Many of us feel guilty when we feel we are not productive enough.
There are a few ways to counteract this feeling, most importantly, stop linking your productivity to your self-esteem. Furthermore, it is important to adjust your mindset to how much time you really have to complete tasks.
If you are less productive than you hoped, simply increasing your productivity is the simplest solution.
I work at a news department where there is always a deadline and your success is partly measured on the basis of your output. That’s why I asked my current and former colleagues to share their favorite method for getting everything done.
Here are their favorite tips:
Blacklist your time-consuming websites
“I make a list of things I want to achieve one day. It’s a fairly simple strategy, but an effective way to track my productivity. Almost nothing feels better than checking things off my list.”
“By the way, I’m really a procrastinator, so I use the SelfControl app to shut down time-consuming websites like Twitter for a few hours. Thanks to the app, my browser says: ‘This site is not reachable’. You can set how long you are not allowed to visit the website: from a few minutes to 24 hours. Even if you uninstall the app and restart your computer, you won’t be able to visit the website.”
-Aine Cain, editor
Finish it first — make it perfect later
“When I’m working in a busy newsroom or in a noisy cafe and I have an important task that I need to get done as quickly as possible, I try to eliminate as many distractions as possible. I wear noise-canceling headphones and listen to websites like Noisli. Ideally, I will use my laptop to look for a place where I can be alone or in a small group.”
“I turn off the internet and work in one go without stopping before the project is finished. Or at least: a large part of the project. I don’t go for perfection, but simply finish the project. I can always perfect it later. This works fine for me.”
-Daniel McMahon, copy chief
“Sleep more! Everything becomes easier.”
-Gus Lubin, former senior correspondent
Organize your notes during meetings
“A simple, old-fashioned pen-and-paper trick to take better notes during meetings:
“I divide the page into two sections so that I can easily scan through the key points discussed later. This way I know exactly what still needs to be done for each project.
“Fold the paper a little more than half and draw a line there. This way you have a left and right column on the page.Use the right side to make notes on these topics. Much more convenient than page-long paragraphs of notes or hundreds of bullet points.”
-Sarah Jacobs, associate visual features editor
Just do it — now
“I know this sounds like a pointless cliché, but there’s no better medicine for dreading a long to-do list.”
“Do you keep putting off responding to an email? Do it before you get distracted. Not in the mood for a phone call? Start calling before you can think about it. Is there a huge project on your priority list? Start with the first step to get the ball rolling.”
“The worst times are almost always a lot less bad than you think, once you do them.”
-Libby Kane, deputy editor
Jump in the deep
“It’s almost always easier to stay in the ‘shallow’ water, in your comfort zone, but I don’t think you learn anything that way. When you force yourself to jump in at the deep end and work outside your comfort zone, you learn the most. It’s not a quick trick to be more productive, but the more you learn, the more you can achieve on a large scale. And that seems pretty productive to me, too, right?”
-Tenzing Dorjee, former web producer
Break down big projects into simple steps
“My favorite trick (which is probably not very surprising) is to make a very detailed to-do list of everything I have to do in a certain period of time. It’s much easier to get everything done when you divide big projects into small assignments.”
“I also strongly believe in the two-minute rule: anything you can do in less than two minutes is best done right away. When I have a lot on my plate, I try to break everything down into the smallest possible pieces.”
-Emmie Martin, associate editor
Prioritize and focus on one thing at a time
“You get distracted so easily, start with a lot of tasks and by the end of the day you haven’t done anything. Focus on what has the highest priority until it’s done and you move on to the next task.”
-Michelle Martinez Lee, senior product manager
Listen to white noise
“I’ve been a big fan of white noise since college. I like to listen to music, but find it difficult to concentrate. The video I watched the most on YouTube is ‘Celestial White Noise’: 10 hours of white noise. Perfect for when the office is noisy or I really need to focus on something.”
-Lori Janjigian, former editorial intern
“Think of your daily tasks as part of something bigger, or make it part of something bigger.