I’ve seen a lot of people posting their new year goals and resolutions, and there’s a common theme that keeps on coming up. People want to be more productive! I think that is such a common goal and almost everyone would like to improve their productivity and get more value out of their day. That certainly applies to me!
Something I’ve learned over the years is that improving your productivity takes time. Established time-wasting habits can be difficult to change, so you have to tackle them one at a time. Good and lasting productivity cannot be achieved instantly. It has to be a gradual process, made up of lots of small changes over time.
A couple of years ago, I decided to put a lot of hard work into improving my productivity. To start with, I made a list of ways in which I typically wasted time. I wrote down how I could change these things in order to use my time more wisely. Thanks to this list, my productivity has improved over the years. However, it still goes through phases and I am nowhere near my ‘optimum productivity’. I think it’s important to keep in mind though that it’s impossible to achieve a perfectly productive day, and indeed it would be stressful to aim for perfection all the time. It’s better to view your productivity as a skill to be developed rather than as a goal in itself.
I am still using the list I made two years ago, and I have used it as inspiration for this blog post. Whether you are at home or working in an office or elsewhere, I hope these 15 tips will help you to use your time more wisely and have a more productive day.
15 Ways To Use Your Time Wisely and Have A Super Productive Day
1. Get up earlier in the morning
I’m often tempted to sleep in late in the mornings, but I find that when I do get up earlier, I have a more productive day. My new year’s resolution is to get up at 7 am every day and do an hour’s work or useful tasks before I even shower and get dressed. However, unless you’re a natural early bird, getting up early is easier said than done, especially in the winter months. I shared some tips for this in my recent post: How To Get Out Of Bed When It’s Cold and Dark.
2. Plan out your day
Your day is likely to be more productive if you plan it out in advance. I like to write a to-do list the night before, but if you prefer, you can do this first thing in the morning. To help you further, you can also set up a system for managing your time in the way that works best for you. Currently, I like to pick a focus area for each day (such as blog, studying, piano practice, admin tasks or household tasks) and spend 45-minute chunks focusing on that area. I follow each chunk with a break and then one or two unrelated tasks that need doing that day. I choose 45-minute chunks because I read that humans can typically concentrate for around 45 minutes before our focus starts to drift.
3. Don’t set yourself too many tasks in one day
If your daily to-do list is too long, your day can feel overwhelming. You are less likely to get everything done, and this can be disheartening. You might have loads you need to do, but be realistic about what you can manage in a day. It’s better to set yourself fewer tasks (choosing the highest priority ones) and be confident that you can complete them all. This way, if you do manage to complete everything on your to-do list, you can add some more tasks later. This will make you feel much more productive and good about yourself compared to if you set loads of tasks in the first place and don’t get through them all.
Related post: Setting ‘Micro Tasks’ for Improved Productivity
4. Factor breaks into your day
You might think that to be more productive you need to be working constantly, but that is not true. If you work constantly you will tire yourself out. I once read an analogy about the heart. It is beating constantly but it doesn’t get tired because there is a break between every beat. We should organise our time in the same way, scheduling regular breaks between each activity so that we can sustain our energy throughout the day.
5. Do the most difficult tasks first
It can be tempting to put off the difficult tasks and do the easy things first. The problem is, the longer you put something off, the harder it is to get started on it, and it will be weighing on your mind the whole time. It’s better to get into the habit of doing your most difficult tasks early in the day. Then, the rest of the day will feel lighter and easier, and you’ll be able to concentrate better on the remainder of your tasks.
6. Do quick tasks straight away
Often, things come up that you need to do during the day. For example, someone might ask you to forward a link on to them, or you might remember you needed to put the bin out for collection. In general, it’s more productive to do those quick tasks straight away when they come up, rather than writing them down on your to-do list. This literally saves you the time it takes to write down the task, but in the long run, that can add up to quite a lot of time. If it’s a longer task, or you are in the middle of something, then of course, write it down to do later.
