How to Be More Productive and Stop Wasting Time

Written by Fraser Stewart
Reading time 7 minutes
How to Be More Productive and Stop Wasting Time image

All of us would love more hours in the day. Unfortunately, that is just not possible. What we need to focus on instead is using the hours we do have wisely. In this article, we will discuss ways to be more productive and techniques that we use ourselves to get more done in the day.

How To Live a Productive Lifestyle

Before we get into the productivity techniques, there are some general ways to be more productive that you need to know. This will help you to find time for all the things you struggle to get done:

Do one thing at a time 

Everyone likes to think they can multitask, but truthfully when you multitask, you end up taking longer to do both tasks than if you just did one task at a time. You can lose at least 20% of productivity by switching tasks. This means watching TV while working or responding to emails as they pop up on your screen is killing your productivity. Instead, focus completely on the task and get it done quickly before moving onto the next task. Wait until your lunch break or when you finish your tasks to watch TV.

Take lots of little breaks 

While it can be tempting to lose yourself in work when flow overtakes you, you do need to take a short break every hour or two. Getting away from your desk and stretching your legs, going to the bathroom, getting a drink or snacks, and letting your eyes adjust will allow you to return to your task refreshed and ready to work. The Pomodoro Method we will discuss below is great for this, but at the very least, make sure you set a timer for 2 hours and take a 15-20 minute break. This will keep your productivity up across the course of the day rather than seeing a dramatic drop.

Exercise most days 

It is easier to be productive when you are in a good mood. Exercise increases endorphins and allows your blood to circulate. It makes you happier and healthier in general. You don’t have to start lifting weights or running marathons; even a 30-minute walk would be enough to reap the benefits. You can fit it in your day easily by taking a walk on your lunchbreak, in the morning, or in the evening.

Sleep well 

When you are sleep deprived, one of the first things to go is concentration. You will struggle to focus and generally not feel like working at all. One of the best changes you can make to increase productivity is getting a good nights’ sleep. You need between 8 and 10 hours of sleep every night. We know it can be difficult to fit that into a busy schedule, but it will increase productivity overall.

Work to a schedule 

The human brain and body thrive on a schedule. This is why jetlag throws us off so much. If you do important work between, say, 10-12 every day, then your brain will start to associate that time with extreme focus. It may take a little time to get your brain into this mode, but once you do, you will find it easy. This is how people maintain workout routines because it becomes part of their routine that at X time they workout.

Identify the best time for focus and productivity 

Most people find that their productivity is better at certain times of the day. Of course, there’s the morning person vs night owl biological clock, but people will also find that they are prone to peaks and troughs of focus and productivity at certain times of the day. For example, around mealtimes, during caffeine highs and crashes, and afternoon slumps. Spend some time recording what times you feel really productive and what times you feel really unproductive. Also, jot down what things might cause it. E.g. Had a coffee 15 minutes ago, got some great feedback from my boss, just came back from lunch break etc. This will help you to not only identify what times are best for your productivity and therefore what times of the day are best to do the important work, it will also help you to “hack” your productivity. You can reschedule your lunch break and coffees or even your exercise to pick you up during slumps and therefore have a more productive day overall.

Disable notifications 

Seriously. You don’t need to read your emails instantly and having desktop notifications for your emails will only create unnecessary distractions. Instead, check your emails once every hour (for jobs where you need to check your emails regularly) or at certain times of the day. This will stop distractions and task switching from leeching your productivity. Also, put your phone on Do Not Disturb mode while doing important work. This means it will not vibrate or ring and cause distractions. Obviously, if you are awaiting important news or need to be reachable for a pregnant spouse or sick child, then this may not be the best option. But you can set certain exceptions to the do not disturb if you wish. You can check your phone every hour if you need to while you are taking a break. But at least you will not be disturbed by your phone buzzing.

Productivity Techniques 

So we’ve looked at some general tips for how to be more productive, but there are also a number of famous productivity techniques that may work. There are countless different ways gurus claim are the best for productivity, but these are the ones that we find work for us.

Pomodoro Method

The Pomodoro Method is one of our favourite ways to stop wasting time. Everyone we know who uses this productivity technique uses it in a different way. These are some of the ways we have heard of people using it:

Experiment with it and apply the Pomodoro Method, however works best for your life.

