Life and work have long been mixed: how do you increase productivity
If working/overworking and your personal/family life have long been merged into a single whole, let a notepad or other planners help make your daily process as efficient as possible. Make lists, include your favorite and routine activities, use the tomato method — and don't forget about lunch. Product manager Radik Adiulin shares life hacks to increase personal productivity: read this article before you say, " Screw it all"!
In this article
— We live in a world where many of us combine our short-term/long-term career goals and daily tasks with our personal/family responsibilities. To do this successfully, you need to be productive in all directions. If you do everything more efficiently by at least 1% every week or month, you will most likely succeed in all of your endeavors in the long run.
In terms of personal productivity, everything I suggest is based on several straightforward pillars:
- Visioning and planning;
- Making lists;
- Doing; and
- Monitoring (measuring) and reviewing.
Visioning and planning
— I believe that vision and planning significantly impact what you do daily. Without getting too much into details, it’s better to have a vision and a plan for the future than not to have them. What you do on a daily basis should drive you toward your long-term objectives and goals.
Let's take a closer look at a few of my other productivity points.
— The main aim of list-making is to free up your mind, allowing you to focus on doing the tasks you have already planned. It should become a habit that everything worth your attention should be on a list. Your list might be just a simple notebook, or it might be in some fancy app — it doesn’t matter. What matters is that it has to be accessible, and you have to enjoy using the tool you choose.
I don’t recommend separate lists for personal, work-related, and family stuff because all of these are our life. Besides, one list is easier to manage and prioritize than multiple lists.
I have up to 12 priority tasks per day in my list, based on what I want to achieve by the end of the week. I usually have 3 priority tasks that I try to do before lunch, 3-5 tasks that are important to complete to keep up with my daily duties, and 4-5 routine tasks that would be good to do today so that other ongoing projects do not fall behind schedule.
— If you don’t have your own agenda, you probably will follow someone else’s, and your day will be highjacked by unexpected calls, meetings, emails, and chat messages. After a working day, are you are tormented by the feeling that you have not done anything valuable? I always have that feeling when I don't have a schedule. To avoid this issue, make a schedule.
The main idea behind scheduling is just simply to have one, and then to follow several simple rules:
- Block daily time for yourself so that you can focus on the work that is really important.
- Use color coding to see how your day is structured, where you should be and when, and what tools you will need to work effectively.
- Block time for lunch. Not only because you need to eat and rest to be productive, but for your colleagues to see that you’re unavailable. If you don’t, you might end up eating during a call that some of your colleagues squeezed into your schedule or missing your lunch entirely. This is a case where ”Take care of yourself before helping others” is very appropriate.
- Use recurrent weekly, bi-weekly, and monthly events to set the pace and rhythm for your personal and professional routines.
- Block time for your to-do list tasks so that you have time to accomplish your goals.
— This is the phase when things get done. The key is to stick to your schedule and daily plan. Of course, there is always a chance that some new thing will emerge during your day — life is unpredictable. But if you’ve developed the habit of putting new tasks and ideas into your to-do list and schedule, unplanned items won’t affect you as much because you’ll know how to deal with them and where to put them among your priorities.
You already know from experience that some tasks are pleasant and some are just routine or boring. One way to deal with unpleasant tasks is to focus on the process rather than the outcome. What I mean here is that when you start something you don't like, try to focus on what you do and not what you want to achieve. This might help you to get started, avoid procrastination, and forget about boredom.
To “work hard and focused,” I suggest the Pomodoro technique combined with avoiding distractions. Set a timer for 25-30 minutes, turn off all notifications everywhere (if you haven’t already), and work on that one task until the timer alerts. Rest for ≈5 minutes and repeat. Do this 3-4 times in a row, and then take an extended break for 20-25 minutes.
Monitoring and reviewing
— It may seem superfluous, but the analysis of the work done in a day, week, month, or year ultimately bears fruit. I'm not in the habit of analyzing my tasks every day, but I usually spend a lot of time marking my progress over the week, quarter, and year. This can be organized and incorporated into your routine with regular practice. During reflection (or a personal retrospective in agile terms), you will have the opportunity to see how things are going, what worked well and what didn't, which things delighted, and which made you feel tired or disappointed. Start small and simple and see where it takes you.
— These are just a few tips and rules that you can take note of and incorporate. Or maybe you've been using them for a long time? Of course, there are days or weeks when you may just say, “Screw it all!”. This happens. Sometimes your daily schedule falls apart due to unexpected issues. Sometimes, it is hard to find motivation, and sometimes, you simply need to rest. That's fine; you are okay. After all, all of these rules and productivity tools are designed to save time and energy for the most important and personal things in your life.
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