Table of contents
- Set goals
- Define and prioritize tasks
- Plan tasks (regularly)
- Focus and reduce distractions
- Track time to optimize your productivity
- Other recommendations to get more done
This guide will provide practical strategies and tips for setting and achieving your goals, staying focused and reducing distractions. We will also explore ways to design a lifestyle that promotes productivity, including tips for optimizing your workspace, managing your time effectively, and taking care of your physical and mental health.
Whether you're looking to increase your productivity at work or home, this comprehensive guide has something for everyone. Let's get started on your journey to getting more done in 2023!
The first and most crucial step is setting goals, essential to success and progress in any area of your life. Whether you want to improve your career, grow your business, or reach a personal milestone, setting clear, achievable goals can help you stay focused and motivated.
To set goals, follow these steps:
Identify your values and priorities. Before setting goals, you must understand what matters most to you. Take time to reflect on your values, interests, and long-term goals, and consider how your goals align with these.
Make your goals SMART. Make sure your goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant to your values and interests, and have a clear deadline or target date (Time-bound).
This video explains SMART in more detail:
Write your goals down. Research has shown that people who write their goals are more likely to achieve them. So, take some time to write down your goals, and keep them in a place where you can see them regularly.
Next, you can find some example goals as inspiration:
Increase sales by 15% over the next quarter.
Launch a new product line within the next six months.
Improve customer satisfaction ratings by 25% over the next year.
Lose 20 pounds over the next six months.
Learn to speak basic Spanish within the following year.
Now that you have set goals let's break them into smaller, actionable steps called tasks.
Define and prioritize tasks
Tasks are actionable steps to achieve a goal. To define them, think about the big picture of what needs to be done, then break it down into smaller steps. For example, if your goal is to write a book, your tasks might include researching your topic, outlining the book, writing drafts, and editing.
Ideally, tasks should not take longer than a day to complete. Here's why:
Short tasks are more manageable. When tasks are too long, they can feel overwhelming and daunting.
Short tasks provide a sense of accomplishment. When you complete a task, it can give you a sense of accomplishment and boost your confidence. By completing tasks within a day or a few days, you can experience this sense of accomplishment more frequently, which can help you stay motivated.
Short tasks allow for better planning and flexibility. When tasks are too long, it can be hard to predict how much time they will take accurately. This can make it challenging to plan your work and adjust as needed. By keeping tasks short, you can plan your work more accurately and have more flexibility to adapt to changes or unexpected events.
Next, it's time to prioritize tasks. Consider the potential consequences of not completing a task and how soon it needs to be done. Tasks that are both important and urgent should be given the highest priority. We recommend using the Eisenhower Matrix, a productivity tool that helps you categorize tasks based on their importance and urgency. Tasks that are both important and urgent should be done first, followed by important but not urgent tasks. Tasks that are neither important nor urgent should be delegated or eliminated.
This video explains the Eisenhower Matrix in more detail:
Plan tasks (regularly)
Now that you have your (initial) list of actionable tasks needed to accomplish a goal, it's time to plan them.
Before diving into how to plan tasks, it's important to recognize that managing tasks is never-ending. While working towards a goal, it's natural for new tasks to arise and existing tasks to change. This is because as you progress and gain new insights, your understanding of what needs to be done will evolve. Because of this natural process, we recommend setting a fixed moment during your week to (re)evaluate your planned tasks. A good moment would be at the start of your (work) week, ideally on a Sunday evening, so you can immediately be focused and productive the following day.
There are several techniques to plan tasks, and every person has their preference. Here are three techniques that you may find helpful:
Timeboxing: Timeboxing is a technique where you allocate a specific amount of time to a task and then work on that task until the time is up. This technique can help you stay focused and avoid getting bogged down in one task for too long.
Time blocking: Time blocking is a technique where you schedule blocks of time for specific tasks or activities. For example, you might schedule a block of time in the morning for email and administrative tasks and then a block in the afternoon for deep work. This technique can help you stay organized and avoid frequently switching between tasks, which is a productivity killer.
Day theming: Day theming is a technique where you theme each day of the week with a specific type of task. For example, you might designate Monday as a day for meetings, Tuesday as a day for deep work, and Wednesday as a day for administrative tasks. This technique can help you stay organized and focused and make it easier to plan your work week.
Experiment with different techniques to see what works best for you and your (work) style — for example, measure when you're most focused and try scheduling intense tasks during that period.
Better organization. A to-do app allows you to organize your tasks by priority, project, or due date, making it easier to stay on top of what needs to be done.
