Want to be more productive? Here’s what you need to know

Struggling to finish a task before the next one gets added to the pile? Learn how to be efficient in and outside the workplace.

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We’ve all been there: we wake up with an agenda only to finish the day with nothing to show for all those hours spent slogging away.

In today’s digitally driven world, maintaining focus has become trickier than ever. And we’re not just talking about office-related tasks.

How many times have you changed your mind about booking that doctor’s appointment, or put off picking up the phone to enquire about a fitness class that you’re a little curious to know more about?

At some point, we’ve all failed to finish what we initially set out to accomplish, and that’s usually due to a number of reasons.

Sounds like a plan

For UAE-based life coach Lisa Laws, it all comes down to proper planning and having
the discipline to stick to it.

“Failing to plan is planning to fail,” says Lisa, noting that most people procrastinate for two reasons: we get naturally uneasy when confronted by a task that requires our immediate attention and we’re not mentally and emotionally invested on the work at hand.

“Basically, our subconscious minds want to take us away from ‘pain’. Anything that’s difficult or challenging is considered as being a pain, so our minds have control over us and we become lazy,” she elaborates.

“When you leave work and you say ‘I’d like to have a cup of coffee at Starbucks’, you’d move heaven and earth to get that coffee. So we are not procrastinators in all areas of our life.

“When we’re not interested in something, we tend to put it lower in our list of priorities and, almost subconsciously, we deliberately don’t do it.”

To combat this, Lisa recommends coming up with a written to-do list to put things in order.

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“Write it down! Having it only in your head makes you only busy in your head,” she points out, stressing that a mental note just won’t cut it.

When coming up with a list, it’s best to make it both realistic and manageable.

“Some people are chronic over-achievers and they put 20 things down knowing that they won’t be able to do more than five of them,” Lisa says.

Try making a to-do list of three items at a time. You’ll feel more productive as you cross them off and make a new list. Use a colour coding system to prioritise the list further. For example, mark urgent tasks in orange, and highlight in green those that can be put on hold if needed. This will make it easier to identify the most important projects and avoid unnecessary multitasking.

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Hop to it

Mark Twain famously said: ‘Eat a live frog first thing every morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day’. The acclaimed American writer was not being literal, but alluding to the concept of tackling the most difficult task first thing to get it out of the way.

“You know you have to do it, so if you can do it right away, then you will feel relieved and stimulated instead of leaving it hanging over,” says Lisa. “All the time that we spend worrying and thinking ‘I have to do this’, we’re producing cortisol, which is a stress hormone. So start doing your most challenging work first to lift the burden, then you can move on down your list with more confidence and energy.”

Lifestyle change

Developing efficiency is a culmination of many factors. It can be as simple as allotting quiet hours – where you don’t check emails or social media – at specific times throughout the day to avoid distractions from your task at hand.

Changing certain habits can also go a long way in improving productivity and concentration.

“A lot of people put in long hours, which also leads to bad lifestyle choices like eating more junk food because it gives them a small boost of energy. But in truth, it actually drains your system and can lead to burnout,” warns Lisa.

“Basically, we have to create new habits that are fulfilling and effective to us both in the short and long term,” Lisa continues. “Some of these can include exercising to help clear our heads, eating healthier, getting enough rest or dabbling in meditation to reduce stress and fatigue. All these can be helpful in improving efficiency whether you’re working as an employee or for yourself. It really all boils down to embracing positive habits, taking control and planning.”

To find out more, visit: lisalawscoaching.com

WORDS Ferdinand Godinez

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