Our 3 Top Productivity Tips: Proven Strategies to Get More Done
As hard as you try, the same few items remain on your growing to-do list — threatening to ruin yet another weekend. You’ve been meaning to get around to writing that blog post ever since the idea first popped into your head, but you just can’t find the time or the energy. It’s becoming a pattern, but it doesn’t have to.
Productivity isn’t about churning out one blog post after another, climbing mountains of work every day, or reading the latest productivity tactics and strategies every week. It’s a consequence of the actions you take and the environment that you create around you. In this guide, we’re going to share three productivity tips on how to get on top of your workload and systematically work through your to-do list without giving in to frustration.
Productivity tip 1: Organize your life
If you’re starting to sense a theme of organization emerging here, you’re not wrong!
Systems and organization should underpin all of your efforts to be more productive. Without them, you’re bound to have bouts of hyper-productivity canceled out by moments of distraction and periods of procrastination.
For many, being forced to work from home as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has proved to be positive in productivity terms. 44.9% of employees noted improved productivity while working from home. But that also means that employer expectations are higher than ever. And it’s not like the home office is devoid of distractions…
So how do you bring everything together and organize your life for productivity?
Track how you spend your time
Measuring productivity is challenging.
One approach you can take is to measure it in terms of what you manage to get done, be it the number of words written, lines of code programmed, or topics revised. If you base productivity on tasks completed, there’s no way to consistently track and compare your results. One work task can take 30 minutes, while another can take multiple full workdays.
This approach doesn’t allow you to practice consistency, and it won’t help you develop your ability to focus.
An alternative way to measure productivity, which is arguably more effective, is to track the amount of time you spend on productive activities. If you can commit to putting in the same amount of time each day to ticking items off your to-do list or working on a big project, then you can rest assured knowing you’re giving your all.
Using a time-tracking app or a Pomodoro alarm clock can help you build sharper focus over time so that you become less prone to distractions.
After all, focus is a skill, just like anything else, so you have to practice it to improve. If you need more help, we’ve also got a blog post on how you can become better at focusing.
Write down your tasks
If you don’t know exactly what you should work on, procrastination will come easier than productivity. Without a clear focus and goal, you’re destined to fall at the first hurdle. Itemizing a project into clear tasks can help you come up with a game plan for meaningful progress.
One thing all productivity systems have in common is that they require you to get everything out of your mind and onto paper or into an app. That way, you can strategize how to work through it according to various parameters such as level of priority and context such as work or personal.
The ‘Getting Things Done’ (GTD) system presents a comprehensive solution to the issue of not knowing where to start.
Pioneered by David Allen, who penned the book of the same name, GTD has you divide your tasks into various categories such as ‘home,’ ‘work,’ and ‘leisure’ so that you can separate them by context. The system also advocates for a digital ‘bucket,’ which you’ll use to collect any miscellaneous tasks that don’t fit neatly into any of the categories you created.
Invest in the right tools
Life’s easier when you invest in the right tools. When it comes to productivity, that could be a to-do list app that rewards you for ticking items off, a note-taking app for organizing your thoughts and prioritizing, or a Kanban board system for moving projects along a pipeline.
Here’s an example of each:
Todoist: Todoist is a to-do list app that allows you to collect all of your tasks in one place and tick them off one by one. It’s simple and full of features to help you organize your workload, such as labeling, due dates, and automatic reminders. You can even use systems like GTD with the app for great results.
Evernote: Evernote is an excellent note-taking tool for organizing your thoughts, grabbing articles and links from the internet, and getting everything together in one place.
Trello: Trello can be used either for work-related tasks or personal activities. The premise is straightforward: using a visual Kanban board — which organizes work into ‘To Do’, ‘Doing’ and ‘Done’ — you assign tasks to these lists as ‘cards’ and move them from one column to the next when they’re ready for the next step.
You can even use a free project management app like Asana to organize your work projects. Don’t forget to schedule a break every now and then in between your focused work sessions. People are not machines, after all. Give your brain the time it needs to recover so you can maintain your focus and a high quality of work throughout the day.
Productivity tip 2: Prioritize your tasks
However you do it, you need to prioritize tasks if you are to make progress in the areas that matter most to you.
An effective system for prioritizing tasks related to projects is the ‘Eat that frog’ system, which is based on the productivity book of the same name. Eating that frog means starting by completing the least pleasant but inevitable tasks first — to set the right tone and make work for the rest of the day more enjoyable.
“If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” — Mark Twain
The ‘frogs,’ or most difficult tasks, take up most of your headspace and cause you more anxiety with each passing day. Letting these high-priority tasks sit at the top of your to-do list is a recipe for disaster, so you should try to tackle them first.
