How to Be Productive
Some days I want a productivity award just for making it in and out of the shower emotionally intact. 2020 has presented numerous new challenges that have us all re-evaluating and improving our productivity strategies, but one thing is clear: maintaining our sense of wellness and mastering productivity are the keys to a low stress life. Our mission at Sidetrak is to help you accomplish just that.
While technological and social advances have provided us with more distractions and options than ever before, they have also luckily made room for innovations and tools that we can use to set ourselves up for success. At SideTrak, harnessing tech for good in order to make your life more productive is our #1 priority. We have productivity articles and tips for being productive at work and at home that will have you in a zenned-out productivity flow-state in no time.
So what is “productivity” besides the biggest buzzword on blast at the moment? Productivity is how much you get done over time. Most people who are looking to be more productive are really asking “how do I achieve my goals as efficiently as possible and have time to spend on the things that matter to me?” or “how do I find a better work-life balance?” We all want to be those people who seem to effortlessly get everything on their lists accomplished. And we can be. Productivity is NOT being busy all of the time. Productivity is finding the tools to make the most of those 24 hours we have every day and creating lasting habits that eliminate stress, boost fulfillment, and allow time and energy for the things we love most.
Set Yourself Up For Success
First, Get Comfortable
No, we’re not recommending cozying into the couch in your sweats as the key to productivity. We’re talking about finding your state of personal calm, equilibrium, or homeostasis. That’s the very first step in how to be more productive. Being comfortable in your body and in your space allows you to work at your peak performance. For your body, that means being hydrated and fed and it starts with the ultimate morning routine to productivity. A solid morning routine, a bottle of water, and one of these healthy snacks for productivity readily available at all times will make all of the difference in your ability to be productive.
Create a Productive Space
It may feel harder to control external circumstances, but it is no less important and at Sidetrak we aim to make it easier. The keys to a productive environment are a comfortable temperature, good lighting, cleanliness, noise-control, and portability.
➤ Studies on the temperature of a workspace seem to agree that above 77 degrees productivity decreases. We know that the ideal temperature for everyone is different, but the need to control it is universal.
➤ Lighting matters. We have to be conscious about the brightness and color of our screens so our eyes don’t tire. Too dim of a room can also tire your eyes. Room lighting can have a huge impact on your mood and calm. Plus, good lighting can make you look more professional on those zoom calls.
➤ Cleanliness in your workspace means a tidy space, but it also means cleaning something you can’t see: the air. Clean air improves your body’s equilibrium, just like your water and snack. It is the invisible partner to your grounded ability to work.
➤ Sound preference really varies by person, but there are options for every need. Embrace whichever works for you! Some people are overwhelmed and distracted easily by sound when we’re working. Noise cancelling tech puts the power back in their hands to block out the nonsense. Other people can’t stand working in silence; for them, there are tools to create subtle noise environments that add to your zen without distracting from your productivity. (Please don’t just turn on the TV!) If the task at hand is able to be done with music, turning on some tunes releases dopamine.
➤ Keep your workspace as flexible and portable as possible. Portability is being recognized as a key to productivity more and more. Tying your productivity to a desk is a losing game. The ability to move your workspace from your desk to a meeting, or to a place with some Vitamin D, without sacrificing the tools you need is key to a productive work space. Portability is very important to us at SideTrak (we like to keep up with the times) so you can find out a whole lot more about that here.
Ultimately, you want to make your space a place you want to be, a place that lights up your brain. That could just mean something small that is your favorite color or a calming photo. Research shows outfitting an office with aesthetically pleasing elements--like plants--can increase productivity by up to 15 percent.
Use Efficiency Tools
Once your body and space are ready to work for you, make sure you are set up to be as efficient as possible. Efficiency is how much effort and time you put into work vs the result. It is important to understand the relationship of productivity vs efficiency because how productive you are is directly reliant on how efficient you can be. Efficient workers get more done with less effort. That leaves them energy and time to complete more tasks. Or… relax. However, being too efficient may sacrifice the quality of the work being done. The key is learning how to be more efficient at work and at home while keeping in mind the beautiful balance of productive efficiency.
