For some of us, productivity comes naturally, but others continually search for a silver bullet to boost their efficiency. Many productivity-seekers follow the latest fads when a practical approach is all that’s necessary to get more done in their daily lives.
Here I have listed 6 productivity tips that go against some of the latest, not so practical, productivity trends and fads.
1. Unplug Your Music During Work
Do you commonly pop in your earbuds and fire up your favorite playlist to improve your focus at work? This habit might be making your productivity levels suffer.
Researchers indicate that music arouses us mentally, which decreases our ability to complete tasks that require intellectual function.
According to Yerkes Dodson law, our performance increases with mental arousal, but only up to a point. When levels of arousal become too high, performance for intellectually demanding tasks actually decreases.
With this being said, you can still use music to your advantage to block out sounds or to refocus when you’re performing less demanding tasks. Choose non-lyrical and soothing music for the best results.
2. Stop Avoiding Important Tasks
A technique that’s emerged over the last few years is “Structured Procrastination.” Those who follow this trend simply avoid one task and do something else instead. Followers of this technique argue that work still gets done, but not the task that was postponed.
I have to question the efficacy of this trend. Imagine you’re a freelance writer or software engineer and you have a deadline on a story or new feature you’re implementing. Instead, you choose to finish your expense report and ultimately miss your deadline.
If you struggle with getting thing done, I’d suggest you use this trend with caution. A better approach is to prioritize tasks and ensure you’re finishing the important and urgent tasks first. It takes discipline, but I argue that everyone has the ability to take appropriate action when necessary.
3. Build Better Email Habits
Many productivity experts agree that starting your day by going through your inbox crushes your productivity. In many ways, they’re right because checking email first thing in the morning alters our agenda for the day.
They argue that in a perfect world, we should already know what we’re supposed to be accomplishing.
Of course, our world is not perfect. In many occupations, checking email first thing in the morning is a job requirement.
Imagine you’re in Media, Sales or Marketing, Management, Support or IT. Timely responses are necessary to keep the business running smoothly and to take advantage of daily trends and news. Delaying an important email response could result in losing your job or it could negatively impact your business.
Instead of ignoring email in the morning, be smarter about filtering it. Many email programs have built-in features for filtering and managing your inboxes. Also, there are several apps available for mobile devices to help you handle your inboxes.
4. Stop Doing Two Things At Once
Many productivity experts agree that multitasking is counterproductive. However, many time management authors still recommend multitasking as an effective time management strategy.
Researchers agree that our brains are designed to focus on a single task at a time. Moreover, a study at the University of London found that those who multitasked experienced significant drops in their IQs.
Focusing on one thing at a time can make a huge difference in your personal productivity. The quality of your work will increase; you will remember important details better; and the speed at which you complete tasks will improve.
On the other hand, if you choose to multitask, ensure you perform tasks that don’t require a great deal of cognitive ability.
5. Take Control of Your Notifications
Productivity experts believe that disconnecting from social media, text message alerts and meeting notifications frees the mind to concentrate on the task at hand.
However, in our modern world we must immediately react to changes and trends that occur daily at home and at the workplace so disconnecting is not realistic.
I find that evaluating, scheduling and planning notifications is a better strategy than eliminating those notifications altogether. For example, some notifications are useful while others are harmful. Understand when to unplug from notifications and which type of notifications to eliminate.
Almost every app or application has the ability to stop or suspend notifications. Investigate these features and schedule your focus time and notifications wisely.
6. Stop Treating Life Like a Game
On the surface, using games to improve productivity is a novel idea. Many of us love to play games and makers of productivity software and apps take advantage of this fact by offering rewards for completing goals, such as coupons, virtual pets, badges or other incentives.
What many of us fail to recognize is that completing tasks to simply gain artificial and insignificant rewards doesn’t outplay the completion of meaningful goals, which is what we find truly important.
Gamification is a quick fix or band-aid for a deeper problem. In the short-term, it’s useful for building habits.
However, to encourage long-term productivity, we must have a connection with our work and life. We must feel as if we’re making a positive impact. If you’re struggling with productivity, examine the root of your low motivation.
You might just need a deeper engagement with your work or life.
Now it’s your turn – what do you do to increase your productivity?