9 Steps to Follow to Become More Productive
If I told you that you can take any task and do it in half the time it normally takes you to complete, would you want to learn how?
Of course, you would.
And I’m here to tell you that it’s possible to become more productive in less time.
Now it doesn’t matter what type of work you do.
Whether you are the CEO of a company, a college student, a stay-at-home mom, or an empty nester, you can apply these 9 steps to any type of task so that you can have more free time.
And who doesn’t want that?
The 9 tips provided below (*plus 2 bonus tips) will help you stay focused on your tasks so that you can complete them quickly and get on with the rest of your day.
You can also find these steps and more in our Productivity Workbook designed to help you work more efficiently in everything you do.
Disclosure: This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience (which means if you make a purchase after clicking a link I will earn a small commission but it won’t cost you a penny more)! Click here to read my full disclosure policy.
Create SMART Goals
SMART goals are those that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based.
To learn more about creating SMARTer goals <–click here.
The process for creating SMART goals doesn’t start with the acronym above but with looking into your future.
It’s important to know where you want to be in order to map out the path you need to take.
So start out by imagining what your life looks like in 10 years, then 5, and lastly in 1 year.
Once you have your “life location”, you want to start developing the stepping stones or SMART goals for getting there.
Once you have your list of SMART goals, you’ll want to create a list of tasks you’ll need to tackle in order to reach your goal(s).
Try to think of everything involved from start to finish.
For example, let’s say your goal is to convert your guest bedroom into a craft room in one month. Some tasks involved could be:
- Remove all existing furniture
- Donate or sell the above furniture
- Paint room
- Redo flooring
- Purchase craft table and other furniture
- Assemble new furniture
- Organize machines, tools, and notions
Now, this is just a quick set of tasks for this goal.
Your goal task list may have more to-do’s.
Just try to be as thorough as possible so that the next step will be easier to put together.
Use a Scheduler/Planner
With your goal tasks in hand, it’s time to schedule them into some sort of planner or calendar.
This is to help keep you on track until you reach your goal as well as to keep you from burning out.
You’ll want to prioritize and place each task in your planner at the appropriate time of year, month, week, and day that makes sense to take them on.
Try to avoid scheduling conflicts as well as over-scheduling yourself.
Give yourself some wiggle room for completing your tasks just in case an emergency pops up.
Share to Be Accountable
This step may or may not apply to your task.
It depends if your task is a type of project that perhaps you have been putting off.
Maybe it’s one where you’ve started over and over and can never find the motivation or time to finish.
In this case, you need to share your project and progress with someone, preferably someone who has an interest in your project.
This can be a spouse, best friend, parent, sibling, neighbor, or even a teacher.
This is how you become accountable for completing your tasks.
You want to share your successes (and failures) with people who are rooting for you.
In some cases, they may be able to help you out when you hit a stumbling block.
So choosing your accountability partner is essential too.
Now, what happens when you don’t share?
Why is this important?
When you are not accountable to someone, you make it easy to quit mid-task with the “no harm, no foul” attitude.
And we don’t want that.
So, create a list of people in your corner and give them a call.
Pick the Right Habit(s) for Success
In order to become more productive, it is in your best interest to pick up good habits that will get you the results you want.
Some of these habits include:
- Waking up earlier
- Sleeping more (and sometimes less could be better)
- Eating right
- Reading more
- Using a schedule/planner
You need to determine those things that will help you succeed.
If that means waking up two hours before everyone else so you can get some work in, then do it.
And once you start a habit, you must give it at least 66 days to develop.
This is the average amount of time needed for a habit to fully kick in, to the point that it becomes automatic.
To read more on this research, click here.
When I started my journey to becoming more productive, the habit I focused on first was waking up at 6 a.m. every morning (including weekends).
It was a little hard in the beginning especially on weekends when I wanted to stay up late.
But now, I get up every day at 6 am and I love it.
I get to have a few hours to myself to get my day going.
And even if I stay up a little later than usual, my body is accustomed to getting up by 6 a.m. and will wake up at that time naturally.
So, my advice to you is to find one thing that will definitely help you be more productive.
Then give it 66 days to kick in.
When this habit becomes automatic, then pick another good habit, why not?
