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3 easy tricks for working hard and winding down – productivity tips

We’ve all been there: you start fresh and full of ideas, but at the end of the day it seems your to-do list is still full – making it hard to wind down. In this article, I’ll be sharing three of my top tips to ensure you meet your goals. Give it a try: you’ll be more efficient, and more relaxed. Your productivity will dramatically increase.

  1. Start your day by focusing on your goals
  2. Pick a place that helps you ‘get stuff done’
  3. Find your inner tomato

1. Start your day by focusing on your goals

productivity tips - focus on the result

Illustration by Laura Peetoom

When you start your day, write down one to three tasks that are most important to you today. Make sure they are relevant to you, and possible to complete within the day. Take your time and be specific in formulating them, so you know exactly what you need to do. Instead of a quick and general “write Intranet copy”, make an effort to be precise: “write an Intranet synopsis for the ‘Better Communication’ workshop”. Writing down these one, two or three tasks helps you stay focused on what is important to you throughout the day. And like with any to-do list, crossing them off at the end feels great.

Be realistic when formulating your goals. You don’t need to work on them all day – they can be jobs that only take an hour or two. The most important thing is that your tasks can realistically be finished within the day, while leaving space for other planned or ad hoc activities.

2. Pick a place that helps you ‘get stuff done’ to increase your productivity

Jason Fried, author of Rework, asked people where they want to be “when they really need to get stuff done”. Three clear categories emerged from the answers:

  • In a designated space: home, a coffee place or the library

  • Whilst traveling: on the train, or a plane

  • At a certain time: very early in the morning, late at night or on the weekend

Looking at the list, there is a notable absentee: barely anyone favors their office as a place to ‘get stuff done’. Fried concludes that in order to focus on and finish tasks and increase your productivity, we need long stints of uninterrupted time. In an office, interruptions are rife; from impromptu questions to a quick chat. Before you know it, you’re knee-deep in other matters and the task you wanted to finish gets further and further away from you.

3. Find your inner tomato

Use the renowned Pomodoro Technique® to improve your focus and productivity. Despite the fancy name, it’s remarkably simple. Get yourself a timer: the tomato-shaped kitchen timer is the method’s poster veg, but any timer will do. Sit down and choose the task you want to work on – preferably one of the ‘tasks of the day’ you wrote down earlier. Minimize external stimulation – turn off your notifications, put your phone on silent – and make sure you’re focused. This is the goal. Set the timer to 25 minutes and stick with the task. No interruptions allowed – any break sets the timer back to 25 minutes. Feel free to turn it into a game if you like challenges.

pomodoro technique

illustration: Laura Peetoom

When your 25 minutes are up, you take a 5-minute break. Step away from your computer or desk and move around. It’s better for your body and helps you start the next 25-minute session with renewed energy. If you work from home, this is a great time to take the dog out or hang up your laundry. Once you’ve completed a few 25-minute rounds, you can take a longer break or move on to other activities, like meetings. Plan your Pomodoro sessions beforehand, and you’ll see your productivity increase significantly.

Your brain might need some getting used to focusing, and you will find things pop up in your head mid-session: maybe a phone call or errand you mustn’t forget. Jot these down quickly on a little to-do list and return to your task. This will keep you fresh, energized and focused throughout.

Try out these three top tips for more productivity, and you’ll find you get more done in less time. Not only will it enable you to stay on top of your goals and look ahead – it will leave you with ample headspace and more well-deserved time to relax.

Feeling inspired? Take a few minutes right now to write down a specific task you want to get done today. I’m rooting for you!

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Categories: Productivity hacks

Saskia Langenberg

Saskia Langenberg is the founder of Mindshake. With consulting and coaching she helps managers to build great remote teams. And remote workers to have a happy and productive work-life.

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