Well, if you’re struggling to juggle work and life while trying to maximize your day without killing your health in the process, remember this: Being more productive doesn’t mean working harder or longer; it means working smarter.
Here are six ways to be more productive, the smart way:
1. Cut down the distractions.
Distractions are productivity’s biggest enemy. To make the most of your day, ax whatever is keeping you from being focused and productive. Take your work environment into account. Is sound/noise, lighting, the way the room is configured–like open-floor plans–a problem? Try relocating to a different space or make a case for working remotely. The key is finding out what distractions are messing with your productivity, and then doing something about it.
2. Have good boundaries.
Let me ask you: What’s most important for you to get done? Whatever it is, focus all your energy on those things. Take billionaire Warren Buffett, for example. With all the demands on him every day, Buffett learned a long time ago that the greatest commodity of all is time. He simply mastered the art and practice of setting boundaries for himself. The mega-mogul once said, “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”
Productive people are masters of simplifying things down to what matters most. They have a simple schedule. They live according to their values and purpose. They have no problem saying no to people or things that don’t serve them. If something coming their way on Tuesday has little value and doesn’t make them better on Wednesday, they simply walk away.
4. Exercise the “Pomodoro Technique.”
If done correctly, this classic time-management hack can help you get things done in short work intervals. First, decide on the tasks you want to check off from your to-do list. Next, set a timer to 25 minutes and knock off those items until the timer rings. After you finish, take a five-minute break and repeat the cycle four times. After the fourth cycle, take a 15- to 30-minute break and start over. The key is to focus on the short bursts, as it helps you to concentrate on your tasks without distractions.
5. Take more breaks
This sounds counterintuitive to being more productive at first, but according to a New York Times article, research shows that “daytime workouts, short afternoon naps, longer sleep hours, more time away from the office, and longer, more frequent vacations” actually boost productivity and job performance. Truth is, humans aren’t wired to concentrate for more than three hours at a time. Anything beyond that without a break and you’ll start to experience the negative effects of decision fatigue, lack of focus, and even impaired vision.
6. Schedule your to-do list items.
This productivity hack helps you be more realistic about what you want to get done. Cal Newport, author of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, says, “Scheduling forces you to confront the reality of how much time you actually have and how long things will take. Now that you look at the whole picture, you’re able to get something productive out of every free hour you have in your workday. You not only squeeze more work in but you’re able to put work into places where you can do it best.”