Better time management. A to-do app can help track your time and see where you spend most of your effort. This can help you identify any time-wasting activities and adjust your workflow.
Better collaboration. A to-do app can help you share tasks and collaborate on projects more effectively if you work with a team.
Focus and reduce distractions
Now that you have planned your tasks, it's time to execute them. Focus is critical here, and for many, this is challenging, especially in today's fast-paced, distraction-filled world. Here are a few tips to help you stay focused while working on a task:
Identify distractions. Take some time to identify what distracts you while working. This could be social media, emails, notifications, or external noise. Once you know what your distractions are, you can minimize them. Various apps, such as one sec, provide help.
Create a distraction-free environment. Set up your workspace to minimize distractions as much as possible. Turn off notifications on your phone and computer, and consider using a tool like Freedom or Cold Turkey to block distracting websites.
Use the Pomodoro technique. The Pomodoro technique is a time management method that involves working in short bursts of 25 minutes, followed by a 5-minute break. This can help you stay focused and avoid burnout. Consider using a Pomodoro app like Focused Work to time Pomodoro sessions.
Watch this video to learn more about the Pomodoro technique:
Take breaks. While focusing on your work, it's also important to rest and recharge. Taking breaks can help you stay focused and be more productive in the long run.
For cognitively demanding tasks, consider practicing deep work, a state of flow where you're fully immersed in your work and your productivity and creativity are at their highest. To practice deep work, it's essential to create a distraction-free environment and set aside dedicated time.
Finally, if you struggle with procrastination, the act of delaying or postponing tasks, here are some strategies that may help:
Identify the root cause of your procrastination. There may be underlying reasons you procrastinate, such as fear of failure, lack of motivation, or difficulty with the task. Understanding the cause of your procrastination can help you find ways to overcome it.
Create sub-tasks. Break your tasks further down into smaller, more manageable sub-tasks. This can help you feel more in control and motivated to get started.
Eliminate distractions. Turn off your phone, close unnecessary tabs on your computer, and do whatever else you need to minimize distractions.
Find accountability. Tell a friend, colleague, or mentor about your tasks and ask them to check in regularly to help you stay on track.
Reward yourself. Celebrate your progress and reward yourself for completing tasks. This can help you stay motivated and build momentum.
Track time to optimize your productivity
While working on your tasks, we recommend you track time. Besides being useful for billing clients or reporting hours, a time tracker can dramatically help increase your productivity. It allows you to identify where you are spending most of your time and where you might be able to make more efficient use of your time.
Here are some specific ways in which a time tracker can help you improve your productivity:
Identify time-wasting activities. By tracking your time, you can see how much time you spend on activities that are not directly related to your goals or tasks. This can help you identify time-wasting activities and cut them out or minimize them.
Improve time management skills. A time tracker can help you better understand how long tasks take. This can help you more accurately plan your schedule and allocate your time more effectively.
Increase focus and concentration. By tracking your time, you may become more aware of how much time you spend on activities that distract you from your work. This can help you identify and eliminate these distractions, allowing you to focus more on your tasks.
There are many time trackers on the market, including Daily, a time tracker for Mac that works by periodically asking what you are doing. This removes the need to toggle timers whenever you switch tasks. It also helps against procrastination.
Other recommendations to get more done
Ask for help or delegate tasks
Asking for help or delegating work can be a powerful tool for getting more things done and increasing productivity. Here are a few ways in which outsourcing or delegating work can help:
It allows you to focus on what you do best. By outsourcing or delegating tasks that are outside your expertise or that you don't enjoy doing, you can focus on the tasks that you are best at and that bring you the most value. This can help you work more efficiently and effectively.
It saves time. Outsourcing or delegating work can save you time by allowing you to delegate tasks to someone more knowledgeable or skilled in that area. This can free up your time to focus on other tasks that need your attention.
It promotes specialization. Outsourcing or delegating work can allow you to take advantage of specialization. Hiring or contracting with someone with specific skills or expertise in a particular area ensures that the task is completed quickly and efficiently.
It helps you scale. Outsourcing or delegating work can help you scale and keep up with increased demand if you run a business. By hiring additional staff or contractors, you can ensure that tasks are completed on time without overwhelming your current team.
If you work independently or don't have colleagues with the right skillset or availability, here are a few options to find people to delegate tasks to:
Utilize your own (social) network. Your social network can be an excellent resource for finding people to delegate tasks. You can ask friends, family, and colleagues if they know of anyone with the skills or expertise you need. You can also use social media platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn to connect with potential contractors or freelancers.
