How to Increase Productivity
Most people are looking for ways to increase productivity. One of the things people with executive dysfunction struggle with is their level of productivity. Often, they feel like they’re always running and not getting enough accomplished. Productivity is strongly linked to our executive functions, so if you are missing skills, your productivity might suffer.
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Highly productive people are organized, set goals, and stay focused. Is there any wonder why my ADHD friends don’t feel super productive? These are the exact things you struggle with. Let me start by saying if you already have systems in place that work for you, I’m not suggesting you abandon them. Instead, look over my recommendations here and see if anything resonates with you that you might want to add to your systems. Or maybe you can improve your systems with a suggestion I offer.
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This is a tough one, especially as women and moms because we are the queens of multitasking (or so we think). Research has shown that multitasking is not the most effective or efficient way to get things done because our attention is split.
Don’t get me wrong. I think there are times when multi-tasking is not only okay but preferred. You can absolutely call mom and have a conversation with her while folding laundry or sweeping the floor. Low-level tasks that don’t require a lot of focus are fine to multitask.
But for tasks that require more attention and effort, you are better off giving that task your full attention until it’s complete. Then move on to the next task. You can increase productivity because you will complete tasks instead of just having a bunch of them started or in various stages of completion.
Focus might not be your friend. And that’s okay. You need to learn to work within your focus ability. Time blocking is a great method for this. You might have heard of the Pomodoro method, which is basically what time blocking is. You set a timer for 20 minutes and work, totally focused until the timer goes off. Then you take a 5-minute break. Then start again with another 20-minute chunk.
The 20 minutes is arbitrary. If you can only focus for 10 or 15 minutes at a time, then use that as your time block. The important thing is that you go all in on your task in that time block. Consider using an actual timer like this one to keep you on track.
Productive people know the value of their time and they are comfortable saying no to people and things that will detract from their productivity. I’ve talked quite a bit about learning to say no as a form of self-care. It’s also important to protect your productivity.
There are only so many hours in the day. If you agree to do something, you will have take something else off your list. Otherwise, you run the risk of burnout. Saying no will help increase productivity because you can finish what you've already committed to.
Understand the 80/20 Rule
The 80/20 rule says that 80% of your results come from 20% of your actions. If you want to improve your productivity, you want to place your focus on the things that give you the highest return. In order to know what tasks are most effective, you need to figure out how you are really spending your time.
You might want to create a log of your day to really see where your time is spent. You want to be able to minimize the tasks that are not having a positive impact on your efficiency and productivity. However, if you struggle with time management or are easily distracted, you might not even be aware of where your time goes.
A daily log will help you figure that out. The important thing is that you don’t do this exercise to judge yourself. Did you think you only spent 10 minutes scrolling on TikTok only to find that it’s actually 35 minutes? That’s okay. Don’t feel bad. But now you have a better understanding of where your time goes.
Once you know, you can make adjustments.
Learn From Your Mistakes
One thing that successful people do is not wallow in their mistakes. They treat every failure as a learning experience to figure out how to do better. If you want to increase productivity and efficiency, you have to be willing to take risks. This is something that is difficult if you have anxiety. You tend to overthink the consequences of every move you make. If that’s you, you need to work on your mindset to adjust how you view failure.
If you see a mistake or a failure and ask yourself what you’ve learned and how you can improve for next time, it’s not a wasted experience.
Daily Routines Matter
The most successful and productive people in the world usually start their day with a morning routine to get them focused and prepared. Breakfast, exercise, and journaling are all ways productive people increase their focus and set the tone for their day.
But morning is just the beginning. Creating daily habits will help increase productivity. Here are some things to work into your daily routine to help.
As I mentioned, many successful people begin their day with journaling. Journaling doesn’t have to be all about how you feel or a diary of your life. You can use a journal to keep yourself focused on the goals you are working toward. A journal is also an excellent way to reflect on our mood or how we’re feeling, but it’s also a means to celebrate our progress.
Reflecting on success is just as important as learning from our mistakes. Acknowledging our accomplishments helps keep our motivation up, even when we struggle.
Choose your must-dos We all have to-do lists that run for miles. This is overwhelming for most people, but for those who struggle with executive functioning, a long to-do list can be paralyzing. Prioritizing tends to be difficult and I’ve talked about how to prioritize in other posts.
Once you prioritize your tasks, look at that list and choose the 2-3 things that must get done today. Write them down in your planner. If they go smoothly and you want to complete additional tasks, awesome. But you don’t have to. Making sure you complete your must-dos for the day is your focus. You will know exactly what you’re facing for the day and there won’t be surprises (at least not ones that are within your control).
This might seem counterintuitive in a post about how to increase productivity, but we need breaks. Constantly pushing yourself isn’t healthy and will lead to burnout, which ultimately ruins all of your productivity. Take breaks when you need them.
This is another reason that time blocking works well for so many people. If you are easily distracted or fidgety, knowing that you only have to focus for x number of minutes makes it doable. Then you get a break. Knowing that you aren’t trapped in a giant block of work with no sign of it ending makes it easier to tackle.
You know you only have to get through 15 minutes. Yes, the task isn’t complete in 15 minutes, but then you can stop thinking about it during your break. Once you’re refreshed, you’re ready to dive in for the next 15 minutes.
I mentioned journaling as a task to include in your morning routine, but if writing isn’t your thing, it might be too much of an ask. Even if you don’t journal, though, you should take some time to reflect on your day.
Taking time to process unresolved feelings or conflicts is beneficial so that they don’t crop up later when you’re trying to do other things, like focus on your family or go to sleep for the night.
Reflection can help alleviate any lingering stress from the workday and help you celebrate your accomplishments for the day. Acknowledging what went well for the day can increase your motivation for tomorrow. It can also help you keep a positive mindset as you make changes in your life.
Final thoughts: Being productive looks a little different for each person. You need to find or develop the systems that work best for you. Think about how you thrive and how you struggle and that will help you figure out the best ways to develop your daily habits to increase productivity.