Let’s face it, we’re all on that slippery slope towards 2021, more than happy to wind down after a write-off of a year. But before we fall in a jibbering heap and indulge in one too many Christmas wines, it’s worth getting your ducks in a row. In fact, the final two months of the year can actually prove to be your most productive, provided you put the time into setting boundaries and realistic goals.
While it can be easy to mentally check-out a few weeks early, staying in-tune with current work, social or personal endeavours can make all the difference. Mitch Furlong, co-founder of internal communications and project management platform Hassl suggests mindset is one of the most important aspects in ending the year on a high.
“Mindset is so important and it’s often hard to change our mindsets if we are in the same location every day (especially during lock-down),” Furlong tells Man of Many. “A good way to change your mindset, if you need to, is to create new healthy patterns throughout the day. Schedule in breaks, writing time, stretches and mindful exercises. You can even consider setting up a separate space at home for work, so your brain begins to associate that spot with work and being productive.”
Furlong explains that setting a benchmark of tasks is one of the best ways to measure productivity, not only professionally but also in your personal life. “Your home is wildly opposite – there are so many distractions (not to mention, a global pandemic) and for most people, you’ve only got yourself for company,” he says. “If a routine is your thing, you can also consider dressing up for work or designing a dedicated workspace, so your brain is tricked into shifting into work mode.”
Post-COVID Productivity Tips
To help make sense of the post-COVID world, where we slowly find ourselves trudging back to work, the premise of a productive life is a tricky thing to grasp. Here, productivity expert and Hassl co-founder Mitch Furlong shares his 10 productivity tips for 2020.
1. Break Tasks into Sub-Tasks
The simplest way to increase productivity is to make your task more manageable. “When looking at your to-do list from a distance, it can seem overwhelming and slightly frantic,” Furlong says. “Consider breaking down your tasks into smaller, manageable sub-tasks. These tasks should be only around one to two hours long
For example, you have a brochure that you need to finish, and you’ve estimated that it should take around six or so hours to complete. Instead of writing down ‘finish the entire brochure’ as a task, break it down further into ‘write copy’, ‘mock-up design’ etc.
2. Prioritise Tasks
It can easy to fall into the trap of thinking everything is important, but it’s simply not true. “It’s key to look at the due dates and order them in terms of priority. Some people believe it’s best to finish the easiest tasks first, which may not always be the appropriate approach,” Furlong says. “If you have a task that you need a few pairs of eyes over once you’ve completed it, it’s best to ensure this is completed in due time, and not passed off into the ‘I’ll do it later” pile.”
The Hassl co-founder says you should avoid setting unachievable deadlines for your tasks. “You’ll only end up breaking them and causing much more stress down the track. Be realistic about how much time you will need to complete a task, as it will help you to plan better.”
3. Stop Multitasking
It can be tempting to want to take care of a few tasks at once, especially if they seem small or easy. But it simply doesn’t work. “We’re fooling ourselves when we say we can easily juggle phone calls, presentations, and eating lunch. Focus on one task at a time, and you’ll find that you actually end up completing it faster.”
4. Consider What Tasks Give You Satisfaction
Completing tasks is satisfying and fulfilling, but working on a single task for the whole day can often be exasperating. “To improve task satisfaction, it’s important to regularly complete a mix between tasks and projects,” Furlong says. “Arrange your daily and weekly tasks so that there is an even spread of achievable small projects in between the larger projects. This will ensure that when you finish work at the end of the day, you are able to show that you have completed X amount of tasks and projects rather than finishing the day feeling unaccomplished.”
5. Reward yourself for your achievements
Humans are simple creatures and we need to be rewarded. Furlong suggests a small treat is enough to get you going. “It may seem like you are being unproductive, however, not rewarding yourself is a recipe for burnout and it simply gives you nothing to strive for,” he says.
“Write down your rewards in your to-do list so it reminds you to take some time for yourself – a shining light at the end of the task tunnel (which also takes me to the next tip).”
6. Take Wellness Breaks
“Especially when you are working remotely, you can often find yourself taking fewer breaks, as there’s no real ‘shutting off’ from work. Consider incorporating some wellness breaks into your routine in order to give yourself and your mind a bit of a break between stressful tasks. It can be as easy as going for a quick walk outside, practising a bit of yoga, meditating, playing with your dog or even grabbing a coffee.”
According to the Hassl co-founder, the organisation has recently started doing a virtual ‘Stretch Club’ every afternoon to break away from the desk and do a proper 15-minute stretch together.
7. Clean-Up Your Emails
For many of us, emails can be a catalyst for anxiety and stress. Email debt builds and productivity dwindles. Yet, emails are the main source of communication in the workplace. When people go looking for productivity tips to help fight procrastination, they tend to look over the biggest stressor — email anxiety.
So how do you fix this?
“Consider unsubscribing from all of the meaningless newsletters you’ve signed up for and never opened (like that retail newsletter you once signed up for to get 40 per cent off your purchase), set up email priority in order to flag important emails, create folders to sort your emails into different clients or topics,” Furlong says. “Or you can simply send less emails in the first place. Instead of sending emails over each menial thing, change it up and give that person a call or when you can return to the office – ask them in person.”
8. Sort Your Workspace
Studies have shown that a clean workspace can have a calming impact, resulting in stronger performance, but it can prove to be a challenge when working remotely. “Finding one space to come to every day to complete your daily tasks, can really help you to build a productive routine,” Furlong says. “Once you have your space, set it up as you would in your office. Drink bottle on hand, a cup of tea or coffee, a notebook and pens. It may sound silly, however, when you trick your mind into thinking these objects mean ‘work’ you are more likely to be more productive.”
9. Play Music
Play music, and lots of it. Many people feel that listening to music at work improves their mood. Others claim it even makes them more productive. “Beyond providing background noise, music has been shown to improve both productivity and cognitive performance, especially in adults,” Furlong says. “Listening to music can help people manage anxiety, become motivated and stay productive. You just need to know how to make the right playlist.”
10. Reflect on How You Could Be More Productive
According to Furlong, the single biggest productivity hack is to be happy doing what you do. “When you enjoy your work, you are more focused, have more attention to detail, and are more productive. However, it’s often hard to fully understand your productivity habits if you don’t analyse them.”
At the end of each day, answer the following four questions by writing them down in a notebook:
- What did I enjoy doing today?
- Are there things I achieved today?
- What drained me of energy today?
- How will I be better tomorrow?
From here, the Hassl co-founder says you should spend 30 minutes to analyse your answers at the end of each week. The process of answering the same questions every day will provide you with your productivity patterns, as well as pinpoint the things that you should reduce that drain you of energy.