Utilize freelancing platforms. Fiverr and Upwork are platforms specifically designed to connect businesses with freelancers. These platforms allow you to browse profiles, review portfolios, and find contractors or freelancers with the necessary skills and expertise.
Utilize professional associations. If you are looking for someone with specific skills or expertise, consider reaching out to professional associations in your industry. These organizations often have directories of professionals available for contract work.
Utilize temp agencies. Temp agencies can be a good option for finding contractors or freelancers on a short-term basis. These agencies can provide access to a pool of qualified candidates available for temporary or contract work.
While delegating tasks can have many benefits, it can also come with risks and downsides. For example:
It (still) takes time. Delegating tasks can require a significant investment of time upfront, as you need to communicate your expectations and provide any necessary resources or materials. Once the task is complete, you will need to review the work to ensure that it meets your standards and expectations. This can take additional time, especially if you need to provide feedback or make revisions.
Unexpected outcome. When you delegate tasks, you rely on someone else to complete the work. This means that the result might be different than expected, especially if you don't spend enough time briefing the person about what you're looking for.
To mitigate these risks and downsides, it is important to take the time to correctly brief a person about what you're looking for. This can include providing clear instructions, setting expectations, and giving feedback throughout the process.
Learn to say no
Learning to say no can be difficult to master, but it can also be extremely beneficial when it comes to getting more done. When we say yes to every opportunity or request that comes our way, we can quickly become overwhelmed and unable to effectively manage our time and responsibilities. By learning to say no, we can better prioritize our tasks and focus on what is most important.
One key benefit of learning to say no is that it allows us to focus our time and energy on the most important tasks. When we are constantly saying yes to everything, it can be difficult to progress on our goals and priorities. By saying no to some requests or opportunities, we free up time and energy to focus on the things that matter most to us.
In addition, learning to say no can also help us to maintain a healthy work-life balance. When we constantly say yes to everything, it can be easy to become overworked and burnt out. By being selective about what we say yes to, we can ensure that we are not taking on too much at once and have time for rest and relaxation.
Finally, learning to say no can also help us build stronger relationships. When we always say yes, others may rely on us too much and may need to learn to respect our time and boundaries. We can establish healthy boundaries by saying no when appropriate and showing others that we value our time and priorities.
In addition to delegating tasks to others, consider using (new) technologies to automate tasks. Amongst others, this provides the following benefits:
It saves time. Automating tasks can save you time by eliminating the need to manually complete repetitive or time-consuming tasks. For example, you can use automation tools to schedule social media posts, send email reminders, or update your calendar.
It reduces errors. Automating tasks can also help reduce errors by completing tasks consistently and accurately. For example, you can use automation tools to check for spelling and grammar errors or to ensure that data is entered correctly into a spreadsheet.
Shift focus. By automating routine tasks, you can free up your time to focus on more critical tasks that require your attention and expertise.
Tasks most eligible for automation are typically repetitive tasks or tasks that follow a fixed procedure. These types of tasks are well-suited for automation because they can be easily defined and do not require a lot of creativity or decision-making. Examples of tasks that are good candidates for automation include data entry, scheduling, and social media management.
An event planner uses Zapier to automate the process of sending event reminders to attendees. Whenever a new event is added to the planner's Google Calendar, Zapier automatically sends an email reminder to the attendees a few days before the event.
A social media manager uses IFTTT to automate scheduling social media posts. Whenever a new blog post is published on the company's website, IFTTT automatically creates a social media post and schedules it to be published on the company's Facebook and Twitter accounts.
A freelance graphic designer uses Zapier to automate sending invoices to clients. Whenever a new project is marked as complete in the designer's project management tool, Zapier automatically generates and sends an invoice to the client.
Improve your environment
Improving your physical workspace can be a powerful way to increase productivity. Here are a few ways in which improving your physical workspace can help:
Cleaning up. A cluttered or disorganized workspace can be a significant distraction and hinder your productivity. Taking the time to clean up and organize your work area can help you focus and work more efficiently. This can include decluttering your desk, organizing your papers and supplies, and removing unnecessary items.
Reduce distractions. Another way to improve your physical workspace is to eliminate or minimize distractions.
Optimize your setup. Optimizing your workspace can also help increase productivity. This can include adjusting the height of your desk and chair to reduce strain on your neck and back, using a standing desk to improve posture and energy levels, and using ergonomic accessories like a mouse pad or wrist rest to reduce strain on your wrists.
