Improving productivity saves you valuable personal resources, including:

•    Time spent 
•    Money invested
•    Energy expended
•    Emotional capacity consumed

It’s important to take steps every day to help improve your productivity and outcomes. By aligning with the eight steps below, you’ll discover new paths forward to better efficiencies.

1. Protect yourself…from you

Yes, we are often our own worst enemy. There are several techniques that can be employed to defend against our natural nonproductive tendencies, including:

  • Establishing a daily, weekly, and/or monthly routine.
  • Isolating yourself from distractions to which you may be particularly vulnerable.
  • Learning to listen more and talk less. Note: talking invites more interaction and lost time. If you are going to talk, make sure the conversation is needed and meaningful.
  • Setting a timer until the next break. As productive time increases, gradually expand the duration of concentrated work sessions.
  • Stop scrolling. It is easy to allow the internet and its algorithms to lead you astray and waste valuable time. Unless you are deliberately searching for something you need, when you find yourself mindlessly scrolling on your computer or phone, stop. 

2. Clarify your objectives to optimize your output

Take time to think through and carefully determine what is truly needed.

Ask yourself: 

  • What is the objective? If your work output is not quite what was needed or desired, you have wasted resources. 
  • How much or how many do I need? If you make too many or produce too much, you have wasted resources. 
  • What quality level of my output is required? If your quality far exceeds the specifications there may be no additional benefit, you have wasted resources. 

Understand what is needed to optimize the use of your personal resources.

3. Create an environment conducive to concentration 

Isolate yourself from too familiar or too comfortable surroundings. Studies show that your local coffee house can be a tremendous place to get work done. How can that be? The cacophony of irrelevant noise and activity creates an isolation barrier allowing you to better focus. Also, its presence eliminates the more relevant (and often distracting) noise and activity that exists in more familiar settings.

Similarly, use headphones to create choice background noise. Optimally, choose sounds or music designed to keep you on task. Several applications like can provide such. For some physical skill-based tasks, a catchy or motivating song can boost productivity, while for more mentally demanding activities, or rule or knowledge-based tasks, silence, white noise, or perhaps lyric-free music, can better serve.

Do likewise with visual distractions by eliminating all but needed materials in your field of vision. Clean up your immediate work area.

4. Stop task switching 

Juggling from one task to another is unproductive. When a person switches from one task to another, four bad things occur: time is lost, the error rate goes up, creativity is sacrificed, and memory deteriorates. Pick a task and stick with it until completion.

5. Do it or do nothing at all

Pick a project or a task. Designate a time, set yourself up, and either dig in OR do nothing. No web browsing. No social media. No YouTube. No answering the phone. No checking out box scores. Stare into space for as long as you like. When that gets old, get on with the task at hand.

6. Use deadlines—real or imagined—to create useful performance-enhancing stress

Use challenging, yet reasonable, deadlines to create helpful stress. Stress creates focus and focus often stimulates the cerebral cortex to deliver one’s best work. 

7. Monitor your performance

As the saying goes, what gets measured gets done. Regardless of the approach you initially take to improve your productivity, consider a means of tracking your performance. Are you going to increase your project focus time? Use a timer to record and compare your daily efforts. Are you going to evaluate the effectiveness of your phone usage? Turn on your phone widget that measures and depicts your phone application usage. Or simply create a tracking mechanism of your own to monitor your progress toward targeted improvements in productivity. And remember to reward yourself when goals are achieved.

8. Sustain personal productivity with complementary lifestyle practices

There are lifestyle behaviors and practices that help sustain personal productivity. If you follow Living Better closely, you will not be surprised by the following:

  • Quality sleep—allows for restorative processes that keep you alert and focused 
  • Healthy eating—provides needed and balanced nutrients and energy (glucose) to the brain which prevents mental fog and fatigue
  • Exercise—stay active to promote circulation and provide food (oxygen and nutrients) and cleanse blood flow to the brain to help sharpen cognitive ability 
  • Learn more—nurture your mental capacity and cognitive ability; develop and apply new skills and techniques
  • Moderation—avoid excess in those habits that can significantly hamper your productivity

In fact, optimizing one or all these complimentary life practices can not only sustain but can enhance your personal productivity.

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