The Pomodoro Method is based on a timer system that breaks your hour up into chunks of focused work and break. A traditional Pomodoro Timer would set 25 minutes of focused work with a 5-minute break, followed by another 25 minutes of focused work and a 5-minute break. It is suggested that after every hour or two, you take a 15-30 minute break to get back to work.

The idea behind this productivity technique is it maximises the average attention span because you know a short break is coming. If your phone buzzes or an email pops in, you can say, I have a break in X number of minutes, so I’ll check it then. Therefore, it helps you to stay on task. If your brain tries to throw distractions your way, you can jot them down on a piece of paper to look at during your break. The regular 5-minute breaks allow you to stretch your legs, refill water, get a coffee, or even just scroll social media for a few minutes.

You can change the Pomodoro Method to suit you. If you find you struggle with 25 minutes, try 15 minutes of work and then 5-10 minutes of break. You will still get 40 minutes of work done in an hour. Once you can easily do 15 minutes, then you can increase the time to 25 minutes. Some people have great attention spans and prefer to do 45 mins of work and 15 minutes break because it allows them to take advantage of their flow (when you’re really focused on a task and work is easy). Just do what works best for you and adjust for days where you’re more productive or less motivated.

Task Batching

This productivity technique is another that centres around the concept that switching tasks can decrease focus and productivity. It is a simple concept that if you should schedule similar tasks together in chunks or batches. On a grand scale, this means doing certain kinds of work on a certain day of the week. Let’s say you’re an online business coach. You may schedule client calls on Tuesday and Thursday. Mondays are for writing your e-book. Wednesdays are for scheduling next week’s social media, videos, and blog posts. Fridays are for sending your clients resources they requested in their calls. By having one type of task each day, your brain is completely engaged in “book writing mode” or whatever the day calls for.

On a smaller scale, you may choose to task batch at certain times of the day. Some types of work do not allow your work to be scheduled on one day of the week. Also, some people cannot focus on only one type of task for the whole day without getting bored. You might have 9-10 scheduled as handling your emails and getting the ball rolling on things you need for the day. 11-1 pm scheduled as client work. 2-3 might be admin, and then 3-5 might be more client work. Do whatever works best for you and look to batch tasks based on your peak productivity and focus time.

Reclaim Lost Time

This isn’t a specific productivity technique; a lot of self-help and productivity gurus have some form of this in their teachings. The concept is to reclaim lost time like commuting or waiting by doing something else useful. Now we mentioned earlier that multitasking is counterproductive, but this is slightly different.

If you are on a bus or train commuting, you can listen to e-books or podcasts, or get a jump on emails or sort your to-do list for the day. While you are going for a walk, you can listen to podcasts and e-books. Alternatively, you can just use the time to think about your goals and what you need to get done for the day.

We need to add a disclaimer here that if you are driving, you should commit all your focus to the task at hand. Distracted driving is very dangerous, and even listing to a podcast or e-book could reduce your focus on the road.

Eat the Frog

A weird name for a very simple productivity concept. Eat the frog is about prioritising your biggest or most important tasks first instead of putting them off. Some people lean towards the “snowball method” of doing lots of little tasks to create momentum. And that is useful for a lot of people, but by always looking for small wins, you can end up putting off the big task that really needs to get done.

This productivity method recommends doing the most important task first so that if you do not achieve anything else that day, you have a major win on the board. If the task seems daunting because it is such a big task, you can break it down into smaller bite-sized pieces. For example, if your important task is to write an e-book so you can monetise your knowledge and following, then break it down into write 1 chapter a day. That way, you can get the chapter out of the way in the morning and spend the time it needs rather than rushing to complete it when you’re already tired and switched off. If 1 chapter is still too big, then you can break it down even further to say 400 words a day. Break it down as small as you need to ensure it gets done. The more you incorporate that type of work into your routine, the easier it will become to do a little bit each day.

How to Stop Wasting Time

So, we hope we have given you some insights into how to be more productive. These techniques are not just useful for work; they can be used when it comes to doing anything. They can help you stop procrastinating your housework, estate planning, or even get around to that declutter you have been meaning to do. We hope these productivity tips help you to get on top of your life.

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