I have always been easily distracted. It can certainly have its benefits at the right times, but it can complicate my workday! As a freelancer, I create my schedule and juggle multiple clients each day. I realized I needed to increase productivity at work or else I’d fail.
I’ve started workdays with the thought of “This should only take 3 hours!” and then found myself still working 5 hours later. Somehow, I’d distract myself with a news article or YouTube video. Maybe I’d simply lose the drive to keep working.
After some introspection and research, I adopted some ways to increase my productivity. I now get more work done and have more free time! It’s one of the best aspects of working in the Gig Economy, but this flexibility is not easily achieved.
So, what exactly am I talking about?
My approach to productivity
If you have ADHD or are easily distracted, you might be familiar with the feeling I am about to describe.
Have you ever started a new hobby or video game and were instantly hooked? The new interest consumed your thoughts at all waking hours. You read about it, watched videos online, joined forums, and so on.
After a while, the feeling faded. The hobby or game was no longer enjoyable. Maybe you saw something new to try and fell in love with that. Now your former passion has drifted into the background.
Does this feeling sound familiar to anyone?
This is how I am with work. I have these periods of complete immersion in what I am doing. Nothing will take away my focus, and I am working like never before.
This is hyper-productivity.
Instead of moving at normal speed, I am moving rapidly but am totally consumed by what I am doing. I am cranking out work for my clients left and right without even looking at the clock.
This is where I strive to be. It lets me get my work done quickly and efficiently. I am not distracted by anything. Now, I don’t spend a full 8 hours in this mode, but I do get most work done this way.
How to Increase Productivity at Work
If you find yourself browsing the web instead of working, you could increase productivity at work with this method. That project that could have been done hours ago is still in front of you, but you lack the motivation to finish it. I’ve been there. Here’s how I got over it.
1. Prioritize with the Urgency-Importance Matrix
I was working at the Department of Defense a few years back. My job involved reading and writing all day long. I’d have 3 or 4 projects going on at the same time and struggled to prioritize. A new piece of information would catch my attention and throw me off as deadlines approached.
Then someone introduced me to the Urgency-Importance Matrix. With this 4-box chart, I was able to visualize what work must be done first. It was mind-blowing at the time, but it quite common in most professional settings.
2. Planned Laziness
Well, laziness might be more of a buzzword. This is more like periods of no productivity. Do whatever you want!
A study by the Draugiem Group actually found taking a 17-minute break every 52 minutes was a habit of the most productive people among the participants.
I don’t abide by the 52/17 rule, but I probably take 10 minutes every so often to recharge. I might get coffee, walk a block around the neighborhood, or work on a personal project. Whatever I do, I give my mind some time to detach from work.
When I come back, I find myself ready to take on more challenges.
3. Fire Bad Clients
Have you heard of the Pareto Principle? You might know it as the 80/20 rule.
In short, 80% of results come from 20% of effort. This means that 80% of earnings come from 20% of clients. Maybe 80% of sales come from 20% of leads.
But what if 80% of problems/stress/anxiety come from 20% of clients? Does it make sense to burden yourself with these time-consuming issues when they only come from 1/5th of your clients? I don’t think so!
By firing bad clients (those who don’t pay, want free work, micromanage, etc.), I cleared up so much of my time. I ended a contract with 1 bad client and instantly took on 2 more clients who don’t cause anywhere near as much stress as the former. I actually enjoy working with these organizations and building professional relationships with their employees.
If you are a freelance worker or are self-employed, this might be easier for you than it is for full-time employees. Still, normal employees can use this technique to eliminate some headache from their job. You just must adapt it to suit your job!
How do you stay productive at work?
Let me know what methods you use to increase productivity at work! I’d love to test them out and see how they might improve my workflow. Just leave a comment below.
So, what should you do with this extra time? Why not read my guide on finding freelance jobs?