The good thing is, we can pretty much do the efficiency part for you. We have tools and gear to help you become more efficient without sacrificing the quality of your work. In using our gear optimized for productivity, you make tasks easier on yourself. This allows you to get more done with less effort. Our flagship efficiency booster is the SideTrak, a second monitor for your workspace which multiples your efficiency and productivity by 20-30%.
Prioritizing and Time Management
Most of us are trying to figure out how to manage a busy schedule. It’s all about time management. You will need to utilize effective time management tips and productivity tips to make your goals happen. This means understanding how much time you realistically have and prioritizing your goals for the day.
Once you have your tasks prioritized and batched, there are several popular productivity strategies and productivity techniques. There are so many, not because one is better than the other, but because different things work for different people. All of our brains are different. Try different strategies; discard ones that don’t work for you, and move on to trying another. We will look briefly at a few of our favorites:
1. The chunking method breaks your time into chunks where you focus specifically on each group of tasks for a specific amount of time. It is a more general version of the Pomodoro Technique.
2. In the Pomodoro Technique, after you choose the task, you set a timer and work on that task for 25 minutes. When the timer goes off you put a check on a piece of paper and set the timer again. You take scheduled breaks based on the number of checks on your paper when the timer goes off each time.
3. For those trying to manage busy schedules, you can also use pockets of “lost time” to be productive. Listen to podcasts while you commute or answer emails when you’re not driving. Call to set a doctor’s appointment while you’re waiting in line. Still feel like you need more than those 24 hours? Make more time in the day by investing in gear that makes your work more efficient and enjoyable to maximize time and feel like you have more than you do.
4. The “two minute rule” is a recommendation gone viral from entrepreneur Steve Olenski. The idea is this: If you see a task or action that you know can be done in two minutes or less, do it immediately. Procrastination is one of the largest barriers to productivity; it wastes your time and also nosedives efficiency. When people procrastinate, they spend more time worrying about how to do a task than actually doing it. The two minute rule is the answer to how to stop procrastinating. Once we do something enough times and teach our brains that it’s not that bad, we build healthy habits and our brains won’t default to procrastination anymore.
Once you have the tools in place to be productive, it’s time to get started. A clear and realistic list of what you need to accomplish each day is the first step. A To-Do list or a loose outline is the key to understanding what you are expecting from yourself. Even just making the list gives you some sense of control and ownership instead of feeling like you are being propelled by unending tasks. If you are trying to improve your work/life balance, it’s important to make sure that your to-do list is doable and leaves room for, or includes, the items that you care about most in your life.
Setting goals also offers you the opportunity to check things off the list. Every signal of success floods your brain with endorphins, making you feel good. Endorphins actually fire your brain up in such a way that it can make new neural pathways - opening you up to more creativity and growth and assisting with habit building.
Find Your Focus
Once you know what you need to get done, it’s time to find your focus. Despite our name, we want you to not get sidetracked. When you are able to focus on each task you are able to complete them more quickly. But that’s easier said than done. Here are 6 tips for staying focused. One of the key ways to stay focused is by using this simple checklist for eliminating distractions.
The technology we have buzzing around us at all times is one of the biggest distractions we face daily. Tweets need checking, emails pop in, tabs on tabs on tabs. We have to curb the urge to click away from the task at hand. Tom DeMarco, co-author of a book about productivity called Peopleware, states that it can take 15 minutes of dedicated flow to establish focus. Close the tabs and apps that distract you, turn off notifications, and eliminate as many temptations for distraction as you can. If you are working on a computer invest in a second monitor so that you are never clicking away. Once you start clicking, it’s easy to get distracted.
Some great developers found ways to harness the buzz by creating apps that actually increase productivity. These apps help you with everything from time management to task lists. There’s even apps to help you stop your devices from distracting you. Here are 6 productivity apps to download right now that can help you use your technology for good.
