We all want to learn how to boost productivity. We want to be able to be more efficient and get more done. However, this is a major struggle if you have executive dysfunction. You know you’d be able to boost productivity if you could stop procrastinating. But there’s always something to draw our attention, so it’s easier than ever to put off doing what we need to do.
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10 Strategies to Boost Productivity
Break it down
Big projects can be daunting. The concept of “big” is going to vary by person. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the “big project” for a client at work. For you, the “big project” might be getting all the laundry done. Or finally sending an email you’ve been putting off. Only you get to decide what needs to be broken down, but I often tell my clients to break everything down.
The trick is to break them down into specific tasks before you put anything on your to-do list. Break tasks into really small steps. The more you’ve been procrastinating on doing something, the smaller the steps should be. This way, your brain has clear directions on what to do. And most of us can convince ourselves to do one five- or ten-minute task even if it’s something we hate.
Take the time to break things into doable chunks.
Having your tasks broken into chunks is a good start, but you also need to learn to prioritize not only the tasks you need to accomplish but also the steps within those tasks. When you look at the tasks you have, you need to decide what is most important to get done. Constantly shoving something to the bottom of your list is just another form of procrastination.
Also, when you have a job broken down, don’t assume that the order that you created is the order the steps need to be done. You can prioritize those smaller tasks to see more progress on the whole job.
When you prioritize your tasks, you don’t want to fill your whole day with complex things. One way to help you find balance is the 1-2-3 method. Choose 1 big thing, 2 medium things, and 3 small things to accomplish.
Set daily goals
A main reason why people procrastinate is they aren’t clear on exactly what they’re supposed to do right now. They know what the end goal is, what the completed task should look like, but they don’t know where to start. They don’t know what to do daily to reach that goal.
Not knowing where to start allows you easily procrastinate. You spend a lot of time “figuring it out” but not doing anything. To counteract this, set daily goals.
If you’ve already broken your task into chunks or step, you just need to divide it into daily responsibilities. Write down a list of 1 to 5 tasks you want to achieve that day and put them in your planner with the specific time you will do them.
Specificity is key here. You know you probably won’t make things happen without knowing the exact steps to take.
If 5 things seem like too much, go with 3. The number you choose each day might vary depending on your availability, your energy level, or how long the tasks will take. That’s okay. The important part is to have a plan.
Schedule your time
I mentioned this in the previous strategy, but it bears repeating. Just because you know what needs to get done doesn’t mean it will if you haven’t committed to when it will be done. Without a specific time to work, you will continue to procrastinate.
You might want to consider planning out your day the night before so that you know exactly how your day will start and what you need to get done that day.
Just seven minutes
If you’ve been procrastinating on doing a task, stop thinking about the whole thing. This is where breaking it up into chunks comes in handy. Look at your list of smaller steps, and set a timer for seven minutes.
Eliminate distractions by turning off notifications, ringers, TV, and social media. Close your door or put on your headphones and get to work. The catch is that you have to give the task your full attention for the entire seven minutes. But really, seven minutes isn’t all that long.
When the timer goes off, you can totally stop if you want. You’ve done your part for now. However, you might find that it’s easier to continue working and accomplish more of the task.
Visual or physical cues are powerful tools to help build new, positive habits, or help get you unstuck from task completion. The concept is that you give yourself a cue that will trigger the response you want. For example:
- When you start the coffee maker, you take your meds.
- When I get to my desk, I go over my planner (because it’s sitting open on my desk).
It doesn’t matter what the cues are, the key is in the repetition. So you might put on a specific kind of music or background noise for work. Or light a candle and connect the scent with the project. It won’t happen overnight, but with practice, it will stick.
Let’s face it, most of us are motivated by rewards. Going back to being a little kid and getting a sticker on our homework or a ribbon for trying hard—we like to be recognized for what we do. But as adults, that doesn’t really happen anymore. The idea here is that you do this for yourself.
To stop procrastinating and boost productivity, you can give yourself incentives for working on tasks. This works especially well if you tend to procrastinate on bigger tasks. Having those tasks broken into smaller steps makes this easier. Instead of promising yourself a reward when the whole job is finished, you can celebrate and get a reward for each step along the way.
Of course, you don’t want to over-incentivize—like just because you finally made an appointment you’ve been putting off doesn’t mean you deserve to take a whole day off work or that you should go buy the new designer shoes you’ve been eyeing. The reward should match the task.
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Ask for help or delegate
I know this one isn’t always possible—at work or at home. But if you’re really stuck on something, there’s no harm in asking for help or pushing it off on someone else. For many of us, we’re used to handling all the things. We don’t like to ask for help. It makes us feel weak. Or incompetent. Or it might trigger our imposter syndrome.
But you have to decide what’s worse—dealing with those uncomfortable feelings or not getting the job done. You don’t have to get someone to everything, but asking for help with part of a task can often give you the motivation to get going yourself.
If possible, hire out the things you have to do regularly that you hate. There are plenty of services that you can hire to do any number of things from laundry to housecleaning to dog walking… You get the idea. Even if what you hire out isn’t what your been procrastinating on, it can free up your headspace to work on other things.
Work with yourself—don’t force it
Again, I know this isn’t always possible. If you know you work best from 8 pm to midnight, you probably can’t tell your boss that’s when you’ll be at the office. But if you’re someone who struggles with chronic illness or mental health issues, you need to allow extra cushion in your planning.
You know you will have days that you won’t be able to do much, if anything at all. Instead of allowing those times to take you by surprise and throw off all your plans, account for them ahead of time. Don’t pretend that things will be different. If you account for low energy/high pain days, you’ll still be able to do what you need to do without feeling overwhelmed.
Remember to take breaks
Forcing yourself to power through and keep working isn’t healthy and will not boost productivity. It will just lead to burnout. At least every hour, you need to give yourself a break. Moving is good—stretch, stand, take a quick walk through the office or house.
If that’s not possible, at least step away from work for a few minutes. Close the file, put your computer to sleep, close your eyes. This short 2-minute break allows you to refresh your mind and body so you can stay focused longer.
Boosting productivity happens when we learn to prioritize and schedule what needs to be done. Be realistic about what you can do at any given time and use these strategies to change your current habits and achieve your goals.