engaged at work are more productive. However, it’s not always easy to be engaged due to the culture of your organization or a mismatch of your organization’s goals and your personal goals. This can lead to poor motivation and productivity.
Before accepting a position, ensure that the management can articulate the overall strategy and goals of the organization and where you fit in. Does the organization have an inspirational leader? Will you be empowered to do the job you’re being hired to do? Are the people at the organization engaged or “checked out?” These are important factors to consider when selecting a future employer.
If you discover that you’re “checked out” at your current job, discover what motivates you to succeed and seek out new challenges. Understand how you can positively impact the organization using your strengths. Seek out coworkers and leaders who share your motivation and support your goals.