As much as we try though, it’s unrealistic to completely cut out distractions, other needs, and things that pop up throughout the day. If you try to completely repress these things they are more likely to distract you. Instead, after eliminating as much as possible, set boundaries for yourself: schedule your time, set goals, and allow yourself rewards within the schedule. Compartmentalize your distractions into concentrated time periods instead of letting them run amuck with your focus all day. Work tech like virtual assistants can help with this.
Ultimately, if things change or you do get distracted, don’t beat yourself up over it. Your brain needs good vibes to be productive so forgive yourself for succumbing to distractions when you do and then refocus and get back on track. If you are struggling with focus, take a moment to stretch or meditate to allow your brain to reset.
Multitasking has long been touted as a key to productivity. The definition of multitasking is doing multiple tasks at once, but our brains do not want to do more than one task at a time. They get tired much faster and more easily when we push them that way. What we can do, though, is consolidate tasks. This means finding how multiple tasks overlap or are similar so that in completing one, you complete, or at least make progress on, many.
This concept is called batching and it eliminates redundant work. Think of this part of your strategy like a list of errands in different parts of town: you wouldn’t bounce all over town to accomplish them, you would try to visit each place in the order that has you driving back and forth the least. Similarly, on your to do list, draw the route that makes the most sense. Batching tasks just requires taking a few extra minutes to think ahead on the trajectory of your day and how things can overlap. Once you start thinking this way, it will quickly become second nature.
Build New Habits
Just like our tools streamline efficiency, building habits will streamline all of your new productivity skills. Habits are most easily built through a self-reward system. The Seinfeld Technique is a great way to help measure success and build new habits. It encourages you to do the task every day and mark it in a visual way for yourself. This tactic doesn’t focus on the quality of the work, just on building the habit of it with a visual reward system. Brad Issac, a young comedian, who met Seinfeld described his advice in this way:
The reason this strategy is effective is because it builds a new habit through consistency and by rewarding success. Overall, tips to increase productivity will include effective strategies for habit building.
He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker. He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. After a few days you'll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You'll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job is to not break the chain.
Keep it Flexible
Strict focus can sometimes seem like wishing for a rigidity that just doesn’t exist. Focus must be paired with flexibility. Things pop up throughout the day and you will have to decide what needs to be ignored and what warrants a pivot. Those decisions can be made a lot easier with tools that allow for flexibility, and even work portability.
More and more, ours is becoming a world where portability is key. We are people in motion. Moving from home to office and back again. Working remotely to keep things interesting. Traveling. Some of us even have new offices every day with 40% of the American workforce participating in the gig economy.
A mobile workspace:
➤ Affords you more flexibility in what kind of work can you do and where you can do it.
➤ Eliminates the time wasted by packing up to move your workspace when you need to relocate.
➤ Maximizes the productivity of your full workspace by being able to take it with you anywhere.
➤ Offers you the ability to get up and go at a moment’s notice: A last minute interview? Forgot about that meeting that starts in 5 minutes? Can you make it? Of course you can!
➤ Love where you work: You don’t have to be chained to a desk to be efficient. With a mobile workspace you can work outside or in any of your favorite places.
➤ Work from anywhere! Get work done in the car or in flight. Or maybe take that trip you’ve been putting off because you can take work with you!
Portability is important to SideTrak so most of our gear is optimized with portability in mind. Our SideTrak monitor attaches directly to your computer. In addition to it, we have lap desks, portable batteries, projectors, and we are continuing to develop new tech with portable productivity in mind.
How to Be More Productive at Work
Taking These Skills to the Office
So far, most of what we have talked about covers how to be more productive in life in general, but how do we translate these skills to work? The good thing is - all of the skills to be productive in life and at work are pretty much the same. If you work in an office, there are more restrictions on how you can implement some of these things, but there are workarounds to every problem. You’ll be productive in no time.
You may not have as much control over your workspace, but try to incorporate the keys to a productive space: comfortable temperature, good lighting, cleanliness, noise-control, and portability. Tech like noise cancelling headphones, desktop air purifiers, and our wide range of portability products can help.
