The Ultimate Guide to Productivity

Martina Pranjic

Content Writer

⏱ Reading Time: 12 minutes

It’s so great that I didn’t manage to do anything I was supposed to – is something you’d probably never say in your life. But we all tend to catch ourselves in not being the most productive we can be, don’t we?

Is the line between a couch potato and a busy bee thin? Is busy a synonym for productive?

Well, not really, but we’ll discuss that in a second.

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Productivity has been defined in many different ways. The reason is quite simple – it depends on numerous factors, both personal and professional. What all these definitions have in common is time and what you do with it. And since there still isn’t a special robot which could add a few hours to your day, the key is in doing the best you can within the timeframe you’re given.

This is what productivity is all about.

Now that we’ve got this off the table, let’s dig a bit deeper.

In this article we’ll explore further the definition of productivity and how it’s different from efficiency, go through productivity hacks you can apply right away to your daily routines and move on to the daily specials – productivity at work and tools you can use to boost it.

Bon appetit!

What is Productivity?

Dan S. Kennedy defines productivity like this:

“Productivity is the deliberate, strategic investment of your time, talent, intelligence, energy, resources, and opportunities in a manner calculated to move you measurably closer to meaningful goals.”

In other words, productivity refers to the amount of work produced by a company or an individual in order to yield certain results or benefits.

Sounds complicated? Here’s an example.

Let’s say you own a manufacturing business which produces coffee machines. You manage to produce 400 one month and 800 the next one. So obviously, you’d say that the second month is more productive because you made double the amount within the same timeframe. 

What Productivity is Not

When you think about productivity, the first thing that may come to your mind is a busy person, with a heavy workload, juggling several responsibilities at the same time.

This is wrong.

“It is not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?” Henry David Thoreau

Productivity is not about getting more things done, it’s about getting the important ones done. It’s about working smarter, not harder. Which brings us to efficiency.

Productivity vs. Efficiency

So is productive the same as efficient?

Well, no. Productivity and efficiency, though similar, are not interchangeable. Productivity refers to the quantity of the products/services/ideas you produce within a certain period and efficiency to the quality. 

Let’s go back to your coffee machines. If 500 out of 800 you produced the second month don’t work, your second month may be more productive, but it’s definitely less efficient. In the end, the 400 ones you did right the first month are a much better result than the 800 ones you did the second.

Which is more important, then?

Well, the key lies in a good combination of both. Depending on the situation, you might want to focus more on one or the other, but constantly pushing one approach and disregarding the other may break your business and motivation.

Talking about motivation, here are a couple of hacks you can use to give your productivity a much-needed boost.

Remote work

Picture 1. Is productivity the same as efficiency?

5 Tricks to be More Productive Every Day

Let’s face it – many of us are experts in procrastinating. You can easily get tangled in various distractions like social media, random chit-chats, overflown inboxes and messy lists. Sounds familiar?

Still, there are a few rather simple rules that ridiculously productive people follow. 

Just to make one thing clear right away – none of these hacks are nuclear physics. And you’ve probably thought of those at some point in your life. They just require you to be a bit more systematic about how you manage your time. 

1. Eliminate Distractions

Did you know that the average office worker in the UK is productive for only 3 hours a day?

Another study by Harvard shows that an average knowledge worker spends 47% of their time on a state of (semi)distraction. That’s a lot. And here’s what you can do about it. 

For starters, your phone is a huge source of distractions. You won’t do much if your phone is constantly interrupting you with social media notifications and private messages (important calles excluded, of course). So try and mute or limit the notifications, at least for the period in your day when you’re working on your priorities. 

Background noise can make a huge mess  in your head when you’re working on something that requires your full concentration. So apart from putting your phone on mute, you can play some nice chillout music to keep your mind fully focused on whatever it is that you’re doing.

Read Remote Work Tips and Tricks

2. One Thing at a Time

Though multitasking sounds like a superpower making it possible for you to do tons of things in a very short time, it’s usually not such a great idea if you’d like to be productive and/or efficient. The key to making things right is focusing your attention to one thing at a time. 

And here’s a bonus tip – if you’d really like to skyrocket your motivation for the day, start from that one task which you consider to be the hardest on your to-do list. When you resolve this one, everything else will seem like a walk in the park.

Multitasking doesn't boost productivity

Picture 2. Multitasking is not usually a great idea

4. Create a Comfortable Workplace

Having the right working environment is something many people don’t think about, but it has a huge effect on the way we do stuff.

And you know what’s the best thing about it?

There’s always something we can do to make it better.

Is your chair OK? Do you have enough light? Do you have a glass of water/cup of coffee/tea that you love? Are your clothes too tight? Are you cold or hot? These may seem like insignificant details, but all of these tiny things can influence your concentration and make you lose focus.

Our mind gets distracted very easily, therefore do yourself a favor and create a working environment that suits your needs. You’ll thank you later. 

5. Take Breaks

Maybe you feel that you can sit straight for 8 hours without taking a break, but trust me, your body and your brain can’t.

We’ve all experienced creative blocks, right? And the worst thing you can do about it is to ignore it and keep on “working” until you get completely frustrated and unmotivated.

