We all have 24 hours in a day… And I can’t count the days I feel I don’t have enough time. To better use the available time I have, I try to optimize my working hours and to be as productive as I can during them. There’s nothing especially innovative about how I organize my days to increase my productivity, but I use some efficient, tried and true strategies.
Here is why I’m obsessed about my watch at work, and how I try to slow down the clock with some tricks I use on a day-to-day basis!
Being productive at work…
To enjoy more free time!
I truly think that before getting into any productivity improvement process, we should ask ourselves: why being more productive? What is your final goal? Productivity is a good thing, don’t get me wrong, but having some quality time without watching the clock every 2 minutes to avoid burnout is even better!
I read a lot of blog posts, articles and books about personal development that encourage people to be more productive, and make “useful”, “optimal” choices every seconds of their lives. If I do apply these principles at work, they are totally absent from my personal life: I consider that there’s nothing more enjoyable than a chilly evening after a “running after the clock” day at work!
I don’t track the hours I spend on my personal projects, neither do I minute the time spent to do basically nothing. In fact, it’s pretty much the other way around: I try to be more productive at work and track every minute to free more time for my personal goals and projects and spend more time doing things I really enjoy!
Once you’ve answer the “Why”, you’ll have to figure out “How”. My PROJO planner has made my productivity increase significantly, but I knew I could do even better, and started to use some helpful time management strategies.
Here’s my top 3 tips to be more productive at work!
Productivity tip #1: Use your power hours (and start with the hard work)
For most people, the productivity fluctuates during the day. You may be super productive on specific hours and on the other hand loose your efficiency during some others. The most productive hours of the day can be called “power hours” and they typically occur at the beginning and at the end of it. My own “power hours” are between 9.30 am and 11am and after 4pm.
I use these special hours to do all the tasks that I don’t like too much. Reading and sending back emails, making phone calls or do some administrative work are the first things I’ll do as soon as I’m ready to start in the morning (just after writing my to-do list and having a full cup of hot tea). Once these tasks are done, I can start to work on some more attractive activities.
My end-of-the-day session is dedicated to emails, and to tackle the last tasks of my daily to-do list. Doing so, I’m sure I did everything that needed to be done that day, and use the time left to get ready for next day.
Productivity tip #2: Use the Pomodoro technique
Like almost everyone, there are some tasks I have to do that are (very) less enjoyable than others, or simply days I don’t feel like working too hard. In these cases, I use the ultimate productivity hack: the Pomodoro technique.
The Pomodoro technique is based on using a timer to better manage time. The idea is basically to break big tasks in multiple sub-tasks. You set up your timer, and you have 25 minutes ahead to get your sub-task done, working on it. The key here is to NOT interrupt yourself. Each 25 minutes session is called a “Pomodoro” and is followed by a 5 minutes break. This technique is perfect to focus on a task for 25 minutes before starting of the next step.
So when I feel under-motivated or if I have to work on something that looks like I have to climb mount Everest to get it done, I grab my timer. Twenty five minutes is long enough to get some result, yet short enough to find motivation to get started. The “pomodori” can be done one after another to tackle one big task or introduce some variety to stay motivated.
The days I’m not in a productive mood, I plan 5 pomodori in my timetable, and track them in my PROJO planner (the rest of the time is typically dedicated to meetings and phone calls). I check the boxes as soon as I end a pomodoro. Seeing these tiny squares filling up during the day really cheers me up! (but maybe not as much as the cup of tea I make to myself during my 5 minutes break!)
Productivity tip #3: Every minute counts
Sometimes, it can be hard to get back to work when the next meeting / lunch time / end of the day is 10 minutes away. In facts, these tiny “holes” in your schedule are an underestimate resource. They’re perfect moments to do tasks that only take a few minutes so that you can focus on bigger tasks that ask for concentration when you have more available time.
The main idea here is to optimize these short working sessions to things like answering to an email, make a phone call, schedule an appointment, update your to-do list…
To be sure I don’t miss these opportunities, I created a dedicated collection in my PROJO planner. I categorized the tasks I can do, considering the available time I have (including “taking a break” – there’s nothing worse for productivity than being static and working continuously!).
And if I have at least 25 minutes, I start a pomodoro!
These 3 simple productivity hacks are effective and get me to do more in less time. But I’m like everyone else, and there are still some days I’m not productive at all… As I’m pretty sure that no one can be productive all day long, every day, I just forgive myself and make an oath to be more productive the next day. And I leave the office with no guilt, focusing myself on some fun stuff!