Click here to learn more about the 9 specific habits of highly successful people.
See if there is anything on that list you’d like to start doing today.
Create a Morning and Evening Routine
This step will most likely incorporate habits you pick to work on.
You want to create a quick schedule of items that need to be done first thing in the morning before you start on your task for the day.
Usually, these are things you might find on your to-do list.
For example, every morning I watch a little bit of news while I eat breakfast.
Next, I schedule out my day, respond to emails, and pay any bills.
Finally, I put in a 30-minute workout.
This routine just powers the rest of my day.
In the evening, after dinner, I write down anything on a sticky that needs my attention first thing in the morning.
This could be an appointment or a last-minute errand.
Next, I clean off my desk, close my office, shower, and spend some time with family.
This routine really relaxes me.
I get to wind down and enjoy a little me-time as well.
So, create a list of must-do items for your routines.
Perhaps you prefer cleaning your home before everyone wakes up.
Or perhaps meditating/praying first thing in the morning really refreshes you before you hit the ground running.
And don’t forget your evenings.
Add in some time for self-care or pick up a book to relax you.
One thing you want to do is to stop multitasking.
I am sure you have heard this one before but it must be said.
When you multitask, you are simply half-assing your work.
That’s because when you multitask, you are essentially dividing your focus for each task.
So instead of trying to get everything done at once, focus on one task entirely and you will see that it is done completely the right way and you won’t have to “go back” and fix it later.
Multitasking also includes things like playing music or watching TV as you do something.
However, I have found that there are some exceptions to this rule.
If your task is considered “mindless” then it’s okay to put on some background music, listen to an audiobook, or even watch a favorite show.
For example, take ironing.
Ironing is so mindless, to me anyway.
Seriously, if it weren’t for the fact that I could possibly burn myself, I would fall asleep ironing.
When I iron, I like to set up my board in front of the TV and watch a show or two.
It makes time go by faster for me.
If I am cleaning or vacuuming, I use music in the background or listen to an audiobook.
Again, cleaning doesn’t take much focus.
It’s quite monotonous.
So for those who are looking to be more productive in these areas, it’s okay to play something in the background.
However, if you have to stop what you are doing to focus on any background entertainment, then nix it.
You don’t want to take 2 hours ironing a basket of clothes that could have been done in 1 hour.
Learn to Say No
This is a hard one for some.
It’s hard to say no when someone asks you kindly for a favor.
But you don’t have to be mean about it.
If you tend to always say yes, start out by saying, “Yes, but later when I’m free”.
Then tell them when that is and no sooner.
When you practice that above phrase more, people will either wait for you to be free, do it themselves, or find someone else.
And that’s okay.
You shouldn’t be everyone’s go-to person.
Soon after, you can begin saying, “I’m sorry, but I can’t do that. I am working on my…”
You may have to use this with people who continually wait for you to help them, especially on tasks that you know they can do themselves.
And naturally for those who you know take advantage of your time purposely, just say, “NO.”
Delegate, Delegate, Delegate
This is another hard thing for some to do especially when they believe that they are the only person in the world who knows how to do a particular task.
And we know that’s not true.
Or we get irritated when someone you have delegated a task to do, does it wrong or poorly.
This is when you throw your hands up in the air and take over the task once again.
Recognize that this is usually the goal of the person you delegated the task.
They don’t want to do the task either so they sabotage their efforts so that you quit asking them to do that task.
But I’m here to tell you that if you expect to be more productive then you will need to set aside some time to teach people how to do what you need them to do.
If they fail to meet your expectations, then insist they do it again.
Don’t do the task for them.
Yes, it’s frustrating but soon enough they will get it.
And if they were purposely doing things wrong and you ask them to do it again, they will give in and just do what they need to do to complete the task you’ve given them.
It just takes a little time, some patience, and a lot of standing your ground.
By the way, if you are delegating a list of tasks like household chores and duties or projects within your company, make sure you have a central place where you list tasks to be done paired with the person responsible for them.
Don’t give people the excuse to drop the ball because they weren’t told what to do.
Prepare Yourself for Work
Just like multitasking, distractions must be eliminated so that you can focus fully on the task at hand.
These distractions range from cell phones to people interrupting you as you work.
