I'm often asked how I am able to juggle so many tasks at once, and get a lot of things done. Productivity is a skill that can be learned and while it may appear easy, it's much more difficult to practice than one might think. Below are some of the tips & tricks I use to prioritize my commitments and tasks.
As a general note, I still have days where I break down and realize I have too much to do and too many commitments to honor. Just because you practice productivity in your life doesn't mean everything will be rainbows and butterflies from day one. But practicing these tips will help you to maximize the quality of effort you put into your tasks and ultimately improve productivity.
Only 2% of humans can multitask effectively. So unless you're one of the 2%, it's probably a good idea to cut that bad habit.
We don't realize how damaging multitasking can be to our workflows, because it seems harmless but it can have adverse effects.
When you try to focus on more than one task at a time, you can lose about 40% of your productivity. That's a lot of wasted time and effort!
But we live in a day and age where multitasking is almost ingrained into our workflows; text notifications, Slack messages, new email alerts, you name it. We multitask and it's bad.
Before starting a task, I set my computer and phone to "Do Not Disturb" (DND) mode and quit Slack, iMessage, and WhatsApp. I have also permanently disabled real-time notifications to my phone (either turned off completely or in DND mode) which prevents context-switching.
My friend Jason has an excellent talk on "How I Cut My Working Hours In Half & Managed To Get More Done." I highly recommend you go watch it; he's extremely entertaining and the talk is filled with riveting information and tips!
This sounds like an obvious tip, yet to do lists are an invaluable tool for prioritizing work.
I have several to do lists: a long-term list, a short-term list, and a daily list. This way, I never lose track of items, but am focused on the tasks which are immediately relevant to me.
I personally like to handwrite my daily list, because there's nothing better than physically checking off a box. But there are many great tools out there to help you remember your tasks.
I have leaned towards the Mac Reminders app due to its convenience, but am now looking in to other fun tools for prioritizing my lists. Here are a couple I recommend.
Notion is one of my new favorite apps because of its incredible robustness. You can take notes, make to do lists, create calendars, and more! The power is incredible. There is a bit of overhead to learning all of the functionalities but from what I've seen so far, it's truly a winner.
Google Keep is another popular one. Although this is more of a note-taking app, you can definitely use it for a to do list. The interface is super clean and easy to use. Plus you can download the app to your smartphone for cross-device syncing.
We have a finite amount of willpower, and once it's gone, you probably won't get another rush of it until the next day. So it's important to leverage your willpower to focus on the hardest, or most important, task first.
If you spend all of your willpower answering emails and Slack messages, you're going to have a hard time being productive on your important tasks.
We forget that we use willpower in other areas of our lives as well such as avoiding that piece of cake for your colleague's birthday, so use it while you have it!
If you're not healthy, mentally or physically, you'll have a hard time being (and staying) productive. It's important to make time to care for yourself.
I always try to take an hour or two at the end of the day away from my devices (which let's be real is a struggle) to focus on things that make me happy, like reading a book.
We forget that mental health greatly impacts our ability to function, and it's not something that should be taken for granted.
Find a hobby which brings you joy and allows you to decompress from all of the hard work you've completed during the day. Force yourself to disconnect. I promise, the time spent relaxing will have a positive effect on your productivity.
I love keeping an agenda, both physical and digital, this way I never forget about important tasks.
I try to designate specific days of the week to specific projects. For example, I try to work on Coding Coach, my open source project, Monday Wednesday, and Friday. Then, maybe spend Tuesdays and Thursdays creating Egghead courses. I also enjoy using my lunch breaks on Monday, Wednesdays, and Fridays to take a German course.
By theming your days, you cut down on context-switching which boosts your concentration.
And while this method isn't feasible for every week, it's a good schedule to abide by.
I'm the person who, when I don't time box my tasks, will spend hours going on and on without making progress. Thus, I always make an effort to time box my tasks to 30 or 45 minutes (depending on the task).
When I know I have a finite amount of time to work on something, the quality of my work is much more focused. Thus, by spending less time on a task, I actually produce better work.
Many people use the Pomodoro Technique which is great! Typically this involves breaking working sessions into about 25 minute intervals with short breaks between.
I personally find 25 minutes a bit too short, so I aim for 45 minutes. I find that after this time block my concentration starts to waver, so taking breaks is really valuable to reset your mind.
This tip may not be for everyone, but I'm the type of person who can't concentrate if my physical and digital work spaces are cluttered. After each task, I try to close all browser tabs and reset my environment. This way I start each new task with a blank canvas.
If you're able to work with 120 browser tabs and a zillion folders on your desktop, all the power to you! But I personally like to have only the task-relevant information available.
I hope some of these tips were useful. Try them out and see how much your productivity increases! I guarantee there will be an improvement to the quality & quantity of your work!