Distracting workplaces have come under the spotlight in a big way now that so many teams are working from home, but it's hardly a new phenomenon. Whether it’s the dog, your partner, a chatty co-worker or a nearby call center, it’s crucial to cut down distractions if you're going to attain that ideal level of concentration.
It's not that highly productive people have some natural immunity, they just know how to manage distractions. So if you need to get work done, make yourself a working environment where you can practice deep work in peace.
Some things are difficult to avoid, like a chatty workmate or a noisy street outside. However, you can be creative with your solutions, for example putting on sound-canceling headphones or moving to another desk for privacy.
Remember to be mindful of your distractions. If you find your concentration drifting before it's time for your break, observe what is causing it and think of ways to mitigate the effect.
As much as we all want to say “yes” to life, highly productive people break the spell and learn the art of saying “no”. This is actually harder than it sounds. Take for example a solo entrepreneur trying to get their business off the ground. Every bit of work that comes in is a godsend, so even when they’re up and running, the habit is hard to kick.
The reason saying “no” is so important is that it makes space in your calendar to plan strategic next steps. If you’re constantly buried under a mountain of work, trying to force your way to success, you don’t leave time for business development.
The key here is to remember your end goals and work towards them. Productivity isn’t about sheer volume, it’s about how quickly you can reach targets. There’s a reason marathon runners don’t exhaust themselves over the first mile. Therefore, learn to say “no” to projects that are underpaid or that don’t represent a step forward, and you’ll have enough time to say “yes” to the real opportunities.
Anyone who has tried it knows that multitasking isn’t going to get you anywhere. Rather than completing two tasks in less time than normal, you’ll start making mistakes on both and take far longer than you planned to. Your brain takes time to switch from task to task, so when you’re ready to work, close down those extra tabs and put your phone away.
On the other hand, highly productive people pour all their focus into a single task to fully absorb themselves and produce their best work. As one of the top productive work examples, we’d recommend putting those tough but money-making tasks at the start of the day and using your super-human morning focus to bash through them as soon as possible.
With a handy to-do list by your side, you can tick off your tasks one-by-one as you go for that feeling of satisfaction. What’s more, if you finish your difficult tasks first thing in the morning, they’ll never roll over until the next day so you can fully enjoy that Friday feeling.
This might seem a superfluous addition, but routines are super-important for creating productive work habits.
A routine, put simply, is practice. If you practice chess, you get good at it. If you practice waking up at 07:00 and doing yoga, it too will become second nature. During the working day, your routine will mean you do smaller tasks on autopilot, freeing up headspace for your tougher jobs.
This is exactly why Steve Jobs wore the same clothes every day. He would spend absolutely no time (or brain power) on picking out his wardrobe so he could start work in a relaxed frame of mind.
Similarly, highly productive people are renowned for having a morning ritual. This isn’t just to sound interesting and mysterious in interviews, it’s a way of starting a productive day. The classic combo of a healthy breakfast, a bit of exercise, and some time to yourself set the stage for a productive day. What’s more, humans are at their most motivated and creative during the quiet hours of the morning, so it’s a great way of getting ahead of the game.
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If you’re a thrifty sort, you may have done something very similar with your finances. It’s amazing what you can discover when you start tracking where your money goes, and it has helped all kinds of people tighten up the purse strings and take control of their budget.
The same is perfectly true for time. We’re not saying you should give yourself 40 lashes for slipping off to YouTube for 20 minutes, but by monitoring where your time is spent, you can consider what you see as important and structure your time another way.
Time tracking tools are great for taking back control of your schedule and it’s a common technique of highly productive people from sportspeople to businesspeople. It’s crucial to be specific about what you track — don’t put “work” or “making lunch”, it has to be “sending client emails” and “making a salad”. This way you can gain awareness of exactly how you spend your time and, if you aren’t happy with it, start cutting out those time-wasting tasks that are holding you back.