Also, consider improving your digital work environment. Here are some examples:
Reduce open tabs. Too many open tabs in your web browser can be overwhelming and make it hard to focus.
Clean up your desktop. A cluttered desktop can be a major distraction and make it hard to find the files and folders you need.
Close apps. Like too many open tabs, too many open apps can be distracting. They also reduce the performance of your computer.
Disable notifications. Notifications from emails, social media, and other apps can significantly disrupt your workflow.
Get enough sleep
Getting enough sleep is crucial for improving productivity. Here's why:
Sleep impacts your mental well-being. Sleep plays a crucial role in your mental health and well-being. When you don't get enough sleep, you may feel irritable, anxious, or depressed, affecting your ability to concentrate and make decisions. On the other hand, when you get a good night's sleep, you are more likely to feel energized, focused, and productive.
Sleep affects concentration. Sleep also has a direct impact on your concentration and cognitive function. When you're sleep-deprived, you may have a more challenging time focusing, remembering things, and solving problems. In contrast, when you get enough sleep, you are more likely to be alert and able to concentrate for more extended periods.
So, how much sleep do you generally need? According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night to function at their best. However, the amount of sleep you need may vary depending on your age, lifestyle, and other factors.
To increase the quality of your sleep, there are a few things you can try:
Avoid screens before bed. The blue light emitted by screens (such as phones, tablets, and computers) can interfere with your body's production of the sleep hormone melatonin. Try to avoid screens for at least an hour before bedtime.
Invest in a good mattress. A comfortable and supportive mattress can make a big difference in the quality of your sleep. If your mattress is old or uncomfortable, consider investing in a new one.
Avoid alcohol and caffeine before bed. Alcohol and caffeine can disrupt your sleep patterns and make it harder to fall asleep. Avoid consuming these substances for at least a few hours before bedtime.
Practice relaxation techniques. Meditation, deep breathing, or progressive muscle relaxation can help you relax and prepare for sleep.
Create a sleep-friendly environment. A dark, quiet, and cool bedroom can help you sleep better. Consider using blackout curtains, a white noise machine, or a fan to create a comfortable sleeping environment.
Overall, getting enough sleep is essential for improving productivity. By increasing the quality of your sleep, you can feel more rested, focused, and energized, which can help you get more done and be more productive.
Exercise or meditate
Exercise and meditation are two activities that can greatly impact your productivity. Here's how:
Exercise boosts energy and brainpower. Regular physical activity can help improve your energy levels, mood, and cognitive function. Exercise increases the production of endorphins, chemicals that can improve your mood and reduce stress. It also stimulates the production of neurochemicals like dopamine and serotonin, which can improve your concentration and memory. In short, exercise can help you feel more energized and focused, making you more productive.
Meditation promotes mindfulness and focus. Meditation is a practice that involves focusing your attention on the present moment and letting go of distracting thoughts and emotions. Research has shown that meditation can improve concentration, reduce stress and anxiety, and increase overall well-being. By practicing meditation regularly, you can become more mindful and better able to focus on the tasks at hand, which can improve your productivity.
To get the most out of exercise and meditation, it's important to find activities that you enjoy and that fit into your schedule. You don't have to spend hours at the gym or on the meditation cushion to experience the benefits – even a short walk or a few minutes of deep breathing can make a big difference in your energy and focus.
In addition to increasing productivity, exercise is also beneficial for your overall health. Here are a few ways in which exercise can benefit your health:
Exercise helps to improve cardiovascular health. Physical activity can help improve your heart health by strengthening your heart muscle and increasing your cardiovascular endurance. This can reduce your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and other cardiovascular conditions.
Exercise can help to control weight. Regular physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight by burning calories and boosting your metabolism. Exercise can also help you lose weight if you need to, by burning more calories than you consume.
Exercise can improve mental health. As mentioned earlier, exercise can improve mood and reduce stress and anxiety. Physical activity can also help to improve sleep quality, which can further enhance your mental health.
Exercise can reduce the risk of certain diseases. Regular physical activity can reduce your risk of developing certain chronic conditions, such as diabetes, cancer, and osteoporosis.
Overall, exercise is not only beneficial for increasing productivity, but it is also an important component of overall health and well-being. Making exercise a regular part of your routine can improve your productivity and help you enjoy the many other health benefits it provides.
