What is productivity? It is the way you spend your time. It’s the way you spend time with family, with friends, and with yourself. It’s not only about the amount of time, but the quality of that time. It is important because how you spend your time reflects in your attitude, your health, and your general well-being. To increase productivity is to increase our ability to be happy and fulfilled.
What are the barriers that keep you from being productive? One surprising barrier to productivity is multitasking. There are days when you might think you can do it all and do it all at one time. But did you know that multitasking is actually detrimental to productivity? Perfectionism is another problem. While trying to make certain everything you do is perfect, it could actually be hindering your ability to increase productivity. Fortunately, there are ways to successfully move around these barriers.
On the whole, being more productive at work matters because your career success depends on it. The quality of work will determine whether or not you will be promoted or get a raise. By learning how to be more productive, you are taking steps to be better at your job. Altogether, it does not necessarily mean you get more done, but it does mean the quality of what you do will improve immensely.
As shown below, there are productivity apps that can help you increase productivity. You won’t have to try these methods alone. There are lots of other people out there who want to be more productive, just like you. The best productivity apps in this article are intended to help you succeed in all facets of your life.
In short, we’ll show you how to be more productive at home, at work, and even while having fun.
What’s Productivity and Why Does It Matter?
So, what is productivity? What is productivity is less important than how to be more productive. Being productive means you are getting things done. As humans, we all have a list of things we have to do every day to maximize our happiness. They are as simple as waking up and drinking a glass of water. Some of the things on that list are a little more complicated like nailing an interview for your dream job or buying a house. Basically, if we are more productive, we are maximizing our chances for happiness, wellbeing, and positive outcomes.
Overall, you are your own most important investment. Just like a plant that needs nurturing with proper sunlight, soil, and watering, you need to do certain things every day to be happy. Some of those things are less pleasant, like dusting, vacuuming, or going to the doctor. That’s why we all need ways to increase productivity. By learning how to be more productive, we open ourselves up to fun things like free time to take vacations, or opportunities to meet new people and experience new things.
Highly productive people are extremely successful people. Generally, those successful people have figured out the magical formula for their lives wherein they effectively balance work, home, and self. We’re going to help you calculate your magical formula to success and give you answers to the question, “What is productivity?”
How to Be More Productive at Work
We all want to know the easiest and best ways to increase productivity at work. Work productivity opens you up for opportunities like promotions, getting a raise, and expanding your network. Here are some ways to ensure you make the most of every day at work:
Fun Fact: When you increase small feelings of happiness every day, studies show that it will lead to a significant boost in overall happiness, and it will lead to more opportunities for happiness. Making small positive changes will bring huge happiness that grows and grows.
Some days you may feel like a superhero who can do it all at once, but the scientific fact is that your brain power is limited. Even Einstein had limited brainpower. It’s not a negative trait, simply a human one.
Although this seems counterintuitive, studies have shown that trying to do two things (or more) at once actually hinders your performance. Instead of trying to finish things quickly by doing them all at the same time, choose one task and focus solely on that alone. Wanting to do more than one thing at a time will increase the likelihood of you completing two or three tasks with less than stellar results. Yes, you can actually increase productivity by doing less!
Do one thing at a time and the quality of your work will jump through the roof. You’ll also save time instead of having to redo something that was done incorrectly the first time. Here are some ways to maximize productivity without sacrificing the quality of your work:
- Instead of checking email while you make important phone calls, turn away from your computer and focus on the phone call. First, it’s only respectful that you give your full attention to the person on the other end of the line. Second, it will prevent you from skimming over an important email, or accidentally hitting on send on something that isn’t ready.
- Instead of switching back and forth between Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, choose one. Focus only on that one project. Moreover, close all other programs, including any open browsers. Try using productivity tools that force you to only have one thing open at a time.
- Instead of sending texts while you are in a meeting, take notes with a pen and paper. Again, this shows respect to whoever is running the meeting. It shows that you take your work seriously. Furthermore, by focusing on the events taking place and making notes, you’re much more likely to remember everything being said. In fact, science has proven that by writing things down the old-fashioned way improves memory and cognition.
To summarize, if you’ve been wondering how to be more productive, the answer is not to do more – it’s to do less. At least, less all at once. Focus on the task at hand, complete it well, then move on to the next!
