Middle aged Asian woman smiling while looking at the computer at a table

Five tips to help increase productivity

I confess I have a hard time turning my brain off. Before I open my eyes in the morning, my mind has already created a to-do list, decided what the kids will eat for breakfast, wrote out the three most important emails I need to send and planned this year’s spring break vacation. Multi-tasking is how I fuel my creative brain but I have learned that in order to get intentional results, I must be intentional about my productivity. I use these five tips to increase my productivity and add focus to my day.

1. Focus on the three most important tasks (MIT). Think of this action as setting three daily goals. If everything is important, then nothing is important. This activity pushes us towards the results we want to see instead of just doing work. The object is to be efficient in how we work and the results we produce.

  • The biggest thief of time is not having a plan. Identifying and executing the three most important tasks adds efficiency to your day. I try to tackle these tasks at the beginning of the day when my mind is fresh and clear. I also make sure I have these tasks identified in my schedule to ensure I am allotting the time needed to complete them. 

2. Create focused time to get work done. There’s an app for that. I love the Forest app. I am competitive and this app feels more like a game I have to beat than a restriction. The object of the app is to plant trees, and the only way your trees will grow is if you put your phone down and stay in the app for the allotted amount of time that you have chosen to focus.

  • If you are anything like me and you have 25 tabs open on your computer and in your mind at once, then setting realistic times for focus is essential. The goal is to get things done and focus on one project or task at a time.

3. Create a block schedule. I spent many years as a project manager and, at any given time, I would have 15-25 projects working simultaneously. I started breaking my day up into blocks. I would allow time for each project throughout the week on my calendar.

  • Schedule actual time on your calendar for the work that you need to complete. For example, if you have a weekly meeting, block out enough time to accommodate meeting preparation and time to work on action items that have come out of the meeting.  Give yourself 15 minutes between meetings. 

4. Select specific times to answer emails. Do not read emails all day. I have a rule not to check email until 9am. This is a boundary I put in place when I realized the first thing I did in the morning was pick up my phone. I didn’t want email to be the way I started my day.

  • I check my emails in 30-minute intervals throughout the day. My first check-in is from 9am-9:30am. My next three check-ins happen after I have completed each of my important tasks. My final email check is at the end of the day. In total, I check my email five times a day as opposed to every 5 minutes.

5. Move your body. I know we can all use an extra hour or two into our day, but exercise should be a part of our daily routine, even with packed schedules. Exercise is vital to productivity.

  • Incorporating exercise into your daily routine can improve concentration, sharpen memory, decrease fatigue, enhance creativity and lower stress. If you don’t already have a workout regiment, consider taking a brisk walk for 15 minutes a day and adding more time in five minute intervals as you get stronger.  

Productivity is not about individuals, teams or organizations doing work or accomplishing tasks, but our ability to focus on the right tasks to produce the results we want to see as individuals, teams, and organizations.

Voya is collaborating with Portia Scott through the Voya Just Right Advantage™ program to deliver value-add education to minority, women, veteran, disability and LGBTQ-owned small businesses and not-for-profits. These communities have felt a disproportionate impact from the pandemic, and Voya is providing extra support and help.

Portia is the host of the Wake Up & Show Up podcast, speaker and vision execution partner on a mission to inspire and empower individuals with the tools they need to make their goals clear and plan of action clearer.

Portia Scott and Portia Scott Media, LLC are not affiliated with the Voya family of companies. Portia Scott Media, LLC has received compensation from Voya for participation in educational programing supporting Voya’s Just Right Advantage Program.

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