My 5 Top Tips for Productivity

Here are my top tips for productivity, based on what works for me:

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1. Create an effective work ‘space’.

For most of us, our workspace is at home for the time-being.  We don’t all have the luxury of a room we can allocate for an office.  Even if we do, we may not want to.  The aim here is to create a motivational working space, whether it is at home or in an office environment.

It can even be several places.  Replying to emails on the sofa may be productive for some, whilst sitting at the kitchen table or in a library may be better for writing may be ideal for others.

Having a space allocated for a particular work tasks can help to focus the mind.  Many people I know will take work calls whilst out for a walk as it helps them to focus on that specific call, and not be distracted.  Think about the type of work you are doing; if you need to think of solutions to problems, is there a space which can help you to think creatively?

2. Plan by task, not time.

I have tried to work to a specific number of hours.  It does not work for me.  All that happens is I force myself to work those hours and I end up counting the hours wasted.  Instead, I have found a huge benefit to planning my day (or week) by tasks.  If I finish a task earlier- fantastic.  If it takes me a little longer, that’s fine too.  I find that overall, the hours mount up.  By planning my time by task, I also provide a tangible visual to an intangible task.  One of my biggest challenges at university was that I could read journal articles all day and feel like I hadn’t achieved anything because there was no physically output.  Or, I would have a feeble 500-word paragraph to show for it.  By adopting a ‘planning by task’ approach you turn it into something more tangible such as 5 hours’ worth of desk research. That sounds far more productive, doesn’t it?

You could use to do lists on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, though I like to use my outlook calendar to block out the day by task.  I tend to focus on a weekly plan, with an overall goal of what I want to complete that week.  Play around with what works for you. 

When doing this, try not to set one big task.  Will it motivate you more to break one large task down into more manageable chunks?  When I write an academic paper I do just that.  I hardly ever strive for perfection in the first draft.  I find it useful to get the content down and then revisit it to tidy up as a final ‘task’.  Have a think about what works for you.  You may even end up doing more than you anticipated one day and freeing up another day of ‘planned tasks’ for something else!  Could this be an effective way to approach your work?

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– Allocate specific time to check emails.

– Include your personal time.

– Allocate time for scheduling your week!!

3. Identify your most productive time of day.

Some people are more productive in the morning, others in the afternoon.  When scheduling your day to day tasks, consider when your most productive times are and how you can best use that time.  If you are most productive in the morning, schedule the task which requires most concentration for then.  If you find you get into a post-lunch slump mid-afternoon (I know I do), then reply to your emails then.  Try not to let anyone interrupt your productive time.  It is valuable.  Consider this when scheduling meetings with colleagues too!

4. Disengage email, the phone, and social media.

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Oh how wonderful technology is.  If I want an excuse not to do something, I can always find one in my email inbox or on social media.  As per tip No 2, schedule email time.  If something is urgent, someone can always phone you, right?  Don’t use checking emails as an excuse not to focus on the task at hand.  It is easily done and hours (or days) can be wasted.  You could have used that time for something more enjoyable if you weren’t going to do your work, right? 

5. If you don’t feel like doing sometinng, don’t force it.

By planning my working day (or week) by task rather than hours worked, I have found I am more motivated to do even the most daunting (or boring) tasks.  However, some days you just don’t feel it.  If you have a tight deadline to meet, I am sorry- you probably need to just work through it.  However, if it is something less time critical, can you swap your schedule around so you can complete something you feel like doing now and do the task you are currently trying to avoid, later? Perhaps when you feel more motivated? (But, don’t keep doing this!).  Will taking half an hour to go for a walk to clear you mind help to focus you on the task you are struggling to motivate yourself to do?

Closing comment:

I hope you find the above tips useful.  The tips are influenced by a number of books I have found useful over the years.  Two of the most useful so far have been ‘15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management: The Productivity Habits of 7 Billionaires, 13 Olympic Athletes, 29 Straight-A Students, and 239 Entrepreneurs’ by Kevin Kruse, and ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change’ by Stephen R. Covey.  There are so many texts out there, though ultimately you need to reflect what works best for you.

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2 thoughts on “My 5 Top Tips for Productivity

  1. Thank you for your comment. Pleased you found the advice useful. It’s really hard not to be disheartened when we don’t achieve what we set out to do, but even the smallest progress, is progress. Be kind to yourself, it will come.


  2. I found this very useful! I definitely could benefit from the not forcing yourself to do something you don’t want to do point – I always feel like I’m letting myself down if I don’t do everything I set out to. But sometimes this isn’t possible & I need to remind myself I don’t need to do everything all the time! X


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