People are constantly finding new ways to boost productivity, and for the most part, the methods work. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics recently revealed that there has been a 3.6% increase in productivity in the first quarter of 2019. More workers are finding productivity methods that get them through their daily tasks in an efficient manner, but not everyone finds it easy to stick to their habits, and that’s okay.
In fact, a study published on The Dana Foundation explains that there is a human need for novelty. Switching up your productivity systems every few months is completely normal and may even result in finding more efficient methods that best suit your abilities. However, changing your habits from one system to another too often might hinder you from converting them into permanent behavior. So if you're a little stuck on improving your productivity or have been jumping from one ship to another for far too long, consider the tips below:
Start by examining yourself and your workflow
As with any endeavor aiming for positive change, the first step should involve careful assessment. In their list of productivity tips, Special Counsel recommends starting by investigating what your inefficiencies are rooted in. Ask yourself where the pain points are for your workflow — is it a broken process, and is the environment conducive for work, or is it even your own mindset that’s the issue? To make room for better things, it's important to let go of habits that do not serve us.
Let go of beliefs in less effective habits
Indeed, only by starting out with the self-analysis above can you pinpoint what exactly is stopping you from forming productivity habits. You may find, however, that the answer is your own staunch belief in the wrong ones. For instance, the Harvard Business Review confirms that focusing on a single task is more effective and efficient compared to multitasking, even though many people believe that they are adept at the latter. In order to be truly productive, accept this and start your productivity system with a clean slate. As we emphasized in a previous post on The Biggest Mistakes You’re Making in Managing Your Time, remember to work smarter, not harder.
Be wary of distractions in your environment
Another common hindrance to building productivity habits that stick is working in an environment which is full of distractions. Psychologist Ned Hallowell believes that we constantly seek them out, saying, "We’re conditioned to bring out our iPhone, open up a laptop, look up at the television screen." By identifying the things that distract you, like your phone, your chatty co-worker, or loud notifications, it will be easier to respond differently to them and stick to your productivity system.
Track and schedule your habits
You are probably familiar with optimizing your to-do lists and being strict with dates and deadlines. You can apply this same kind of consistency to your productivity habits by tracking them along with your meetings and deadlines for the week. For example, if you wrote “Go to client meeting at 5pm,” then you can follow it up with “Exercise for 30 minutes after client meeting.” This interconnectivity between tasks will make them feel seamless and easier to follow.
Ask for help
If you have a partner or a roommate, ask them to help keep you accountable. Let them know that you’re trying to form a habit so that they can call you out when you fall short. Knowing that someone will keep an eye on you might just add the extra pressure you need to stick to your habits.
It’s not easy to convert habits into permanent behavior, so don’t discount your entire progress if you had one unproductive day. According to Brain Pickings, easier habits take around 21 days to form, but some of the more complicated habits may take up to 254 days to fully integrate. So don’t worry if it takes a while — the important thing is to keep trying to find a system that works for you, and being persistent enough to stick to it. Before you know it, you’ll have a fully functioning system that feels productive and comes naturally to you every day.