Whether it’s filing taxes, sending that parcel, or writing that essay that seems to spend days and weeks on your to-do list, you need to get it done as soon as possible. This will free up headspace, and you’ll be amazed at how relieved you’ll feel to knock off one of these big-ticket items from your list.
There are several ways you can assign a level of priority to outstanding tasks:
- Flag the tasks in your to-do list system by color-coding or labeling them.
- Set a reminder to work on the task, and if necessary, have it go off on a daily basis at the same time to prod you into action.
- Stick post-its on your fridge or computer screen if you really keep putting certain tasks off.
Pick the method that works best for you and stick to it. Chopping and changing rarely works, as you need time to get accustomed to any new system. Combine this prioritization strategy with software tools to help you stay accountable even while you’re glued to your phone.
For example, something as simple as setting up reminders on Google Calendar can work wonders for kicking you into action. Likewise, you can set up reminders in apps like Todoist — or our browser — and tie them to specific tasks you’ve already written out.
Productivity tip 3: Take back control over how you spend your time online
If you’re clinging to the hope that one day you’ll have everything done, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. To dig your way out of the mound of work that threatens to bury you, you need to come up with a system that works for you.
A list of tasks and an action plan can work and are sometimes all you need. But if you let distractions get the best of you, they often aren’t enough to push you through. And there’s no more distracting place than the digital world.
So how do you organize all of your online work in a way that makes sense?
Information overload is commonly recognized to be one of the banes of productivity, and let’s face facts: we’re consuming more media than ever before.
In 2020, US citizens spent an average of 13 hours and 35 minutes per day with media, a sobering yet ultimately unsurprising statistic. To combat information overload, it’s best to simplify.
Enter: the Stack browser.
If you’ve ever had more than 20 tabs open at a time, accidentally switching tabs or closing one can be a real setback, not only interrupting your workflow but also getting on your nerves as you scramble to figure out what’s missing.
A feature-rich browser application, Stack allows you to set up a ‘digital home’ that serves as your online HQ for both work and leisure. You can collect all your favorite apps, organize them according to context, and minimize distractions that come via notifications. Switching from thinking about the personal to the professional with Stack is a breeze.
Organize your online clutter with Stack
Having so many tabs open at once in the first place is a terrible idea. It’s not just confusing, it also slows your computer down and leads to constant distractions.
Let’s say you’ve opened an article for research purposes, and you switch back to your Google Docs tab. You start writing out your introductory sentence, and you realize there’s an ad playing on the new tab. Now you have to stop what you’re doing — forgo any hope of entering a flow state — and go deal with the problem. Plus, just the fact that you can see the other tabs, especially non-work-related ones like social media, can distract you from the task at hand.
Stack’s focus mode can help you get in the zone and ensure that you stay focused when you’re working, even when browsing the web. Essentially, it lets you eliminate all possible online distractions with the click of a button. Once you activate focus mode, all notifications are instantly muted, leaving you free to concentrate on what matters most.
But the real magic happens when you start using the Spaces feature — forget about constantly switching between tabs!
With Stack, you can create multiple workspaces which allow you to separate your work-related activity from your personal browsing. What’s more, you’ll see all the relevant pages for each category in a single streamlined interface so you can quickly see what you need and open it up without spending time scrolling through your tabs and bookmarks.
Essentially, it’s like creating a digital office for all work-related browsing and websites and a separate “online living room” for entertainment and potential distractions.
Organizing your online clutter is not only immensely satisfying, but it also helps you stay focused and live a more productive and less stressful life.
Think of Stack as the online decluttering service that wipes your virtual desk clean, leaving you with a clear mind and a sharp sense of purpose. You wouldn’t want to have several devices on your desk blinking with notifications and beeping every few seconds, so why settle for the equivalent in your personal online space?
You’ll be surprised how quickly that blog post you thought you’d never get round to gets completed once you choose and implement a productivity system. All of a sudden, you might just feel a little lighter, less stressed, and better equipped to take on new projects.
Armed with the right tools, productivity can be reduced down to a science, rather than seeming out of reach to us mere mortals. We challenge you to use the productivity tips outlined in this article to eat that frog that’s sapping your energy.
A stress-free weekend awaits — go ahead and claim it!
But to truly boost long-term productivity, you need to organize your life, learn to prioritize tasks, and force some order into your digital life. If you need some help with that third step, sign up for the Stack waitlist so you can be among the first to clear your online clutter and set yourself up for increased productivity.