12 years ago, way before we had a Siri or Google in our pockets, journalist AJ Jacobs wrote an article about productivity called “my outsourced life.” In it, he explains how he managed to have virtual assistants in India do a lot of the little jobs that he hated doing. Jobs like paying the bills, doing little research projects, and even… finding a gift for his wife.
A very smart approach, and if you have the means, a great way to start focusing on what matters. Rather than spending your precious time on menial tasks like the above. But not everyone can outsource their lives, and the work of course, still needs to be done. That doesn’t mean however that we can’t find ways to work smarter, instead of harder.
Here are 3 productivity tips that we love for workplace happiness:
Productivity Tip 1: Take more breaks
It may seem counter-intuitive, but it is one of the easiest ways to get done more, quicker. Whenever we have massive amounts of work, or pressing deadlines, or worst; both, we tend to lock ourselves up and just work and work until its done.
In the book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” author Stephen Covey draws a great analogy. He tells the story of a woodcutter whose saw gets more blunt as time passes and he continues cutting down trees. If the woodcutter were to stop sawing, sharpen his saw, and go back to cutting the tree with a sharp blade, he would actually save time and effort in the long run.
It’s the same for us. We ourselves are the best tool to get work done well. But, when we exhaust ourselves, we become less and less effective. Even when you start feeling like you can’t stop studying or working to hit a deadline. It’s still worth taking a 15 minute break, rest, and “sharpen your saw” in the process. When you get back refreshed, you’ll be able to take on the next part of the task with much less effort.
Productivity Tip 2: Work in blocks
Getting even more organized, ways of working such as the Pomodoro Technique help you become even more effective. Similar to learning a new skill, you can become much more effective in getting things done when you: 1) understand what needs to be done 2) find a way to do it easily and 3) divide up that work in small blocks.
What the Pomodoro Technique teaches us specifically is how we can program ourselves to work in small blocks of up to 25 minutes. After each session, we take short breaks, and a longer break after 4 of those. This way, we stay focused and don’t get overwhelmed. At the same time, we have a good incentive to keep moving forwards. Spending 5-10 minutes on Facebook isn’t a bad thing at all. It’s only bad when it interrupts you when you’re in the flow of getting things done.
Productivity Tip 3: Work when you feel like it
Something that we live by, is the idea of “don’t work unless you feel like working.” A lot of companies are re-looking at traditional ways of working for this reason. People are not programmed to be productive from exactly 9am to 5pm. Our inspiration and excitement ebbs and flows hour by hour. The worst thing you could do is to sit at a desk all day just to be there.
In moments of low productivity, go and socialise with your class or office mates. Or do small jobs that require little brain power. When you feel like getting some work done however, sit down and get things out of the way, using the above techniques. Not every boss will appreciate this, but if you can manage it well, working at peak productivity moments will help you get much more out of any day.