How to Reach a Better Productivity Level
- April 24, 2023
In today’s fast-paced world, being organised is more important than ever. Organising yourself isn’t just about decluttering your physical space; it also involves managing your time effectively, setting goals, and prioritising tasks. In this article, we will explore some effective strategies for organising yourself, both at home and at work, so that you can maximise your productivity and achieve your goals.
Your brain will invariably resist more complex tasks, especially when you are first starting them. When it does, you’ll look around for more novel and stimulating things to do instead.
This fundamental truth about focus is why setting daily and weekly goals is so important. Goals help you focus more effectively and accomplish your tasks.
When we are not working toward a specific goal, our minds are more likely to wander as we consider other tasks we could be focusing on instead. Working with intention reduces feelings of doubt about what we should, or could, be doing at any given moment.
Goals are not meant to complicate your life, but to focus it. Having goals means knowing which tasks to leave out. When you set goals wisely, your to-do list gets smaller. Focusing on specific goals protects you from doing more than you can realistically accomplish.
When you work consistently to achieve your goals, the feeling of barely getting anything done and not making any progress will be a thing of the past. A goal doesn’t have to be big and extensive. It can be small and simple. The important thing is that—no matter how slowly or quickly—it gets you from where you are to where you want to be.
When you elaborate your goals in writing, you’ll find that your thoughts become clearer. You begin to recognize what you want to achieve and what you want to change.
Often, we fail to achieve our goals because we haven’t formulated them precisely enough. For example, writing “I would like to do more sports,” will not motivate you because it is lacking important detail. Which sport? And how often? Whereas writing “I would like to jog every other day,” gives you more incentive to reach your goal.
Deadlines help to track progress and monitor success. Set a realistic timeline, considering the times you will be freely available to work on achieving this goal.
When you tally up everything in your external environment that you could potentially focus on, the number is overwhelming—and that’s not even counting all the trivia, ideas, and memories in your head!
The most urgent and stimulating things in your environment are rarely the most significant. This is why switching off autopilot mode is so critical. The most consequential decision you will make throughout the day is where you will direct—and then sustain—your attention.
When we have so much to get done, narrowing our focus may feel counterintuitive. Our natural impulse is to focus on as much as possible.
Making matters more complicated is the fact that the brain’s prefrontal cortex, the large part of the forebrain that allows us to plan, think logically, and get work done, has a built-in novelty bias.
When we switch between tasks, it rewards us with dopamine—that amazing pleasure chemical that rushes through our brains whenever we devour a medium-sized pizza, accomplish something awesome, or have a drink or two after work.
Continually seeking novel stimuli gives us the false impression that we are being more productive. Remember, just because we’re busier doesn’t mean we’re getting more accomplished.
Once, multitasking was seen as a stimulating work hack, but it is now regarded as a trap of continuous interruptions. When we try to do more tasks simultaneously, we prevent ourselves from finishing any one task of significance. By focusing deeply on one important task at a time—called hyperfocusing—we become the most productive version of ourselves.
There is nothing inherently wrong with multitasking. It’s entirely possible to multitask, especially when it comes to habits. However, we must distinguish between shifting tasks and multitasking.
Shifting attention throughout the day is necessary. If we focused on only one thing all day long—no matter how important it was—we probably wouldn’t have a job. Still, shifting too much can be dangerous, especially when we’re surrounded by more novel stimuli than our brain is capable of handling.
Letting your attentional space overflow affects your memory. When we juggle too many tasks in our attentional space, we fail to notice and remember the details of our most important work.
You may have noticed that when you watch TV or a movie with your phone by your side, you recall much less of what you’ve seen. In fact, the more devices you incorporate into your life, the less you remember in general. Technology speeds up time by constantly tempting us to fill our attention to the brim. Ultimately, this impairs our ability to remember because our brains only encode information into memory when we pay attention.
In addition to preventing the formation of memories, constantly shifting our attentional space also undermines our productivity. Research shows that the more often we max out our attention:
Studies show that when working on a computer, we work for an average of just 40 seconds before we’re either interrupted or distracted. This number becomes even more concerning when you consider the fact that our phones are by our sides and interrupting us as well.
Needless to say, our best work happens beyond this 40-second-mark. Nearly every important task takes more than 40 seconds of focused attention to do well.
The more time you spend on one topic at a given time, the more ideas and thoughts come to your mind. Even if attentional space is relatively clear and focused on just one task, when you switch between tasks, you might not have sufficient time to come up with innovative or ground-breaking ideas.
Switching between tasks does make your work more stimulating, and its costs may be worth bearing if your work only takes 5 % longer and you only make the occasional mistake. In practice, though, the cost is usually much greater. One study found that when we continually switch between tasks, our work takes 50 % longer than it does when we focus on one task, from start to completion.