One of the most buzzworthy concepts both in the office and in life is the wonderful world of life hacks. From cooking and freezing your meals in bulk to chilling wine with frozen grapes, creative minds are always on the lookout for small ways to streamline everyday tasks.
Shortcuts are most effective on repetitive tasks, so if you find yourself doing the same thing over and over, take a minute to think about how it could be done better. A little bit of self-reflection will come in handy here. There may be tasks you’ve been doing since forever that are simply unnecessary, while you may need to ask a friend, colleague, or mentor on how to tackle others.
To help you get started, here’s a list of shortcuts and life hacks that highly productive people use on a daily basis:
Sorting your incoming emails by client
Creating workflow templates
Planning your to-do list the night before
Limiting your meetings to 25 minutes
Highly productive people are always on top of the latest technology that makes their work more efficient. The best productivity apps help you concentrate your efforts in the right direction, cut out wasted time and tasks, and ultimately boost your performance.
No need to go overboard — you shouldn’t spend more time than you save on your productivity apps. For example, you can set yourself up with a Kanban board. Use it as a to-do list with columns for completed tasks and those in progress. When you’re taking on new jobs, get them straight in your backlog column of tasks for the future.
One of the top productive work habits is to order your tasks by priority so you focus on moving your business forward, rather than working for the sake of working. However, no matter what priority your task has, you can always set an automated reminder when it is approaching a deadline and hand in all your work on time.
Planning is at the heart of all productivity, so don’t fall into the trap of charging into a task without knowing where you’re going. Highly productive people know that if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail, so get in the habit of planning efficiently.
For example, if you have a big project coming up, map out all the stages first in a project management tool. This way, you can set your schedule well in advance and accept other tasks accordingly. If, after analyzing your project, you predict it’s going to take up too much time, your planning stage will allow you to reject the job before you embark on it.
Counterintuitively, your planning process actually begins after you complete a task. With the right analytics in place, you can record the time it took you and identify which areas slowed you down so you can better plan for next time around. If you find yourself running into the same brick wall again and again, look for automations or best practices that can help you improve. By putting in the effort to streamline your approach, you save time by being more productive in the future.
One of the best ways to get work done is to set boundaries for when you communicate. To get into a phase of deep work, you need to make it clear to others (and yourself) that you aren’t available 24/7. So turn your phone on silent, hide your inbox until a time you’ve set to check emails, and start focusing.
You can further enhance your productive work habits by deciding how and where you communicate. Highly productive people will do things the smart way by limiting all relevant communication to the actual task in their project management tool. This gives you a detailed record of your progress and everybody involved in the task is aware — not just those on the email chain.
Similarly, it’s easy to see important meetings and video calls the following way: if it’s important, it should be one hour. A better way to look at it is if you set one hour aside, it will take one hour. Try going for 25-minute meetings and structure them so you get everything done. You can even fit in a meeting a half hour later, still with a five-minute window to prepare.
The last secret on our list takes us away from the office and into your personal life. There are so many facets to looking after yourself, such as diet, relationships, and giving yourself time off. But one of the most overlooked is sleep. So turn off that phone and take it seriously because it’s among the most important productive work habits you can learn.
Exercise also falls into the category of so-simple-yet-so-often-overlooked. Here are just a few of the benefits of exercise for productivity:
Improve blood circulation to your brain
However, looking after yourself isn’t just about getting enough sleep, doing exercise and touching grass. You also need to think about how you are handling the work itself. Ambitious people tend to accept every opportunity that comes their way. Highly productive people are more in the habit of picking and choosing. This gives them the headspace to work productively over a long, sustainable period of time, rather than burning out.
Adopting the productive work examples in this list takes a lot of hard work. You don’t build bad habits overnight, and creating good ones isn’t an easy process either.
However, what you can do in an instant is to equip yourself with all the productivity tools you could need. With Bitrix24, you get everything all on one platform — so no wasting time or money on individual accounts for every feature.
Sound too good to be true? Sign up to Bitrix24 for free today and see for yourself.