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7 ways to stop being busy and start being productive

The workday can sometimes seem long and gruelling. It’s only 11 a.m. and your inbox is filled with unread emails, people are constantly knocking at your door asking questions, and slowly but surely your to-do list gets longer and pushed further to the side.

The work world is evolving and the typical 9-5 is slowly becoming an antiquated framework. Many people start their days at different times, work from home offices or are embedded in the entrepreneur lifestyle and work sporadic hours spread across 7 days.

The key to success is figuring out how to increase your productivity based on your job, not the typical job.

First, you need to understand the difference between simply being busy and being productive. The quintessential definition for busy is: having a great deal to do. And that’s basically all that it is. Busy can mean having twenty things to do but that does not mean you are accomplishing anything of actual value.

This is where it’s time to shift the focus towards being productive.

Rewrite the productivity script

Productivity involves the amount of tasks you get done that are of quality and hold a high priority on your list. Having a productive workday is not just about how many things you can get done; it is also about the kind of work you produce. Forget about how busy you are because it creates mental clutter that can make you feel intimidated and unmotivated.

Productivity starts with good time management skills and what better way to manage everything you have to do than with an agenda?

But these tools and devices only go so far when it comes to bettering your work habits. Some may think that being unproductive is a result of poor organizational skills, but that isn’t the case. No matter how many calendars, sticky notes and different coloured highlighters you use, it’s still possible to be wasting precious time.

Productivity is partly psychological.

It’s important to get to the root of the problem and procrastination is usually one of the primary drivers. Most people procrastinate on tasks because they’re unmotivated or don’t know where to go next in the grand scheme.

An easy way to conquer this problem is to change the way you think about productivity. Instead of being satisfied by how many tasks you check off your list, look at the bigger picture of the progress you made throughout the day. Spending time on investigative projects will be more important in the long run compared to how many emails you can read in one sitting.

Here are seven actionable tips that will help you redefine your daily masterpiece.

  1. Find your peak hours

These are the few hours in the day when you get your best work done. Begin tracking your days and pay attention to the hours when you are most productive. Once you find your peak hours, set them aside each day and dedicate them to getting only your work done, nothing else.

  1. Make a ‘have-done’ list

Say goodbye to the well-known to-do list. Many people use to-do lists as a way to feel more productive by jotting tasks down after they’ve been completed or adding small, invaluable tasks. Research shows that only half of a to-do list is completed in a day and 41% of items are never actually completed. These lists create negative energy because there are always incomplete tasks following you around.

This is why it’s time to create a ‘have-done’ list where you can jot down the progress you made each day. Reflecting on this will raise your levels of motivation and productivity.

  1. Work in small pieces

Many entrepreneurs don’t work the traditional 40-hour week and can be overwhelmed with projects so it’s important to break up your day and make it more manageable. Avoid creating unreasonable goals. It’s much easier to complete a task if it’s smaller, even if it only appears to be smaller.

  1. Make your time, YOUR time

This is especially important for people working 9-5. It’s okay to close your office door sometimes or tell an employee to come back later to discuss that project. It’s almost impossible to get anything done if you constantly let people take advantage of your time. Research shows that it takes about 25 minutes to return to a task after being interrupted; therefore take ownership of your time.

  1. Plan out your day the night before

You don’t necessarily have to create a to-do list, but planning out your workday in advance will help you visualize it and stay on track. Don’t forget to add in breaks here and there. It’s hard to stay focused and productive when you’re working on one task for a long period of time, so go for a walk outside, talk to a coworker or eat a snack.

  1. Turn everything off

Out of sight, out of mind. The only way to make valuable progress is to eliminate all distractions. Turn off your phone, close down your social media, and don’t look at your email.

  1. Be mindful

Mindfulness is a state of being attentive and in the moment. While you’re at work, pay attention to what tasks are valuable and which ones are simply time wasting. This will help you realize what you need to focus your time on and increase productivity.

As the late John Wooden said, “Make each day your masterpiece.” Take ownership of your valuable time and make your workday fit your style and needs. Productivity begins with understanding what kind of a worker you are.