Work Smart: Productivity Tips
I am by no means a productivity guru. I am constantly guilty of giving myself too many tasks to complete in too short a time, and get myself all stressed out about not ticking enough items off my list.
However, I think over the years, I have developed some solid workflows, methods and work ethics that help me to get things done in a fast and efficient way.
I am always looking for a faster, better, more efficient way to work. I’m always searching for any tools that will make my workflows better, and I am still learning and looking to improve.
My aim is to work smarter, not harder.
I thought I would share with you some of my “Work Smart” tips here. Today we are talking all things Productivity.
Plan it out
Having all of the tasks and jobs you need to do flying around in your head is not a good thing. Write out your work tasks, study tasks and make a plan. Free your mind from worrying about what needs to be done by taking positive action to plan it out.
Sometimes when I have a heavy workload hanging over me, just the process of making a plan for each project makes it a whole lot better.
I sit down and assess what needs doing, look at how I will do it, and make a bullet list or a plan outline on how it will be completed. Not only does this take that project off my mind, but when I come to actually complete the task, I can get started straight away as I already have an action plan to work from.
Think about tomorrow, today
The last thing I do before I leave my desk everyday, is make my task list for the next day. This could involve carrying over tasks that I didn’t quite finish, and addressing new projects that have been scheduled in. By leaving my desk with a solid plan for tomorrow, I can happily switch off from work and know exactly what to get started on when I get to my desk the next morning.
Do the worst, first
There is always something we dread doing. So the best thing to do is to put it off until you feel like doing it…. no that’s not the best thing to do!
By putting off the ‘bad’ tasks, they just hang over us all day, while we try and get on with other things. Then, when the ‘bad’ task still hasn’t been done, we start feeling guilty about it.
Why not try hitting that tough task first, get it out of the way, and save the easier or nicer tasks for later in the day. It might not be something you can complete in just a couple of hours, so you may need to chip away at it every morning until it’s done. The satisfaction of getting that tough task crossed off your list will be well worth it.
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Remove the distractions
For me, email is a massive distraction. This is partly because I hate keeping people waiting for my response and prefer to respond to emails quickly in order to clear my inbox. The downside of this is whenever I am working on anything, if an email pops up I end up going back and forth between my emails.
My productivity drops considerably when I am flitting between the task in hand and my emails, then getting distracted by an email from a holiday company, or my favourite clothes shop – then before you know it I’m booking a holiday and have bought another hoodie 🙂
Solution – simple. I now just close down my emails for chunks of time. If I have a project to get on with, or a task that really needs finishing, my emails can wait a couple of hours. All of a sudden I finish my work faster because I am less distracted by what’s going on in my inbox.
Whatever your distraction, whether it’s your phone, social media or something else – try to remove it when you are working for chunks of time to allow your brain to breathe and get your tasks done. Don’t let your laser focus be disrupted by distractions!
Work in batches
We all have repetitive tasks that need doing. Whether it’s responding to emails, making phone calls, writing up window schedules, filling out planning applications – you get the idea.
Try to group these similar tasks together. So, instead of shifting between different tasks throughout the day, try grouping all of your phone calls into blocks of time say morning and afternoon. Or perhaps, answer all your main emails first thing in the morning, then close it down, and revisit again later in the day.
By batching tasks you can save time as you move between different jobs. This also leads to automating tasks.
I am a huge fan of automating. So, whether it is processing jpeg images, converting pdfs to jpegs, compressing files, email sorting, or speeding up my processes in AutoCAD. Automating and generally making things happen faster can be a huge game changer.
I work on an iMac, and use the little known tool “Automator” all the time. It can do anything from scale images, to convert images, to renaming files and so much more, in a matter of seconds. So, if I have a repetitive task to do, I check to see if it can be done in automator first.
Then there is CAD – only recently did I discover the “Publish” command in AutoCAD. Rather than plotting each layout separately you can use the publish command to plot selected layouts all in one go. Another massive time saver and step towards productivity mastery.
This is an interesting one that I will go into a bit more in a separate article.
Know your priorities
This kind of goes hand in hand with planning out your day. You are never going to have time to do everything. So what is the most important thing.
It’s not about how much time you actually have, it is about how you choose to spend the time.
I often find myself stressed and disappointed that I didn’t complete all the tasks on my list for the day. Then I realise that actually only a couple of the tasks are high priority and that is where I should be focusing my time. Not everything can or needs to be done immediately, so we need to find ways to prioritise our work.
Get your timing right
What is your rhythm? I am a morning person, and I am well in my groove first thing in the morning. I literally wake up early and go straight to my desk (convenience of working from home). I sit in my pjs for an hour or so and start my day. Then, shower, breakfast etc and back to my desk.
That first hour of the day is often my most productive. And that is me. You however, might be the complete opposite and really come into your groove in the evening. Whatever it is, understand when you work at your best and try to organise your tasks and your day to suit your rhythms.
Think about the typical things you get done in a day or a week. When is the best time for you to complete these tasks? Whether its drawing work, assignments, phone calls, emails, specification documents, writing…. there will be times when you can tackle these things better. Find your rhythm🙂
Take a productive break
It is well known that breaks are good for you. But many people struggle to actually make time for a break. Apparently 90 minutes is the magic number when it comes to productivity, after that, you should probably take a break.
Don’t be temped to dive into the social media vortex, but instead look at things that will motivate you and keep you on track. Look for breaks that will replenish your mind. Make a list of the things that work for you, they could be stuff like:
- Go for a walk around the block
- Watch a TED talk or educational video
- Work in a different environment (coffee shop, different room in the office/house, library vs studio etc)
- Practice some short meditation (there are some great apps like Calm, Headspace and Oak)
- Take up a hobby and spend some time on it.
- Read a book about architecture, or about something completely unrelated to architecture!
For me, as some of you may know – walking the dog is my break time. I use the time to reflect on work, play and run around with my dog, or listen to podcasts. It is a really important part of my working day.
Perfection is the enemy of productivity
I love that expression! Architects, Technologists, Designers, Architecture Students – I think we are all well known for our perfectionism.
But… although it is great to have high standards, sometimes these can hold us back when it comes to being productive with our time.
When you are driven by a compulsion to make everything perfect, you can often become unproductive as a result and feel dissatisfied with the work you do.
It is sometimes better to focus on the overall quality of your work, rather than perfecting every little detail of your work that may not be entirely necessary.
How about you?
How do you stay productive and get your work done? I would love to hear your productivity tips – comment below!