Add some greenery
If you don’t have a plant in your workspace, put that on your to-do list right away. Having a plant in your office requires sunlight. Sunlight boosts your mood and increases the feel-good serotonin in your brain, making you happier. It’s also been proven that having a plant in the office decreases stress and improves overall health. Here are a few low maintenance plants that are must-haves for every office.
- Succulents aren’t just trendy plants, they are also adorable and low maintenance.
- A terrarium is a practical way to add a pop of color to your office.
- A small bamboo plant is pretty and requires little upkeep.
- Colorful orchids are gorgeous with a touch of class, and they require very little care.
- A bonsai tree is tiny and delightful and will class up any desk or office space.
- If you want something bigger, check out spider plants.
Make it hot
A study conducted by Cornell University has proven that employees who are cold are less productive and more prone to errors. Most of us don’t have the option to control the office temperature, so think about getting a small desk heater. You can put one under your desk near your feet, or on your desk to warm your hands. They even make USB-connected desk heaters that you can plug right into your laptop. However, if you can’t plug a heater in, think about getting a rice-filled heating bag, or little pocket warmers to keep warm.
Set an extremely impractical goal
If you’re wondering how to be more productive, try setting an impractical goal. This definitely sounds crazy, but Psychologist Dr. Robert Epstein says that challenging yourself will lead to an increase in productivity. This means that setting a crazy, unrealistic goal forces you to look at the big picture in a new way. Basically, your brain tells you that there is no way you can achieve that goal. What happens is that your brain goes into a super-active mode, trying to think of all the different kinds of ways you could reach that goal.
For example, let’s say your goal is to make a sale for 100% of the phone calls you make in one month. Your brain says, “Yeah, right,” but at the same time, it’s telling you that you could do it if you start with making sales from 40% of the phone calls you make. That 40% leads to 55% sales, and so on. Setting an unrealistic goal gives you new ways to reach other, smaller goals. What is productivity if not setting and reaching goals every day?
Don’t strive for perfection
As hard as this may sometimes be, you have to let go of the idea that every note written, email sent, and meeting conducted will go exactly as planned. There will be spelling errors. Sometimes a presentation won’t go as planned. Ultimately, you might even miss a deadline. In essence, be okay with being human. Here’s how:
- Instead of spellchecking and re-reading an email 15 times before hitting send, read and check it ONE TIME ONLY. Let loose of the reins of grammar perfection and feel the freedom of just hitting send without nitpicking every part of the note.
- Instead of beating yourself up when a PowerPoint slideshow doesn’t go as planned, laugh at yourself. Technology is not foolproof, and neither are humans. Don’t take every little mistake and failure so seriously. When you laugh at yourself, you’ll seem more approachable and friendlier, which can open a lot of doors.
- Instead of working through lunch to get more work done, take a break. For instance, if the report isn’t perfect by the time your stomach starts growling, remind yourself that you can come back and finish the task after you have eaten.
If you’re serious about increasing productivity at work, you’re going to need to change the way you do things. Maybe you need to stop checking your email every ten minutes and only check it once an hour. Perhaps you need to stop doing three things at once and focus on one task at a time. You might even need to take a break from work so you can replenish your energy stores and renew your focus.
If you’ve been wondering how to be more productive, these are all great places to start!
How to Be More Productive at Home
Just the sentence “how to be more productive at home” probably conjures up images of chaos and stress. This is exactly the reason you should learn the best ways to increase productivity. Instead of dreading going home and making dinner, doing laundry, running errands, feeding the dog, and caring for the kids (PHEW!), these productivity tips will help ease the transition from work to home in a stress-free way.
Imagine being at home with a cup of tea, sitting in peaceful silence with all of your chores and errands finished. That probably makes you breathe a sigh of relief. Here are some ways to help you increase productivity to make that dream a reality:
Start the worst first
Make a list of everything you need to finish at home for the day. Looking at that list, which task is the most dreaded? For some, it’s laundry. For others, it’s mowing the lawn. Whatever it is for you, do that task first. Getting the worst job out of the way frees your mind and your emotions to focus on the rest of your day with renewed vigor and confidence. Doing the worst first will definitely motivate you to complete the rest of the list with a smile on your face.
