Productivity has become an increasing priority for companies – and governments – in recent years. With the rise of remote and hybrid working, many organizations are still struggling to get to grips with how to maintain productivity.
At the same time, a majority of project managers surveyed indicated that their companies’ projects tend to run over time and over budget, while an average of 11.4% of business investment is wasted due to poor project performance. This is something we’ve explored in a previous post.
Improving productivity can be difficult, as this is so often a product of your organizational culture. Therefore, while using productivity tools such as Teamhood can help, it is often a combination of changing mindsets and habits that can lead to the biggest improvements.
We did a little research and spoke with several of our top clients to compile this list of handy productivity hacks and tips. We hope you find them useful!
Productivity Hack #1: Stop trying to multitask
Multitasking is a terrible habit that many of us fall into. Indeed, a lot of people are proud of their ability to multitask. The only problem with this is that multitasking doesn’t only not work, it doesn’t even exist. Our brains cannot multitask. It has been scientifically proven now for some time that we’re only able to focus on one task at a time. Every time you switch focus between tasks, you lose concentration, meaning it takes longer for you to get things done.
If you don’t believe me, just check out the literature on the subject, from the Science Times, Forbes, Health.com – and this famous article from the Harvard Business Review published more than ten years ago: You Can’t Multitask, So Stop Trying.
Productivity Hack #2: Plan your day in advance
“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” So said famous American author, scientist, philosopher, business owner, and politician Benjamin Franklin.
It’s certainly true that successful people tend to plan ahead. And those who are most productive with their days don’t wait until that morning to plan their schedule. Instead, they plan the night before. Some other tips that help with effective planning:
- Don’t try to get too much done – stick to no more than three or four tasks per day, and you will be more productive
- Schedule your biggest or most difficult task for the start of the day, when most of us have the most energy
Productivity Hack #3: Work in short bursts (or take more frequent breaks)
Studies suggest the human mind can only concentrate fully for short periods of time. Some say we’re developing shorter attention spans in the digital age, while others suggest this is simply how the human brain works.
Certainly, techniques such as the Pomodoro Technique have taken off in popularity recently – although it was first developed in the 1980s. This involves breaking down tasks into 25-minute intervals interspersed with five-minute breaks.
If this sounds like too much effort or too little time, then at least try to take more regular breaks. Get out of your chair and move around. Perhaps go for a walk around the block every hour or so. Physical activity helps increase blood flow to the brain, and hence your concentration. It’s also good for you!
Productivity Hack #4: Turn off all messaging and email notifications
Email. SMS. Slack. WhatsApp. Endless exposure to messages at all times of the working day can really sap our attention or end up throwing us off course so that our major task for the day doesn’t get done.
According to this article, it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to regain focus on a task once you get distracted from it. It’s best not to be logged in to your messages all the time. Instead, schedule specific times when you check email, slack, and SMS on your company smartphone.
It’s best to communicate this to your team members, managers, and clients too. Set up an auto-reply on email, for example, to inform people that you only check twice a day, and only respond to urgent messages right away. And never check messages first thing in the morning. Always start your day by working on your most important task. Leave the email until lunchtime.
Productivity Hack #5: Learn to say ‘No’
Most of us are conditioned to say Yes to requests from bosses, colleagues, and clients. But we have to be selective about what we say Yes to, because every Yes can be a distraction that takes up more time.
Author and podcaster James Altucher has written about how his life changed for the better when he started saying ‘No’. Marc Chernoff, New York Times bestselling co-author of Getting Back to Happy, writes:
“Don’t be afraid to say “no” to unnecessary obligations. In a world with so much noise and clutter, you must make room for what matters. That means pruning nonessential commitments and eliminating as many distractions as you possibly can.”
Bosses and clients don’t always respond well to hearing ‘No’. So be sure to practice explaining what and what is not a priority, and practice being polite about saying ‘No’. You won’t necessarily get your way all the time, but if you can make your case well, you will cut down on unnecessary obligations and time-wasting tasks without getting a poor reputation for being uncooperative.
Productivity Hack #6: Set clear boundaries between work and rest
With the rise of remote and hybrid working, the barrier between work and downtime has blurred. Many of us have fallen into working longer hours when working from home by using what used to be commuting time to work.
This is a mistake. Working longer doesn’t make us more productive. In fact, studies suggest it has the opposite effect. On days when you’re working from home, spend the time you otherwise would commuting by going for a walk in your neighborhood. This is healthier for you and helps to clear your mind before you start work, which results in better focus and more productivity.
Productivity Hack #7: Use your commute time effectively
The average commute time across EU member states was 25 minutes in 2019. While it’s probably difficult coming up with accurate estimates post-Covid when many are still working from home, hybrid working is on the rise, and public transport is suffering some issues, this is a useful number to know.