Meeting others and going out can positively impact productivity in several ways. Here are a few examples:
Networking. Meeting new people and building relationships can help to expand your professional network. This can lead to new opportunities, collaborations, and insights that benefit your work.
Collaborating. Socializing and interacting with others can help to stimulate creativity and problem-solving skills. Working with others can help generate new ideas and perspectives that can improve productivity.
Learning. Meeting new people and learning from others can help to expand your knowledge and skills. This can be especially useful if you are working in a constantly evolving field, as you can stay up-to-date with the latest trends and best practices.
Recharging. When you feel rested and energized, you are more likely to be focused and motivated to get things done. Socializing and going out can also help to reduce stress and improve your mood, which can help to recharge your batteries and boost your productivity.
Would you like some help finding great ways to socialize? Here is some inspiration:
Events and conferences can be a great way to meet new people and learn from experts in your field.
Joining a club or organization that aligns with your interests can help you meet like-minded people and get involved in activities you enjoy.
Volunteering for a cause you are passionate about can be a great way to meet new people and positively impact your community.
Joining a sports team or participating in a recreational sport can be fun to meet new people and stay active, benefiting your health.
Inviting friends and colleagues over for a dinner party can be a great way to socialize and connect with others in a relaxed setting.
Taking a workshop or class can be a great way to meet new people who share your interests and learn new skills.
To find events near you, consider the following places:
Facebook: Many local groups and organizations use Facebook to promote events and meetups. You can search for groups or events in your area by using the search bar on Facebook and looking for keywords related to your interests.
MeetUp: MeetUp is a platform designed to find and organize local events and activities. You can search for groups and events in your area by using the MeetUp website or app search bar and looking for keywords related to your interests.
Eventbrite: Eventbrite is a platform that allows individuals and organizations to create and promote events. You can search for events in your area by using the search bar on the Eventbrite website or app and looking for keywords related to your interests.
Professional organizations and associations: Many professional organizations and associations have local chapters that host events, conferences, and meetups. You can often find information about these events on the organization's website or by contacting the local chapter directly.
Local news sources: Many local newspapers and news websites have calendars or listings of events and activities in the area. You can check these sources to find out about events and meetups near you.
Online communities and forums: There are many online communities and forums focused on specific interests or hobbies. You may find information about events and meetups related to your interests by participating in these communities or searching online.
Eat and drink healthy
Finally, but not lastly, a healthy diet significantly impacts productivity and your health in general. Certain foods can help increase productivity, as well as foods you should avoid to maintain optimal cognitive function and energy levels.
Foods that can help increase productivity include:
Whole grains. Whole grains provide sustained energy and can help improve focus and concentration. Examples include whole wheat, oats, quinoa, and brown rice.
Lean proteins. Lean proteins provide energy and help build and repair tissues. Examples include poultry, fish, beans, and tofu.
Nuts and seeds. Nuts and seeds are rich in healthy fats, protein, and fiber, which can help improve brain function and energy levels. Examples include almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, and flax seeds.
Fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are rich in nutrients and antioxidants that can help improve brain function and concentration. Aim to eat various colors and types to maximize the benefits.
Foods that you should avoid to maintain optimal productivity include:
Refined sugars. Foods and beverages high in refined sugars can cause a quick burst of energy followed by a crash, leading to decreased productivity. Examples include candy, pastries, and sugary drinks.
Processed foods. Processed foods are often high in added sugars, salt, and unhealthy fats, which can decrease energy and focus.
Excessive caffeine. The FDA recommends that adults consume no more than 400 milligrams of caffeine daily, about four to five cups of coffee. While a moderate amount of caffeine can help improve focus and energy, consuming too much can lead to jitters, irritability, and difficulty sleeping, all of which can negatively impact productivity.
Excessive alcohol. Excessive alcohol consumption can impair cognitive function and disrupt sleep, leading to decreased productivity. In general, it's recommended to limit alcohol consumption to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. It's also important to note that the effects of alcohol can vary based on an individual's size, age, and personal tolerance.
In conclusion, this guide has provided a methodology for getting more done efficiently. By setting clear, specific goals, breaking those goals down into actionable tasks, and planning and executing those tasks without getting distracted, you can increase your productivity and achieve goals in your work, personal life, or both.
We have also provided a comprehensive list of recommendations for designing a lifestyle that promotes productivity, including optimizing your workspace, managing your time effectively, and taking care of your physical and mental health.
As we look ahead to the new year, we hope that this guide has been helpful in your journey to getting more done efficiently and achieving your goals. We wish you a healthy and productive new year!