With busy lives, constant deadlines, and chasing targets, we often find solace in the online world – social media. While they are great to distract you from your not so happening life, the distraction is also the main problem associated with their usage. The added stress of social media and the FOMO makes going about your day very difficult.
One notification is all it takes for you to fall down the rabbit hole and spend hours lost in the wonderland. As a result, productivity stays at a standstill. You again turn to your phone for help on how to stay away from your phone – ironic, isn’t it? Reading and watching for ways to increase your productivity and decrease your distractions, but then somehow again end up on sites that do nothing more than help you waste your time.
Social media use is rampant, and the statistics are mind-boggling. As of January 2017, there are over 1.8 billion active Facebook users, 1 billion people using WhatsApp, and a further 600 million individuals using Instagram.
Perhaps even more frightening, research by Common Sense Media suggests teenagers in America now spend on average 9 hours per day on social networks for enjoyment. And we haven’t even mentioned YouTube yet: people consume roughly 1 billion hours of video per day on the media giant.
The growth forecast is exponential, and the message is loud and clear: social media is here to stay, and it’s going to become even more of a part of our daily lives in the future. With such staggering statistics, it’s no wonder digital marketers are finding that an increasing part of their daily routines is spent navigating the major social platforms.
And while Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube present significant opportunities to our profession, they also can be productivity killers with their addictive powers zapping even the most diligent workers. This is a big reason that many people have started doing social media detoxes where they don’t use any specific or all apps for a specified period of time. I took a break from Facebook myself, and it put a lot into perspective for me.
All of this presents the question as to what steps can we take to mitigate social media from ruining our productivity, whilst still benefitting from its capabilities?
Put succinctly: how can we take advantage of the statistics without becoming one in the process?
Step 1: Define Your Priorities
First, it’s essential to identify what’s genuinely necessary and what’s an obvious distraction.
You may have a real need to be active on Facebook Business Manager throughout the day, but do you really need also to be scrolling through everybody’s food every half hour as well?
And are Instagram & Pinterest really essential to your tasks, or are they just another platform which serves to whet your appetite with more brunch pictures?
Deciding which social media platforms are crucial to your work and which aren’t is the obvious first step.
Make a list of what you need to use on a daily basis, and also of the platforms which swallow up your time often without you even noticing as well.
Step 2: Uninstall the Clutter
Have you got that list handy? Good. Now it’s time to get ruthless.
Uninstall all the apps from your smartphone that serve as a distraction immediately.
It may hurt at first, but ask yourself this: “Is this really contributing toward making me a more productive person and enhancing my capabilities?”. If the answer is no, then cull it.
The reason for starting with your smartphone is because it often sits right next to your laptop or computer when you’re working. All those notifications buzzing off will constantly divert your attention from more critical tasks that warrant serious attention.
In fact, I often keep my phone completely away from my workstation and check it at certain times, but more on that later.
Now turn your attention back to your desktop.
Which websites are eating away at your productivity?
The Chrome Extension Stay Focused is brilliant for this and highly configurable. Allocate specific times you can use your favorite websites so that they fall outside of your committed working hours. Facebook Newsfeed Eradicator also gets a special mention only due to its sheer simplicity and effectiveness. Facebook’s Newsfeed Eradicator replaces your feed with a simple motivational quote.
Step 3: Choose the Right Software to Streamline Your Workflow
Now that you’ve started to clear space, it’s time to streamline your daily social media usage to optimal levels.
This is where intelligent software comes into play.
Software like Hootsuite & Sendible allows you to configure & integrate multiple social media accounts in one convenient setting where you can create content, analyze statistics, and bulk schedule your work for clients.
The beauty of this is that rather than having multiple windows open distracting you at various times of the day, everything gets condensed into one window for maximum productivity.
Both platforms offer free initial trials so you can test them beforehand, but the reality is that software like these save you massive amounts of time and increases your productivity on other tasks for a small monthly fee.
