How to Increase Productivity and Make the Most of Your Day!

Feel like you're constantly working on something? But at the same time never feel like you have enough time for everything? Learn how to increase productivity and get the most out of your day!

“You will never find time for anything. If you want the time, you must make it.” These wise words by Charles Buxton dating back to 19th century are a universal truth which explains why learning how to increase productivity is a challenge for most of us.

If you feel lonely in the unproductive zone, statistics will comfort you. A 2005 Microsoft’s research revealed that majority of people use only up to 60% of total work time efficiently. This means most of world-wide working population really works only 3 out of 5 weekdays. While this is normal, we want to rise above the average for the higher purpose of personal success and fulfillment it brings about.

Countless organizer and productivity software has been made, books written and courses sold. As with all things, the best strategy to get around being unproductive is to think analytically and approach the issue strategically. While my advice list shows how to boost productivity, it is on you to select and modify them to create a personalized solution and test if it works on weekly basis.

In a month, you’ll have a good insight into what was keeping you from optimal productivity level and it will be easier to develop the winning formula further. Make sure to keep a daily log of what exactly was performed and achieved each day so you can track how, when and to what extent your productivity has increased.

Goal 1: Reaching Momentum

…and everything will roll down smoothly right from that moment. Getting started with any type of work is a low warm up, intercepted by a myriad of little distractions, from chats and social networks to being assigned new priority tasks. Train your mind to stay focused. A dull, but incredibly efficient yoga practice for this purpose is laying your hand on the desk, palm up. Then you curl and unfold finger by finger, slow motion style, concentrating upon every millimeter of movement.

– “And the point is?” Learning to calm your mind, pay attention to one thing at a time and endure it. What seems bothersome in the beginning will become perfectly normal with practice. Only when you become determined to put distractions aside and mentally immerse into the task at hand you can build momentum. It is the magic moment when your workflow is at its peak, and you’re not even aware of it because you’re just too busy doing a good job. This is when real work happens, at its maximal speed.

Practice will get you there. You’ll build self-discipline essential to productivity boost easier if you use the right tools.

Get Productivity Software

young business woman working on her laptop

By far the most popular micro-time management solution is the pomodoro technique. You can use it for any type of work to make sure you meke the most of your time. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the concept, Pomodoro is a time management technique developed by Francesco Cirillo in the eighties, but it is still fully applicable. Cirillo was inspired by a cute tomato-shaped kitchen timer originally meant to measure cooking time.
Use it if you’re a work from home mom, a start-up entrepreneur or a student with loads of books to go over and some inevitable sleepless cramming night sessions ahead.

The concept is very simple, but it does require self discipline. A typical pomodoro work time slot is 25 minutes, followed by a 5 minute break. Simply promise yourself not to succumb to ANY distraction as long as the situation is up to you. Colleagues and boss barging in to tell something are clearly out of your control, but even if you work in an office you can ask not to be disturbed and that you’ll get back to them in 15 minutes or so, during the break time.

The big half an hour break is a reward after 4 sessions. You won’t have to measure your own time or set your cell phone’s reminders. As pomodoro is so popular, there are numerous online timers and downloadable organizer apps, the simplest of which being the egg timer with standard 25 minute work slots. Feel free to come up with your own time structure, because longer sessions work better for some people. They gain momentum during the first half an hour, and want to maintain it for up to a whole hour before going for a break.

The Fear Factor vs. Positive Reinforcement

For those whose work is related to typing, like students, academic researchers, writers and journalists among others, the tool I enthusiastically use and recommend is the stressful but fun Write or Die. If fear is the only feeling which can possibly make you work, look no further. You are given a blank box to type in, and several modes of work, the strictest of which being the kamikaze mode. If you fail to write anything for a certain time period, the program starts deleting what you had previously written! Beginners should choose the first level when you’re only warned by a pop-up that you’re not writing. You can even set different warning sounds along the visual reminder.

On the other hand, or rather, on the other paw, if you’re a cat fan (who isn’t?) and your guess on how to boost your productivity is all about positive reinforcement, Written? Kitten! will pet you with a random cute kitty pic after every 100 to 1000 words written. How cool is that? The link purrs on my bookmark toolbar, and I can’t wait to earn my next adorable kitten photo.

Google calendar is an obvious solution for general time planning from daily to long term tasks and projects, and to keep everything your days consist of in one place, with as many reminders set as you need.

Feed Your Brain

young beautiful business lady at table resting and eating an apple

Gadgets and fancy software won’t do wonders on their own. To stay focused, you should never start working hungry or have junk food snacks which are not nutritious. Simple sugars found in candies only boost your mental activity for a short period known as “sugar high” after which you’ll feel drained and generally down. Your brain wants you to consume complex carbohydrates, found in pasta for example, which decompose for hours keeping you upbeat.

I got this piece of advice from our family MD while I was still a student. Not only did it help me to graduate, but it kept me fit even though I was sitting whole day long and only went jogging in the evenings. Another focus friendly type of sugar is fructose, found in fruits. Both fresh and dried grapes are great source of it, plus all the minerals. Healthy snacks, which will help you think and work, are all kinds of nuts and dried fruit like dates, figs and apricots. It’s okay to reward yourself with a chocolate bar or a piece of cake after every major achievement.

Too feed you brain with oxygen, go out for a brisk meditative walk or stay in and do yoga or qi gong, paying special attention to deep abdominal breathing. Afterwards, continue working over a cup of mate tea which is proven to be more effective than coffee and harmless for your health. The same goes for fine green tea varieties, but be careful not to have it after 6pm, or you’ll have trouble falling asleep in the evening because it does contain caffeine. Of course, it will help if you really need to work your night through.

Three to five small cups of green tea a day will keep your metabolic rate at a high level, burning off the stored body fat, so you can still have a sedentary life style and not grow overweight, as long as you do your oxygen boosting 30 minute workout and junk the junk food.

Are You a Multitasking Mom?

And you feel burnout all the time? There’s a strategy to alleviate this hectic lifestyle. First of all, congratulate yourself for all the attained skills and abilities which seem supernatural for most people who still don’t have kids. Then schedule the 25 minute work-time slots wisely, opting for the most peaceful times of the day: while the kids are still asleep early in the morning, during their daytime nap and after they go to sleep in the evening.

This applies to kids who don’t attend nursery or kindergarten. Talk to your partner about your work plan and ask him to play with the kids for an hour after his own work while you use another two 25 minute sessions to get the tasks done.

The truth is, you should seriously work on eliminating multitasking and gradually start doing one thing at a time. Recent studies have shown that only 2% people out of general working population can multitask. For most of us it is mind-boggling, exhausting and simply useless. Multitasking only creates an illusion of achievement. It actually lowers our IQ by 10 points, which equals the effects of a sleepless night. Maybe you’ve handled all the e-mails, socialized, networked…but you probably didn’t even touch the main task at hand, or barely did so.

The solution is simple: set 25 minutes aside for handling and filing e-mails, another 25 minutes for urgent phone calls, chats and social networks, and spend the rest of your available work time fulfilling your essential daily goals.

Once a month, revise and define your long term goals, for example, being able to afford top quality education for your kids, or expanding your family-run business to international level. Well defines goals are what separate the top 3% successful people from the rest of population, according to a study conducted by Harvard Business School.

Have your own original ideas on how to increase productivity? Care to share in the comment section below to everyone’s benefit.

About the author


Alex is your savvy and fun guide for globe trotting and all aspects of self-improvement, from professional and financial to physical. When not writing or traveling, Alex enjoys practicing martial arts and yoga.

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