7. Limit when you check emails and social media
I recommend having set times to check and process your emails and social media, rather than checking them randomly throughout the day. It’s too easy to randomly check Instagram or Facebook and find yourself scrolling mindlessly on there 30 minutes later. If you only check these sites at certain times, you won’t fall into this trap so frequently. At the moment, I have set myself a rule to only check my emails and certain social media sites 3 times a day, after meal times. This works well for me and allows me to stay up-to-date but without spending an unneccessary amount of time checking emails and scrolling social media.
8. Don’t be a perfectionist with emails and messages
How many times have you spent ages editing an email to get it in the ‘perfect’ wording? I’m definitely guilty of this! The thing is, in most cases, it really doesn’t matter, and the first wording that comes to mind is usually fine. It’s a good idea to get in the habit of sending quick replies without overthinking the wording, because this will save you a lot of time in the long run. If you are a blogger, the same goes for writing blog posts. Read about why it’s okay to publish an imperfect blog post.
9. Make decisions quickly
Sometimes in life we are faced with important decisions that require time and careful thought to make sure we make the right choice. However, our days are also filled with multiple unimportant decisions where there is really no right or wrong answer. Examples are: deciding what task to do next, what to eat for dinner, or what day to schedule that meeting. To save time and maximise your productivity, don’t deliberate over these unimportant decisions. Just pick something and go with it.
If you consistently find it hard to decide what task to do next, set up a system such as working through your to-do list from top to bottom, or using a random number generator to choose your next task. This takes away the decision-making entirely. As mentioned earlier, if a quick task comes up during the day, do it straight away if you can, and then go back to your plan or system. Focus on the task at hand and don’t second-guess your decisions or worry about what else is on your to-do list.
10. Put your phone on silent
Put your phone on silent (not even vibrate) when you are working or doing a task where you need to concentrate. This will prevent you from being constantly distracted by your phone buzzing with messages and notifications. You can set it so that calls show up on the screen even if the phone is on silent. This way, if anyone needs to urgently get hold of you, they will still be able to (if you keep your phone screen in view).
11. Don’t take your phone to the bathroom
I am guilty of taking my phone with me when I go to the bathroom. I end up scrolling on there and it’s a waste of time as well as not the most hygienic setting. For a more productive day, leave your phone elsewhere (or in your bag) when you go to the bathroom.
12. Avoid randomly browsing the internet
Sometimes, a random question or topic comes into my mind and I get an urge to look it up on the internet. I then end up browsing the internet for ages, reading random trivia about the topic. This may be fun and interesting, but it’s not very productive. If you’re guilty of this too, try to only browse the internet when you actually need to look something up. You could keep a list of random topics or questions that come into your mind, to research later when you’re not meant to be working.
13. Add tempting YouTube videos to ‘watch later’
How many times have you been looking something up on YouTube, only to see a fascinating video in the suggestions that you just HAVE to watch? Then you end up having a YouTube binge and watching random videos for the next hour, which, needless to say, is not the most productive use of time. Resist the temptation to watch the video right now, and instead, click to add it to your ‘watch later’. That way, you won’t get caught up in a YouTube binge, and you can come back to the video at a suitable time when you’re just chiling rather than during your productive hours.
14. Don’t let yourself be distracted by other people’s activities
When I hear other people moving around the house or talking, I have a habit of going to see what’s going on, even if I’m in the middle of doing something. Usually, their activity or conversation has nothing to do with me and I have interrupted my work for no reason. I am learning to tell myself that if there’s anything I need to know about, someone will call me or come and get me.
15. Don’t use your phone in bed
It can be tempting to scroll on your phone in bed before you go to sleep. However, from my experience, this can lead to hours of random scrolling on social media or playing games, and keep you awake for longer than intended. This has the knock-on effect of making it harder to get up early in the morning, which brings us full circle to my first point. I wrote a post with more detail about the pros and cons of using your phone in bed, and some healthier alternatives that will give you a better night’s sleep and, in turn, a more productive day.
How will you use your time wisely?
So there we have it, 15 ways to use your time wisely and increase your productivity. As mentioned in the introduction, I don’t recommend trying to implement all of these changes at once. Even by doing just one or two of these things, you could see a significant improvement in your daily productivity. Do let me know in the comments below if these tips have been helpful and if you are going to try any of them. Also, please do share any of your own productivity tips – I’d love to hear from you! I wish you all the best in your journey to becoming more productive.