Here’s a trick that might work – stop whatever it is that you’re doing, and take a 10 minute break. Have something to eat or drink, give your friend a call, go for a quick walk, basically do anything that’s not connected with what you’re working on.

Including short breaks in your work day will energize both your body and brain and in such a state inspiration will come knocking on your door in no time.

Read Project Managers: 5 Best Tips on How to Avoid Burnout

Workplace Productivity

When you’re younger, you usually don’t think about time management. All the talk about creating a perfect work-life balance makes no sense at all. But then you grow up and realize why everyone is so super sensitive about their free time. You don’t have it as much as you’d want to! And when you have to give up on it because of something you didn’t manage to do in your working hours, that could be frustrating.

When we talk about workplace productivity, it’s all about how efficient you are in fulfilling your company’s goals and in producing goods or services. And it’s where productivity benefits are most palpable. Increased productivity at work boosts a business and its profits, raises the employee morale and has a great effect on the company’s image. So no wonder employers are on a constant search for better ways to beat the clock. 

One of the most popular ways to add that additional nudge to employee productivity is using productivity tools. We’ll go through a list of 7 most popular ones.

Read How Employee Engagement Can Keep Your Business Alive and Kicking

Team building

Picture 3. According to Gallup’s State of the Local Workplace, 85% of employees are not engaged or are actively disengaged at work

Most Popular Productivity Tools

Asana

Isn’t it frustrating when there’s a bunch of tasks that need to be done, but you’re not sure when and who’s in charge and where can you add comments? If only there was something to make it easier…

And in comes Asana. It’s a perfect project management tool, super easy to use, with a nice and clear interface, which will take all those worries away. Asana allows you to create projects and tasks, assign them to your colleagues (or yourself), set deadlines and add files and comments. It has a free version, but if you’re looking for more you can get a whole set of pretty cool features at a reasonable fee. 

Google Drive

Google knows it all. And so do its tools. Google Drive makes it really easy to share and store data and to collaborate with other team members on a project. And the best part of it is that it’s completely free of charge. You just need to set up your Google account and you’re good to go. 

Google Drive (along with Spreadsheets and Docs) is quite self explanatory, so you can get a lot from it even if you’re not super talented in dealing with softwares. Everything you work on is stored in a cloud, so you can reach it basically from any place that has internet connection. Perfect if you’re working remotely, or if you have a project which requires you to stay present all the time.

Google drive

Picture 4. Google Drive

Buffer

If one of your tasks is social media management, then you probably know how much time you can waste to come up with a single post. And if you’re supposed to post for a couple of times a week, then this job turns into a real time-consuming monster.

Buffer to the rescue! This tool enables you to schedule your social media content at specific times. What is more, while you’re out there surfing the web, you can hit the Buffer bookmarklet button and put whichever interesting content you find in your Buffer queue. What a time-saver!

Buffer has three pricing packages, but after the 14-day-trial you get downgraded to the free version. This one supports three social media accounts, one user and 10 posts. And it’s also worth mentioning that their support is absolutely awesome – they even host webinars for you to ask whatever’s bothering you.

Read Why Is Technology Important for Productivity?

StayFocused

So you come to work at 8 am, make yourself a cup of coffee and decide to take a look at your favorite news website. All of a sudden it’s lunchtime and you’re watching the 34th cat video in a row. And you haven’t crossed over anything from your to-do list. Sounds familiar?

StayFocused is here to put your workday back in order. It’s actually a Chrome extension and it’s super customizable. You can choose which websites to block, for how long, block notifications and track the time you’ve spent on a certain website. So it’s bye distractions, hello productivity.

Toggl

Toggl is a synonym for time tracking. It’s perfect for freelancers, small companies and consultants and its benefits are quite simple – it enables you to track how much time you spend on projects. Consequently, you can identify the most time-consuming tasks and analyze productivity. Its basic plan is free and paid versions provide a lot of additional features such as optimization opportunities.

Pocket

Pocket is where you can collect everything you find useful, funny or interesting while researching the web. So if you’re tired of sending links in messages to yourself in order to save content you like or you’d like to read, this is what you need. It functions as a browser extension which adds a Pocket button, so your digital library is just a click away.

Apart from that, Pocket enables you to organize content in whichever way you think it’s logical through its tagging system. In that way you can create categories and find content much easier and faster.

Hemingway Editor

Content creators, this one’s for you. Hemingway Editor is a great tool, which corrects all your grammar conundrums in a second. Apart from correcting your grammar, it warns you when your sentences are too long and when you’re using the passive voice too much. All of this makes your readers happier and more interested in what you’ve written and you don’t even have to waste time googling if it’s which or witch

Hemingway editor

Picture 5. Hemingway Editor

Conclusion

One thing is extremely important when we talk about productivity – there are no tools or hacks in this world that can make you more productive if you haven’t decided you need to change something. And there is no need in using all of these hacks and all tools. Choose whichever works for you and you’ll definitely see a change. There are only so many hours in a day, you’d want to use them the best way you can, right?

Any productivity masters out there? Are there any productivity tips you found super useful? Share in the comments below. 

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The Ultimate Guide to Productivity was last modified: November 11th, 2020 by student@paldesk.com
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