Productivity (or a lack thereof) is a pain point for both employees and employers alike. Low productivity is not only something that costs employers in the United States between $450 and $550 billion every year according to Gallup, but it's also something that leads to stress, anxiety and even disengagement from the workplace for employees.
But remember: your goal to become more productive isn't about trying to find the time to cram in more hours in a day. It's about doing better work with the hours you already have available. So long as you focus on the idea that you're trying to work "smarter, not harder," you'll quickly find that all your productivity concerns are a thing of the past.
Don't Multitask. Prioritize
One of the most essential things that you can do to become more productive is also, for some people, one of the most counterintuitive. It stands to reason that if you want to get more done in a day you should try to do as much at one time as possible, right? Multitasking, sometimes referred to as "task switching", is a fine art that people spent years trying to master - so it must be helpful in some way, right?
According to one study, multitasking can lead to a decrease in productivity of up to 40% in certain situations. By trying to do too much at one time you're spreading yourself far too thin - both the volume of work you're able to do and the quality of work will suffer. For the best results, stick to one task and see it through to completion before moving onto the next one.
Break Big Tasks Into Smaller Pieces
Another key step you can take to be more productive involves breaking up the tasks on your lists into a series of smaller, more manageable chunks than they already are. Don't be afraid to take a single goal and split it up into three, four or even five "mini-goals." The benefits of this are quite significant in several ways.
First, by breaking one task down into a series of smaller sub-tasks, you're making something that may have once seemed difficult into something that is much easier to conceptualize and visualize. If you were trying to build a house, for example, you would never outline a strategy that amounted to "Step 1: Build a House." You would think about laying the foundation, putting up the frame, insulating the walls, etc. This is the same line of thinking, but on a smaller scale.
Task segmentation makes it easier to track your own progress in real-time, which can help you visualize what "success" looks like. Every time you check an item off your list you'll also feel great about it, which will continue to motivate you to power through to the next one. At that point, your to-do list is essentially generating its own momentum in a way that it likely wouldn't have otherwise.
Don't Push Yourself Too Hard
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, one of the best ways to help yourself become more productive involves making sure that you're not pushing yourself too far in a given week. If you think that staying up late and getting up early is helping you get more accomplished, you may be surprised to learn that this couldn't be farther from the truth.
According to a study conducted by Stanford University, the productivity of the average worker essentially plateaus at about 50 hours every week. Once you get to 55 hours a week, productivity gains are essentially nonexistent - even though you're physically putting in more hours.