Step 4: Create a Routine
The next step requires discipline, and it’s one you’re going to have to challenge yourself to be faithful to creating a routine.
A routine leads to habits, and excellent practices performed consistently lead to brilliant results.
If you want to get the most out of your social media usage, then you’re going to need to create a routine you can follow.
This may mean limiting checking your social media either in the mornings and the evenings, but whatever you decide to do, make sure you keep reminders to ensure you don’t stray off the task.
Using simple sticky notes reminding yourself by your work station is an excellent way to ensure diligence.
The software and plugins mentioned previously will also be useful in ensuring you stick to your routine. Be sure to take advantage of the technology available to you to mitigate social media at the right times!
Step 5: Be Consistent with Your Rules
Once you’ve implemented all the steps in this plan, you need to make a commitment to stick to them.
This one requires genuine heart and discipline. It’s incredibly tempting to get your daily hit of dopamine from Facebook Likes, but the reality is that it often does more harm than good.
You can always give yourself leeway on weekends and in your spare time when work is less intensive to use social media more frequently. But having a clear understanding and respect for your work at the same time is essential, and being consistent with the rules you’ve put in place is ultimately the best way to enhance your overall productivity.
Knowing how to curb your distractions will help you improve concentration and as a result, help you be more productive. Eliminating your phone as a distraction takes away a high percentage of unproductive time, leaving us with a lot more time to do things – something more beneficial like reading more.
How to Use Your Calendar to Increase Productivity and Achieve Big Goals
Are you tired of not accomplishing your goals or being unproductive at work? Are you tired of finishing things at the last minute for every project you have? You might have tried many systems and they just do not seem to work.
You may have noticed your peers excelling and getting things done although they have the same amount of hours as you do in a day. Fortunately, there is a great system which may help improve your productivity.
One of the primary reasons why individuals are not productive is because they are constantly interrupted or feel overwhelmed by the goal/task they need to accomplish. The feeling of being overwhelmed causes projects to be postponed until right before the final due date. To avoid this feeling, you must try and break the project into multiple sub-tasks. For example, if you need to repair a fence in your backyard, this can be broken up into the following tasks:
- Buy materials for fence repair
- Remove damaged fence parts
- Replace fence parts
- Paint fence
The overall project should be broken down into mini-tasks to make this more manageable. Although this process will make a project less overwhelming, it still misses another important point, which is getting interrupted by other higher-priority tasks. Therefore, it is important to write these down on a paper or on your phone or computer.
Many productivity specialists say that writing down your goals will make it more likely that you will accomplish them. I have written down goals before and failed to accomplish anything. At work, I was behind on projects and getting interrupted constantly – it happens sometimes.
After much investigation, I realized that I was missing a core element and that was a reminder system. I could write down my goals and put them on my computer but if I did not review them, the lists would be useless.
Fortunately, the solution to this problem was at my fingertips. I decided to take these lists and add them to my calendar on my phone. I would dedicate at least a 30-minute block to the tasks I wanted to do and set a reminder time at least 5 minutes before the task. Start your day doing this and block off all the hours in your day on your phone’s calendar. If you get interrupted, you can simply move tasks to other time blocks.
You can also combine it with the Pomodoro technique to increase your productivity along with your accountability that will come with setting up the reminder.
Why does this work?
This works because you are telling your mind that you need to work on a task during this time period. The reminder from your phone/computer reinforces this and allows you to focus. Paper-based systems failed for me because I did not review the tasks I had written down. As soon as a higher-priority task came up, I did not accomplish what I wrote down. Instead of relying on myself to do a “review”, the phone’s calendar does it for me.
It also gives me a sense of accountability, because I know that I am supposed to do the said things in the determined time block or else everything else will also suffer. It works like a pang of mini guilt for me. It also gives you deadlines to complete your work, nothing works better at making you feel accountable than a deadline.
Breaking down big goals into smaller goals is something that almost all of us know. It is one of the basic steps that anyone mentions when they take about achieving your goals. But, sticking to accomplishing to those smaller goals to achieve the bigger one is where people fail. This is one of the simplest ways to hold yourself up to the completion of the task.
