In our modern, fast-moving society, a professional person is rated on the type of work they do and how much they can produce. Being productive is an essential quality for those looking to improve their professional life, and so great attention should be taken when considering how hard you work and what you can do to make yourself more productive.
For those in full-time work, a highly productive output can be the difference between staying in an entry-level role and climbing the corporate ladder. If you are self-employed, being productive is perhaps even more important, as you will more than often only be paid for the amount of work you do. Lacking in productivity can have a detrimental effect on your finances and your creativity.
Here are four very simple ways to measure your productivity and then work on increasing it in light of your findings.
1. Set yourself soft targets
If you’ve ever been in a sales or manufacturing environment, you’ll be familiar with KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). While these can often be considered wooden and soulless, where every worker is measured only by the numbers they hit, KPIs aren’t at all unhelpful. It all comes down to how you identify your targets and make them the appropriate level of challenge.
Measure how much work you would expect to complete in an average day by taking your weekly or monthly output and dividing it appropriately. Then imagine how much work you would ideally complete in a very productive day, allowing yourself to be a little ambitious. Compare these two figures and find a soft target somewhere in the middle. This won’t overwork you, but instead, transition you into a higher work rate that you can gradually make more challenging by increasing your target over time.
2. Take control of your procrastination
Procrastination can be one of the biggest threats to your productivity, and you’d be surprised how much time you lose out on just by taking a few minutes to browse social media sites, make a cup of tea, or look at funny pictures of cats. A helpful exercise is to measure how many minutes you tend to spend procrastinating and calculating how much that adds up to in a week, a month, or a year.
This Procrastination Calculator from Nigel Frank International allows you to figure out just how much money your wasted time is worth. If you are in full-time employment, this is how much money you are actually stealing from your employer; if you are self-employed, this is how much money you are missing out on by not concentrating on the task at hand.
Procrastination is not something that can be avoided easily, as the mind will naturally wander if not particularly engaged stimulated. If you find yourself procrastinating a lot, ask yourself whether your job is clear to you or if your time wasting stems from a lack of clarity or confidence about your role, or whether you need to remove time-wasting elements of your work day. Making small tweaks to your environment, such as switching off your mobile phone, is a great way to increase your productivity.
3. Split up your work day
While it may sound strange, having too much time on your hands can actually make you less productive. Have you ever had a day off work with only one household chore to do, you keep delaying it, and then it gets to 10 pm, and you still haven’t done it? That also applies to work. An eight-hour work day may seem like a lifetime, but if you don’t manage your time effectively, then you may as well only be working for a couple of hours.
Try splitting your work day in half and assigning tasks to each section of the day. If you tell yourself you have to complete a certain task before lunch, you’ll end up working on it at a more efficient rate than if you had a 5 pm deadline. This is known as Parkinson’s Law, the idea that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. There’s an excellent guide to using Parkinson’s Law for time management available here at Impossible, which helps explain how to do more stuff by giving yourself less time.
4. Use a time monitoring software
For those who really don’t trust themselves when it comes to procrastination and time wasting, it may be worth downloading a time monitoring software so you can guilt trip yourself into staying on task. Time-monitoring, or time management solutions will not only track how much time you spend on each task, in each program, and on each website, it will also give you details of which times in the day you tend to lose focus. Sometimes such solutions are also found when you’re searching for “productivity” or “task management” software. Just make sure they have all the features you need.
If you have no idea what solution you should choose, have a look at Cat Ellis’ article on TechRadar. Pick a promising one and try using it for two weeks to determine how much time you spend and how. You may even find it useful for gauging how long it actually takes to complete a task, which you can use to plan work in the future. Don’t forget to check options for smartphone apps as well.
Productivity is one of the most satisfying things a person can achieve, and so embracing these four simple tips will allow you to mold the best and hardest-working version of yourself. Go for it!
Photo credit: Alexander Lyubavin / Vic
Editorial notice: This article has been contributed by Chris Thompson.