So, I suggest setting aside five minutes before you begin a task, by eliminating as many distractions as you possibly can.
This includes but is not limited to:
- Turning off your cell phone*
- Turning off music/tv
- Announcing to those around you that you will not be available until…(time)
- Putting up a do not disturb sign on your door
- Closing and maybe even locking your door
- Turning off your internet**
*If you need your phone for emergency purposes, simply create a ringtone for that particular person. Then turn your phone over until your task for the day is complete.
**The only exception here is if you need the internet in order to complete your task.
If you work at home, it is hard for family members to understand your need to be left alone when you need to get a task done.
Being home (to them) means that you are available 24/7. Not true!
So make sure you tell them that you are “working.”
Put someone in charge as the go-to person while you are “at work.”
When it came to my family, I went over how I needed this uninterrupted time to do work, then I went over the closed-door policy, and finally, I put up a sign on the door (just in case).
And this worked!
Clean Up Your Space
Another way to improve productivity is by preparing your workspace.
So before you start your task, make sure your environment is set up for success.
If you work at a desk, then a clean, uncluttered desk can help if you are easily distracted by piles of papers.
Now there are some highly successful people who can work in the most cluttered spaces but they are also adept at shutting out things that may distract them.
If this is you, then you can ignore this.
However, for some of us, myself included, clutter can be very distracting.
It’s like that annoying kid in the car who is always asking, “Are we there yet?”
I can almost hear those bits of paper begging me to read them and take action.
Another thing you may need to do is to keep some snacks handy.
This is so that you stay on top of your task and don’t wander about looking for something to eat.
This is especially true if you know that you are going to work on a project for an extended period of time.
And if you have an office, why not add a small coffee maker like this one?
This way you don’t find yourself getting a cuppa joe and bumping into colleagues who can distract you and keep you from your task.
Bonus Tips to Further Improve Your Productivity
Purchase “The One Thing” Book
In an effort to improve my productivity, a mentor recommended the book, The One Thing, by Kellar and Papasan.
It has since changed the way I work now.
It improved my productivity, showed me what I was doing wrong, and most importantly, gave me more time for me and my family.
This book is the basis for my Productivity Workbook.
While you don’t need the book, I highly suggest you read it, even before completing the Productivity Workbook and putting the above steps into action.
In it, the authors also go over the importance of goals, habits, and scheduling which are crucial factors when it comes to motivation, consistency, and commitment.
And they back their findings and methods with relevant research and data.
The book is an easy read.
Seriously, it took me two busy days to read it.
I think that if you have ever found yourself feeling like there isn’t enough time in a day to do all the stuff you need to do, then this is the perfect book for you.
Now, the book is not expensive but if you are not sure you want to purchase it right now, there is an audio version on YouTube.
It’s missing a few pages in the beginning but they are not deal-breakers.
To listen to this book instead, click here.
Purchase Our Productivity Workbook
After reading the book several times, I developed and tested out the activities you will find in the workbook.
Again, you don’t necessarily have to buy or read “The One Thing” but it will help you understand some of the activities presented in the workbook.
The workbook also includes our Goal-Keeping Planner to help you schedule out those quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily tasks all in one planner.
If you struggle to find the time to get all your tasks completed, this workbook will walk you through creating your goals and developing a realistic schedule so that you get more done in less time without burning yourself out.
The best part is when you find yourself completing lots of goals quickly and in a short period of time.
If you would like to purchase the workbook, visit my shop ← by clicking here.
Right now, it is only $5.00, less than a cup of fancy coffee. (This workbook is only available as a downloadable PDF and can be filled in and saved to your device.)
Recap of the Things You Need to Do to Be More Productive
So, just to recap, remember:
- Create SMART goals followed by manageable tasks
- Schedule your tasks into a planner or calendar
- Share your goals with those who care
- Pick the best habits to adopt and give it 66 days to set in
- Create a morning and evening routine
- Stop multitasking and stay focused on your one task
- Learn to say no – people will get over it
- Delegate tasks – you are not a superhero
- Eliminate distractions and prep your area before you start
And for more information on productivity, purchase The One Thing book.
Want a done-for-you, step-by-step workbook to help you with your productivity?
Check out our Productivity Workbook ← click here to get your copy.