Looking for ways to make the daily grind less of an actual grind? These days, there are so many productivity apps, tools and strategies available to help you sort through your priorities and streamline your workload. Here’s a look at how to be more productive, including steps you can take to improve what isn’t working and achieve a much better work-life balance for you and your teammates.
1. Organize everything
It’s essential to impose a sense of order in what can sometimes be a chaotic workplace. It’s why Eventbrite co-founder and CEO Julia Hartz uses project management tool Asana. “You can build out projects and connect other users to task lists to contribute and collaborate,” she explains in an interview for Entrepreneur.
Having a platform that allows you to delegate also saves plenty of time and brainpower by eliminating administrative back-and-forth with colleagues. “It’s all about having a central place to keep track of short-term and long-term goals,” says Hartz. Plus, since it’s shareable with the team, it encourages collaboration in the workplace, a key to being more productive.
2. Dedicate time for deep focus
Speaking of Asana, the company’s CEO, Dustin Moskovitz, places a high premium on having time to completely immerse himself in important projects. “To accomplish something that requires deep thinking, I need to have at least an hour—ideally two to three—of contiguous free time on my calendar,” he told Fast Company.
The solution? Moskovitz has introduced No Meeting Wednesdays (NMW) at work, citing the logic of an influential article, “Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule,” which points out the differences in how people use their time.
Makers—whether they’re writing copy or code—need lots of flow time to complete their work, while managers are more schedule-driven; this can easily lead to a clash of interests or loss of productivity. NMW is one way to reduce these conflicts, and Moskovitz says it’s been a huge success for Asana. “This may be our most valuable cultural practice, and I encourage every company to consider adopting it,” he says.
3. Turn off your tech and look at the big picture
Since digital platforms can be distracting, some business leaders—including Whitney Wolfe, the founder and CEO of dating app Bumble—make an effort to put their cellphones away at work.
“Don’t just silence it. Turn the device off in a drawer for 20 minutes and force yourself to be away from it,” she says in a conversation with Entrepreneur. “When you know the phone is off, it allows you to fully detach from it and focus on what you need to get done.”
When figuring out how to be more productive, Wolfe also likes to take a holistic approach to prioritizing her tasks. “I really try to ask myself the question of nine. Will this matter in nine minutes, nine hours, nine days, nine weeks, nine months or nine years?”
In her opinion, if it’s not going to matter for any of those periods, it’s not worth paying attention to. Sometimes turning off your tech creates time to contemplate what matters most for your company.
4. Think inside the box
Timeboxing or time blocking—deciding how long each task should take and reserving time in your calendar to do it—is another effective strategy, because it helps you concentrate fully on the task at hand.
“Constant interruptions make us less happy and less productive,” writes Marc Zao-Sanders, the CEO and co-founder of artificial-intelligence learning platform Filtered. “Timeboxing is the proper antidote to this. You decide what to do and when to do it, [blocking] out all distractions for that timeboxed period.”
In an interview for Wired, Yunha Kim, the founder and CEO of meditation app Simple Habit, names Trello as a powerful project-management tool. “It helps me stay organized and proactive,” she says. The solution doesn’t always have to be digital, though. The Pomodoro Technique has been boosting productivity for decades, and it calls for nothing more than a kitchen timer set to 25 minutes.
5. Remember your internal clock is just as important as your timer
Sallie Krawcheck, the co-founder and CEO of investment advisory company Ellevest, knows how crucial it is for leaders to learn how to be more productive, starting with discovering what time of day they typically find inspiration and motivation. “I have spent a lot of time figuring out how I work best and when I’m most productive. I organize my day around that,” she says.
In his book When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, Daniel Pink also explores how people are naturally predisposed to be productive at different times of day and encourages everyone to identify whether they’re a morning lark, a night owl or something in between.
“We know that there are time-of-day effects on people’s cognitive abilities, but we don’t think: How are people going to be feeling at this meeting? Where are people’s strengths going to be?” he says. If you’re a leader, it pays to be aware of not only your own preferences but your employees’ too.
A final word on how to be more productive
You may have heard the word “productivity” too many times for your liking lately. Don’t let that deter you from challenging yourself to take stock of your own habits and tendencies. Stay informed on the best new productivity apps that could help you—and your teammates—learn how to be more productive while regaining some time and happiness along the way.