Productivity: expert advice on how to get more done

Are you a person who, at least once a week, thinks “oh no, this day flew by and I’m not done yet”? Or are you someone who wants a kick-ass career but also a fun social life? Then this article is for you. We seem to be very interested in the topic of ‘productivity’. Many, many books have been written about it. And online we see that YouTube offers nearly 400.000 different planner DIY’s and Pinterest is packed with productivity infographics. But, how can you REALLY increase your productivity?

Cal Newport is a professor and the author of ‘So Good They Can’t Ignore You’. He publishes a minimum of 6 research papers a year, he blogs about productivity, he wrote 3 other books ánd he is a husband and dad. It’s safe to say he is an expert on how to lead a productive life.
Here are 3 of his best tips to getting more done.

1. Time blocking

Translate your to-do list into time blocks. By assigning time periods to your tasks you get a more realistic view of what you can do in a day. By doing this you have a higher chance of actually finishing your to-do’s.
A second reason for using the time blocking strategy is that it reduces procrastination.

Cal Newport:

Assigning work to times reduces the urge to procrastinate. You are no longer deciding whether or not to work during a given period; the decision is already made.

Make sure to also plan for unforeseen activities, since life always gets in the way of your plans.

2. Focus on less tasks and do them amazingly well

Prioritizing is key if you want to get things done. Have you ever felt like you just had too much to do in too little time? There is a big chance that you simply had too much on your plate. You said ‘yes’ to too many things. You can work around the clock to make this work, but research shows that working more than 55 hours a week causes such a steep decline in your productivity that the work you do isn’t effective anymore. At all.
Ask yourself which tasks bring true value to your career and your life. Focus on them and kick ass at them.

Cal Newport:

You’re judged on what you do best so if you want to have as much success as possible you’re always better off doing fewer things but doing those things better.

So how can you kick ass? Dive deep into the tasks you focus on. Limit the time you spend on ‘shallow’ tasks like e-mails. Make sure to dive deeper during the parts of the day that you have the most mental energy. For instance, around 10 AM. Reserve your low-energy moments, like during your post-lunch dip, for more shallow tasks.

3. Set a daily ‘end of workday’ deadline

Have you ever thought: “I have so much to do, I could work the whole night.” You COULD, but would it be efficient?
Do you want a healthy work-life balance? Then you need boundaries.
So for the sake of your health and a happy work-life balance, plan to leave work every day at 5.30 pm. By setting a daily deadline for yourself, you are forced to make choices even more. It forces you to be more efficient.

Cal Newport:

Fix your ideal schedule, then work backwards to make everything fit — ruthlessly culling obligations and shedding marginally useful tasks.

A fixed schedule not only does wonders for your work-life balance, but it also decreases the likelihood of getting burned out. This is because you have a greater sense of control, which lowers stress levels.

Now it’s your turn. Tell me, which one will you put into practice first?

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