Creating a sense of accountability is very important. When we feel responsible for something, we tend to be more serious about it. Written goals make us accountable and constant reminders keep us on our toes, making us answerable to ourselves.
If you are tired of writing tasks down or wanting to do major projects and not getting anything done, then you may want to try breaking apart major tasks and add these tasks to your phone. You may find yourself accomplishing things you never imagined!
5 Tips to Increase Your Focus
Low attention span or difficulty in focusing is becoming a common problem for many. With so many entertainment options readily available, it has become easy to be distracted and to procrastinate. Our work takes the hit and that, in turn, makes us feel bad. Instead of dismissing your lack of focus as something you have to deal with, learn to increase it.
Like our body, our mind needs exercise too. The areas we consider to be weak can be built up if we put our mind to it. Just because our focus isn’t as strong as we would like it to be, doesn’t mean you have to accept the fact and do nothing about it. Try to better it. There are things, practices, and exercises that if done regularly, can help you increase your focus.
If you didn’t know, meditation has different types that focus on different areas. Mindfulness meditation can help you boost your attention span significantly. Not only that, meditation in itself can help you relax, and become calm and collected. Now, that your mind has relaxed and is free of a thought jumble, it becomes easier to focus on things that actually matter.
Meditation for just 10 to 20 minutes a day will help you increase your focus and attention span. Start your mornings by focusing on your breathing for a few minutes, followed by your meditation ritual. You can also do some light breathing exercise just before doing something that requires focus to clear your mind.
2. Include practicing mindfulness in your day
While mindfulness meditation helps you become more aware and helps increase your focus. Practicing mindfulness throughout your day will help you fight distractions and focus on the tasks at hand. Mindfulness simply is being very attentive to every aspect of the task you are doing, and also noticing every small detail about your task.
It can seem like it isn’t easy, but it is. What I do is that I imagine I am writing about whatever I am doing – not informative writing but descriptive. So, suppose I am eating my lunch, I will pay attention to the cutlery, the color of my food, the smell, the taste, the texture of each ingredient. I will focus on chewing and swallowing, on the feeling it gives rise to.
What we usually do is that we focus on distractions while eating, and our primary task somehow becomes secondary. Our focus shifts towards our phones or the shows we are watching. This is what happens with many of our tasks.
3. Don’t listen to music while working
Many of us have the habit of listening to music while working on something. While it helps people most of the times and can be a good thing, it does the opposite for people with poor focus. If you know the song, then you are most probably going to sing along, and that stops you from giving your all to the task at hand.
Let’s say you are doing something that is going to be using the same parts of your brain, then will doing those things together make sense? No, right? When you are doing something that uses motor functions like your household chores, then listening to music is fine, but not while reading if you don’t have a high focus level.
4. Build your willpower
Willpower will allow you to ignore distractions like playing songs or using your phone and will help you to stay focused on the task at hand. Consciously saying no to yourself whenever you feel like doing something else is very important and a skill that you should definitely develop if you want to increase your focus level.
Your attention span will be served well with intentionally trying to focus and also having strong willpower isn’t only good for building your focus but also for being productive. At the end of the day, what you do or do not do boils down to your willpower, saying no to distractions depends entirely on your willpower.
5. Increase your focus gradually
Like any habit, you need to start slow. Like when starting exercise, you are advised to start slow because your body might not be able to take it, the same goes for anything mental. The best way to stay focused is for you to start using the Pomodoro technique. This lets you start working in bouts so that you can start with a short amount of focusing time.
You traditionally work for 25 minutes and then take a five minutes break. After you have repeated this four times, you can take a longer break. Because you know that you have to work for only 25 minutes, it becomes easier to focus. This is a great way to start out.
All it boils down to is will power and persistence. If you are really dedicated to increasing your focus, then you will find it easier to do things to help. I would say, convincing yourself is the hardest part, so start out by taking small steps. Don’t decide to start being completely focused for the whole day, that isn’t going to happen. Use these tips to slowly but gradually increase your focus.