Once your space works for you, you can implement all of the focus and time management tips above for work productivity success. Time management really comes into play at work. Track and manage the amount of time you are spending on tasks. There are many apps to help. Don’t forget to incorporate some of your wellness needs from earlier in our tips for productivity. Just because you are at work, doesn’t mean you should stop prioritizing and taking care of yourself. Offer yourself incentives and rewards. Make sure there are opportunities to take mental breaks. Try these best work stretches part way through every day, and when you need a second to recenter, try our in office meditation tips.
How to Be Productive Working From Home
In tips for working from home, productivity is key, which means everything that we’ve already delved into applies, but there are additional hurdles to overcome with specific productivity tips for working from home.
First, you might have to be more creative when it comes to your workspace. Even if you don’t have an isolated office, it’s important to curate some section of space that can be dedicated to work.Your brain will struggle to shift gears to productive work in a space that you are used to relaxing in. Compartmentalizing work time to a certain area of your home will help tell your brain “it’s time to focus now”. A productive work from home space will need to be clutter and distraction free. Make sure it’s comfortable… but not too comfortable! And, of course, flexibility and portability are key! There are some great work from home apps that can help you boost your productivity and help improve your health too!
Building your at home workspace may mean you need some new productivity tools and gear and, luckily, we have you covered there.
➤ A study by Texas A&M found those who used standing desk were 23% more productive in the first month, and up to a whopping 53% more productive six months into the study. There are many varieties of standing desks, even some that are convertible. If investing in a new desk isn’t possible for you now, consider a laptop stand.
➤ Additionally, a second monitor is lifesaving to work from home set ups. It increases productivity by 20-30%. A second monitor means no more flipping between tabs. You can compare documents side by side and screen share with ease. This productivity tip saves you 8+ hours a week. We have second monitors for your desktop, as well as portable versions. Sidetrak, which is a portable second monitor, increases your productivity even more because it adds the convenience of portability which means you have the productivity of a second screen anywhere.
➤ Create a desk space that your laptop can move in and out of with ease. At this point we all have multiple devices to connect to our laptops when we are at work. A hub can help you keep cables clean and tidy and ensure you only have to make one connection when you sit down at your desk.
➤ Add some real power to your space with a docking station. A docking station essentially turns your laptop into a desktop powerhouse of a computer in your workspace, but still allows you the portability of a laptop.
Other Key Productivity Tips for Working From Home
Distractions can multiply when working from home so you will have to remove or limit these distractions and interruptions yourself. You will need to set boundaries (as much as possible) with the other people and pets in your home.
Great dressed every day. You may not have to go into the office and that may make you want to wear your PJs all day, but our brains need help learning our new habits - getting dressed is the first step to “going to the office.”
Once you have a workspace and a routine that is similar to “going to the office”, you can start to enact all of the usual tips for productivity at work.
Wrapping it Up
Ultimately, the tips for productivity, whether they are for your life, your work, or your work from home, all boil down to the same basic guidelines.
➤ Take care of your body and mind so you are able to be productive. Water and healthy food are key.
➤ Create an environment that works best for you.
➤ Make sure your workspace is flexible and portable.
➤ Create structure for yourself with to-do lists, outlines for your day, and consolitasking.
➤ Manage and track your time.
➤ Set metrics for success to reward your brain.
➤ Eliminate distractions in times of work, but allow yourself limited time to engage in those things too.
➤ Take breaks, stretch, and get Vitamin D (from the sun) when you can.
➤ Explore and engage with productivity strategies that work best for you.
➤ Know your limits and don’t push them. Burnout is never worth it, but if you reach that point there are ways to overcome burnout.
➤ Utilize productivity gear to amp up efficiency and boost productivity.
And if you haven’t gotten enough, check out our 19 ways to be more productive.
The key to becoming more productive is just about finding the tools that work best for you and building habits to increase your productivity. Once you find the right combination and practice it, your brain will take over. Then you will achieve a true state of flow where productivity becomes second nature. Pair your habits with our productivity gear and you have the keys to success while maintaining your joy and lowering your stress level. So make sure your brain is fed and watered, your body is stretched, and take the next step with us.