If you had just a few more hours, you’d be able to finish everything on your list, right? If you had a few more hours, you would probably find ways to add more to your list. And that way of thinking often leads to stress, burnout, and too much work. Productivity has less to do with how quickly you do your daily tasks and more to do with how you feel. In other words, the more ready our minds are for work, the more work we can get done.
If you have the right attitude, you might find that you can do a lot more with a lot less work. You can be more productive and feel less stressed at the same time. Let’s look to psychology to learn what productivity is and how to be productive.
Did you know that the way you eat and think can have a big effect on your health, happiness, and ability to get things done? Check out these seven foods that will make you happy and these six mental health exercises.
Use these tips to help you get more done
Many people think that psychology is only about helping people with mental health problems, but it also has a lot to say about how we deal with the small things in our lives. Here are eight ways you can change how you look at things and get more done.
1. Start by putting your ideas in order
When your mind isn’t in order, your surroundings usually aren’t either… and vice versa. Often, we feel overwhelmed and unproductive because all we can see is the pile of tasks we haven’t finished.
If that’s where you’re starting, take a deep breath. Just getting through the tasks won’t help, and it might even make things worse. It’s better to start by getting your thoughts in order and clearing your mind.
Research from the National Council on Aging has shown that having a disorganized mind can lead to more stress and impulsive actions, neither of which are good for getting things done. So, before you start working on your list of things to do, why not take a moment to think, write, pray, or meditate to get your thoughts in order? You’ll be much better at making a plan if you start organizing your tasks with a clear sense of purpose.
2. Plan out your day (or week)
You likely know how it feels. You work hard, but it seems like you never get anything important done. That’s because you’ve given in to the power of what’s most important right now.
The truth is that you will never be able to finish everything you could do. There’s always something else to do or someone else to tell you what needs to be done. Instead of playing whack-a-mole every day, you need a plan to help you get the most important things done.
Planning your day or week is a good way to train your mind. It requires you to think about what’s most important to you, whether at work or in your personal life, and then schedule tasks based on what’s most important to you. Think of it as a chance to check in with yourself and make sure you’re doing good things with your time.
3. Do something simple to start
If you want to be more productive, you shouldn’t put off the bigger, harder tasks in favor of the easier ones. In fact, research from Emory University shows that people are more productive in general when they do big tasks first.
Still, if you’re trying to get productive for the first time, it might help to start with one or two easy tasks. Checking off a few quick things on your list can make you feel good and give you just enough momentum to keep going.
But once you feel good about what you’ve done, don’t stay with the easy tasks. Use that energy to do something important.
4. Break large tasks into smaller ones
When you take on more difficult work, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by how much you have to do. When you feel like you have a long way to go, you might want to give up or just go back to crossing off small tasks.
Emory research says that the key is to break up those big tasks into smaller ones. Take your project’s end goal and break it up into small, manageable steps that you can do one at a time.
Say you want to take your whole family on a long road trip. You can’t remember everything at once, so try breaking it up. Maybe your first goal should be to figure out where you’ll go and where you’ll stay so you can plan a budget for your trip. Start there, and then move on to the next big job.
Splitting up big tasks into smaller, more manageable ones will help you keep going because it will give you little wins along the way. And staying productive is a big part of staying motivated.
5. Set limits for yourself and for other people
We are always being pulled away from our work in the workplaces of today. Open office plans and digital tools for communication make us feel like we have to be available to our coworkers at all times. But this constant availability can hurt productivity in a big way.
Research from the University of California, Irvine shows how even small distractions can be very expensive. The results showed that the average worker needs more than 23 minutes to get back to work after being distracted.
From this, what can we learn? If you want to get things done, it’s important to keep your mind as clear as possible. And to do that, you need to set some limits. Turn off notifications, log out of social media, and let your coworkers know when you’re not available. Try it for a week and see what you can get done more quickly. When you take a break with a co-worker, you might find that you feel less stressed.
6. When you need help, ask for it
Even though you’re getting better at being productive, that doesn’t mean you won’t need help sometimes. Involving others can help you stay productive now and in the future, whether you have too much on your plate or need to pass on some tasks that aren’t in your area of expertise.
For example, let’s say you’re too busy to make the spreadsheets you need for a big project. You are not good at spreadsheets, but you are good at making presentations. If you give the spreadsheets to a coworker who is an Excel expert, they’ll do a better job of that part of the work, so you can focus on making a great presentation.
In the end, delegation can help you feel less stressed and free up your mind so you can focus on the things that are most important to you.
7. Give yourself a pat on the back when you do well
Getting more productive is a long process, and it takes a lot of mental strength to keep going. You’ll do a lot of things along the way, some small and some big. Every so often, stop and think about what you’ve done.
If you never take a moment to praise yourself, you might become too focused on staying productive. When you’re always looking at the next thing on your list, you might end up right where you started: overworked and tired. Celebrate what you’ve done well so you can stay motivated.
8. Do things just for yourself
The best way to make sure you don’t get stuck on the endless hamster wheel of productivity is to make sure you do some things you enjoy.
This is not just about taking a break, which is important. Research shows that when workers are happy, they do their jobs better. Putting your own hobbies and interests first can help you stay motivated and on task so you can do your best work when it’s time.
If you follow these tips, you’ll be able to get back on track and get more done. Don’t forget that getting things done isn’t everything. Burnout can cause serious physical and mental health problems, so it’s important to know what to look for. When you can’t stop thinking about your daily to-do list, it’s probably time to take a break. In the long run, you’ll be able to get more done.
Your overall health and well-being depend on how healthy your mind is. Check out these tips for getting rid of stress before bed and questions to ask when looking for a therapist to learn more about how to keep your mind in good shape.