Alternatively, schedule your most dreaded task at a time when your energy is highest. Don’t get stuck in the morning working on an insurmountable task because it could lead you to accomplish even less. The point is to listen to your body and let it show you the path to increase productivity.
Make a personalized schedule
Making a personalized schedule to increase productivity at home probably seems obvious. What this means is that you don’t force yourself to do things when you’re just not feeling it. For example, if you are the most productive at 9 pm, don’t fight it. Listen to your body and your mind.
If you are not productive after dinner, but you really feel like mopping the floor at 11 pm, then mop that floor! This is to say we have been conditioned to live and work on a collective 9-5 schedule. We should eat lunch at noon. You should serve dinner at 6 pm. Always eat breakfast. The point is that although society has told us what we should do and when we should do it, that doesn’t mean our bodies and minds agree. Ultimately, listen to your own intuition and honor those cues by creating your own schedule, work hours be damned. What is productivity if not getting things done, no matter when it happens?
Confine yourself to one room
Usually, when we think about cleaning the whole house, it feels too overwhelming. You might start thinking about how the sink upstairs needs to be replaced. And then you remember that you want to repaint the bedroom. The kitchen floor needs to be retiled. And on, and on, and on. Don’t let your thoughts run out of control. Spend ten minutes in one room at a time. Focus only on what that room needs. Set a timer for ten minutes and then get going! After ten minutes, it is likely that you will be motivated enough to keep going. To summarize, crank some tunes, grab a broom, and start being productive!
It’s 2018, and you should absolutely take advantage of all the ways technology has allowed us to increase productivity with limited effort. Here are some things you should definitely consider setting and forgetting:
- Record your favorite TV shows
If you’re not already taking advantage of streaming options, use TiVo or a DVR to watch TV. No one wants to be glued to their television as part of a daily schedule, especially if it means watching commercials.
- Automate your bills
Almost all banks and companies allow you to set up automated monthly bill pay. Even small town, local utility offices are taking advantage of this technology and convenience. For example, you know that your internet bill or your student loan bill is not going to change any time soon. Instead of expending the time and energy every month to deal with such a nuisance, set it up to automatically pay every cycle. You can do this with (probably) all your bills.
- Use an app to pump up your savings
After you have created a budget, you should know how much money you want to put into savings every month. Again, this is something that you can set up to be automatic. However, you can take this one step further. There are some apps available that will round up charges from your checking account. They take those nickels, dimes, and pennies and they put them into an investment portfolio for you. You don’t have to do anything except watch the numbers rise every month. It’s super fun to open an app and see how much money you have growing without doing anything at all!
- Use an app to get “free” money
Along with using an app to plump your savings account, there are apps available to automatically request refunds for you after you’ve purchased something. It works like this—you buy something online from Amazon or other retailers. The app on your phone tracks the price of every item you’ve bought. If that price goes down within a certain time frame, they send an email to customer service on your behalf. They request a refund for the difference in price. It may be a small amount, or a larger, more significant amount that you can then put into your savings as “free” money.
These are just a few simple ways to increase productivity at home. You don’t have to do them all at once, but pick one to try and see how it works. You may be surprised to find that the key for how to be more productive at home is easier than you ever imagined!
How to Increase Productivity at the Gym
Hopefully, you enjoy going to the gym and getting your sweat on. Unfortunately, there will be days when getting yourself to the gym will seem like an insurmountable task. Here are some ways to ease the burden of exercising and increase productivity at the gym.
There are usually a plethora of TVs playing Judge Judy reruns or sports replays that you can watch while you are pumping iron, but sometimes that just isn’t enough. Instead, why not try on of the millions of podcasts out there? There are so many podcasts to choose from with subjects that range from horror storytelling to baking shows to meditation that it would be nearly impossible to not find something that you are excited about. Furthermore, listening to podcasts have been shown to help in weight loss. Win, win!
Listen to music
Speaking of podcasts, maybe you’d rather jam out. If that’s the case, pump up the volume. There have been studies that show listening to music actually makes us more productive. Specifically, listening to intense music with a lot of bass increases efficiency and confidence. A study by Kellogg scientists can tell you precisely the three songs that will get you the most energized.
- 50 Cent’s “In Da Club”
- Queen’s “We Will Rock You”
- 2 Unlimited’s “Get Ready for This”
As a matter of fact, you won’t get any work done today without one of those three songs playing in your head!