7 Easy Productivity Hacks to Make More of Your Day
A lot of people still believe that by trying hard and pushing their limits, they will be able to get more work done in the day. This is not true. By using all your willpower to get more done, you will feel jaded at the end of the day. Willpower is a limited resource. If you go by your day without learning many tried and tested methods to increase productivity, your body and mind will eventually break down.
According to data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity in American workers has been decreasing at a steady rate since 1973. The 2007-2018 decade has seen some of the lowest levels of productivity. This is a worrying fact.
Here are 7 easy productivity hacks to make more of your day.
1. Follow a morning routine
Starting your day with a preset routine gets you into work mode right away. Morning is not a time to think and ponder. Get out of the bed as fast as possible and begin your morning routine. I know some people like to plan their day in the morning, but I feel that it puts you into a contemplative mood. It is something you want to avoid getting into. Especially, if you want to take massive action.
The best time to plan your day is the night before. A morning routine should consist of things like working out in the gym, a quick meditation session, a morning walk, filling up your gratitude journal, etc. A morning routine is a productivity hack that indirectly affects the quality and quantity of the work you do through the day. Hence, it is regularly practiced by productive people.
2. Keep your phone away during work hours
Productivity in human beings has always suffered due to many distractions. Even before the advent of smartphones, there were distractions like emails and phone calls. But they were quite manageable and the degree of damage wasn’t that severe.
In today’s world, smartphones are the major cause of lack of productivity. It’s impossible to get good quality work done with a smartphone beside you. A study done by the University of London identified the link between smartphone overuse and loss of productivity. They concluded that constant checking of smartphone for new notifications is hurting the level of productivity in the workplace and at home.
3. Batch your work
It takes a lot of time and effort to switch from one type of task to others. Human beings are creatures of habit and we like to cut effort wherever possible. Batching minimizes the effort and energy wasted in task-switching. This productivity hack has been implemented in all kinds of industries. Moreover, it also increases your concentration as you have fewer things to think about.
4. Plan ahead
Planning is a lot more than creating a to-do list or an action plan. To plan and do all the things in a day, you need to first brainstorm ideas and also have a clear vision of what you want. As I already said, these things should be done a day before so that you are in work-mode at the time of execution. Day planning is different than project planning. Factors like your energy levels, possible distractions, and your surrounding environment should come into consideration before writing an action plan for the day.
5. Use technology to boost productivity
Productivity apps like ToDoist and Toggl are helping freelancers and entrepreneurs to become more aware of how they are spending their working time. These apps can change your perspective on work in a matter of weeks. I use an app called Trello to organize and rank my tasks with the help of boards, lists, and cards.
6. Learn to say “no”
Are you one of those people who say “yes” to every request that you get from other people? You feel guilty when you stand up for yourself and put your own interest on the line. You are brought up the self-critical parent who have drilled into you that you need to be good at everything in life and that you are a bad person if you fail to do so.
If this sounds and feels like you, you need to learn to say “no”. Once you understand how saying “yes” to everything is keeping you occupied in mundane tasks which you shouldn’t be doing, you will learn to say “no”. Saying “no” is a modern day productivity hack that every one of us should learn first-hand.
7. Listen to music
A Canadian study says that listening to music while working puts you in a positive mood and, as a result, increases work quality. The quality-of-work was lowest when the participants of this study performed the task assigned to them without listening to music. With all this research proving music to be a productivity hack, it is imperative for you to listen to non-lyrical music while doing your work.
It’s great to keep all the above-mentioned productivity hacks in your repertoire. But you should also put them to use as soon as possible. For most people, starting a project is the hardest part. They spend days thinking about things that can go wrong or why it won’t work. By starting early and failing fast, you will always be miles ahead of your competitors.
“Smartphone addiction, daily interruptions and self-reported … – NCBI.” Accessed June 7, 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29450241.
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