The best thing to do with this time is NOT to work. Sure, if you’re working on a big project with an urgent deadline, then it may be worth using your commute to catch up with some reading, some calls, or checking emails. However, doing this every day will kill your productivity. The commute is the valuable time when you mentally prepare for work in the morning, and when you can wind down in the evening ready for time with your family.
It’s best, therefore, to do something as part of a daily routine. If you can walk to work, that’s ideal. If not, consider listening to a podcast or audiobook, reading a book, or doing a puzzle if you’re on public transport. In the morning it should be something non-work-related that warms up your mind, and in the late afternoon or evening, it should be something that helps you relax and unwind.
Productivity Hack #8: Listen to productivity podcasts
One thing you can do to make good use of your work commute is to listen specifically to podcasts about productivity. These could range from podcasts about project management to those about productivity habits and mindsets. You can also read books and blogs by productivity coaches and experts, and follow some on Twitter.
Some names to consider the following include:
- Tim Ferriss, author of The 4 Hour Workweek
- Craig Jarrow – the Time Management Ninja
- Dr Rangan Chatterjee – Feel Better, Live More
Of course, there are dozens more. Just search and find people who appeal to you.
Productivity Hack #9: Create a dedicated workspace and keep it free of clutter
Everyone works differently, but for most of us, a decluttered workspace does wonders for concentration. The act of decluttering helps focus on the mind and opens up neural pathways that help us to make connections when we work.
It’s also important when working from home to have a dedicated workspace. This is important for our own mental preparedness but is also important for signaling to family members when we are and are not working. It is important to have a workspace and to communicate when we are at working so as to minimize distractions at home. It’s also important to ensure we have a good comfortable chair, a suitable desk, and a reliable enough internet connection.
Productivity Hack #10: Brainstorm regularly
There are two kinds of brainstorming: the kind you do alone and the kind you do with others. Either way, this is a very useful habit to get into. Firstly, the more you get used to generate ideas on your own, the more likely it is that you’ll come up with solutions to problems that arise with your projects. Secondly, the more you brainstorm with colleagues, the more you are exposed to different ways of thinking and different ideas that could make the difference between struggling with a task and seeing a novel solution that you wouldn’t have spotted before.
Productivity Hack #11: Create and communicate shared team goals
Teams work most effectively when they’re all pulling in the same direction towards achieving the same goals. Simply put, people work better together when they have shared goals and objectives.
This is fine as far as it goes, but communicating and tracking team goals are just as important to keeping individual team members motivated and productive.
You need to use the right project management tools that help your team to track their weekly goals and tasks, that can create a clear workflow, and allows you to break projects down into manageable milestones.
It’s also worth celebrating big achievements, such as specific project milestones at the end of large and complex projects. This helps to keep motivation high.
Productivity Hack #12: Choose the right collaboration tools
Collaboration tools help teams communicate more effectively and work together on projects. This has become even more important with the rise of remote and hybrid working. A higher proportion of remote workers will rely more on digital collaboration tools. Beyond that, which tools you choose will depend on many factors, including the size of the team, the kinds of projects you’re working on, and more.
Here’s the Teamhood guide to the best online collaboration tools:
Productivity Hack #13: Track task progress
Using Gantt charts or Kanban boards is a great way to track task progress either on a team or individual basis. Everyone on the team can see what people are currently working on, see where bottlenecks or roadblocks exist and look to help if they are free.
Productivity Hack #14: Make meetings productive – and get rid of pointless meetings
In the hybrid working world, meetings seem to have exploded and become a menace to our productivity – and potentially our mental health too!
Meetings are one of the biggest drains on our time, so look for ways to make them more productive, including:
- Being clear on the purpose of the meeting
- Only inviting as many people as are needed
- Setting a clear time limit and a clear agenda
- Appointing someone to lead the meeting who can keep things moving along
- Assign takeaways and next steps at the end of the meeting
- Share relevant documents and information ahead of the meeting to save time
- Share relevant notes to participants after the meeting
Productivity Hack #15: Automate repetitive tasks
Creating weekly or monthly reports can be time-consuming and frustrating when you’d rather be getting on with higher-value work. This is where creating some kind of automation can be a huge time saver.
In Teamhood, for example, it’s possible to create repeating items. Check out how to do it here – Productivity Tips and Features.
Productivity Hack #16: Choose the right task management tools
There are dozens, if not hundreds of effective project and task management tools in the marketplace. Here’s our comparison of the best workload management tools in 2022:
Hopefully, this blog has given you lots of practical ideas for improving your productivity. If you need more inspiration, check out our productivity gallery, which goes through all of our key productivity tools and cheat sheets – Teamhood Productivity Gallery.
Passionate content marketer looking to bring better solutions to the project management space.
2020 - Present Marketing specialist at Teamhood.
2014 - 2020 Marketing manager for Eylean.