Fun Fact: Surgeons who listen to music work more effectively during surgeries.
Buy new clothes
Specifically, buy new workout clothes. Nothing makes you want to get out of the house and shake your booty like showing off a new outfit. While you’re at it, find a new pair of shoes too. Who knew that the simplest way to increase productivity was to buy new clothes!
Speak to yourself
Try these on for size to increase productivity at the gym. Speak in third person, use a different pronoun, or use your own name when you talk to yourself.
- She did great at the gym today!
- I kicked butt on the treadmill just now.
- You are going to finish this last mile because you are strong.
- (Your name) is going to reach her step goal today.
- She deserves to work out and be healthy.
What Are the Best Productivity Apps?
Still looking for more ideas for how to be productive? Take advantage of technology! There are lots of apps that can help you learn how to be more productive. So, what should you look for in the best productivity apps? Here are some ideas:
Some of the most common productivity tools out there are organizers and lists. They help you organize your entire life, from work to home, from grocery lists to dentist appointments. It’s important not to feel overwhelmed when attempting to increase productivity. This kind of productivity software puts all your to-dos in one place.
Productivity timer apps use bursts of time to help you focus on tasks. You start the timer when you’re about to start work. When the timer stops, you must stop what you are doing immediately and take a break. When the timer begins again, you get right back to work. You can usually set the duration of breaks and frequency to suit your needs.
There are also productivity tools that help you track your habits. You can set goals and track both good and bad habits. Some even have a streak counter to keep you on track.
If you spend a lot of time on mobile devices, using a habit tracker could help you learn how to be more productive during your time online. It’s usually an app that runs in the background, so you won’t even know it’s there. At the end of the day, it shows you how much time you spent on each task or website. Therefore, if you spend 3 hours a day on social media, this productivity software is going to break it down for you.
Sometimes we don’t know that we’re spending so much time not being productive. The best productivity apps are simply tools that show you exactly where your time is going so you can adjust accordingly.
Additional Productivity Tips
- Get plenty of sleep
- Wake up early and at the same time every day
- Try to minimize distractions and interruptions
- Take lots of breaks to rest your mind or exercise your body
- Drink water and eat healthy foods to keep your energy up
- Delegate tasks when possible
- Reward yourself when you are able to increase productivity and meet goals
- Always ask yourself if what you are doing is productive
Some of these productivity tools and tips may work to increase productivity for you, and some probably won’t. That’s okay. Nevertheless, you’re learning how to increase productivity and that means knowing what doesn’t work for you as well as knowing what does. Try different things and new strategies and eventually you will find the perfect productivity balance.
-  “Open Hearts Build Lives: Positive Emotions, Induced Through Loving-Kindness Meditation, Build Consequential Personal Resources” NCBI. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3156028/
-  “Efficient multitasking: parallel versus serial processing of multiple tasks” NCBI. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4561751/
-  “The effect of repeated writing on memory.” NCBI. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7731365
-  “Healthy Workplaces: The Effects of Nature Contact at Work on Employee Stress and Health” NCBI. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3072911/
-  “Study links warm offices to fewer typing errors and higher productivity” Cornell Chronical. http://news.cornell.edu/stories/2004/10/warm-offices-linked-fewer-typing-errors-higher-productivity
-  “Capturing Creativity.” Dr. Robert Epstein. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/199607/capturing-creativity
-  “Pounds Off Digitally Study: A Randomized Podcasting Weight Loss Intervention” NCBI. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2892173/
-  “How Productivity Music Enhances Focus (With Music Recommendations)” Leon Ho. https://www.lifehack.org/256537/neuroscience-proves-that-listening-music-work-can-enhance-focus-and-productivity
-  “Music in the Operating Room: “Can You Hear Me Now?” Aesthetic Surgery Journal. https://academic.oup.com/asj/article/35/7/899/2589183
Chandi Gilbert is a blogger and professional introvert. She has been a freelance writer since 2016, and her work has been featured on Contena, Wag, and Harness Magazine, among others. She is a member of the Freelancer’s Union and a Columbia College Alumni. She lives in Ohio with her husband and dogs who pull double duty as creative directors and heads of security. She writes blogs that help others feel better about themselves, and mentors beginner freelancers in their journeys.