Productivity has become a top priority for businesses and individuals in recent with this performance metric getting more attention than ever before. There’s a boom in productivity software and philosophies, too, which is good in the sense that we’ve got plenty of tools on our side. However, the negative side of this is that there are a lot of sales pitches hidden among the genuine advice (assuming there is any, to begin with).
In this article, we’re not focusing on the tools but rather the techniques and habitual changes that make a real difference to productivity. These are backed by science and geared towards the needs of modern digital workers and the unique challenges that come with working in this connected age.
Changing habits is the key to productivity
To maximize productivity, you have to change working habits and this is the most challenging aspect, especially when the workplace itself has formed these habits into you and everyone around you.
Changing the habits of one person isn’t enough; you have to reprogram the groupthink of an entire organization to remove resistance to widespread change.
One of the biggest problems with modern work culture is the emphasis on being busy. The kind of thinking that, if you’ve completed your to-do list then you clearly don’t have enough on your workload – but where does this mentality end?
The productivity hacks we’re looking at in this article are habits that modern teams and workers need to form and a lot of these are going to require you, collectively as a team, to break some established working practices and retrain the way your mind operates in the workplace.
So let’s get started.
The first thing you need to do before you can maximize productivity is to stop multitasking. This is one of those long-established habits of busy people who are desperate to save time by doing more than one thing at once or switching between tasks.
Sadly, multitasking is a false efficiency that ends up costing you more time than it saves. And, to make matters worse, studies have shown that multitasking has a wide range of negative impacts on the human mind.
Personally, I’ve always been a bit of a sucker for multitasking and thinking it’s going to save me time. But I can quite clearly see that it takes me longer to complete each task if I try to handle more than one thing at a time so my own experience backs up the countless studies that say multitasking doesn’t work.
Knowing this is one thing but changing the habit is something else and this is by far the toughest productivity habit I’ve had to crack. As soon as there’s a setback or time feels short, it’s easy to instinctively revert to multitasking, in a desperate bid to claw back time but it only makes matters worse.
To ditch multitasking for good, you’ll need the right team that understands it’s a false efficiency and the tools to help you focus on individual tasks.
Set a single goal for each day
To forget about multitasking, you have to retrain your mind to concentrate on single tasks. This goes against everything our busy, digital lives encourage us to do but the solution to this problem also lies in the same digital tech that exacerbates it.
We use a productivity app called Serene to organize our workflow and keep us focused on the task at hand. The tools encourage you to set a single goal for each working day, which constantly reinforces the idea of focusing on individual tasks. You can break daily goals into multiple tasks or work sessions, where you’ll only work on that specific task (and nothing else) for the allocated time.
There’s no time left for multitasking.
Work in short bursts
The human mind can only concentrate on the same task for so long although scientific studies haven’t been able to provide a conclusive number. Some studies have suggested people start to lose focus after 10-20 minutes while others are slightly more generous. Certain, more recent, studies point towards much shorter attention spans in the digital age.
Either way, an hour is a long time in terms of maintaining focus and this is why it makes sense to work in short bursts. One of the most popular productivity principles is the Pomodoro Technique, which involves working in 25-minute sessions followed by a five-minute break.
We do something very similar with Serene, which allows you to create working sessions between 20-60 minutes. So what I do is break my day into two-hour slots and then use the Pomodoro Technique to have two twenty-five-minute sessions per hour, broken up by five-minute breaks. I sometimes also create 50-minute sessions and have a ten-minute break to make up the rest of the hour.
I find this makes it easier for me to organize my schedule and keeps me working towards competing tasks within 25 minutes.