Beating procrastination, especially in this heat, is a real challenge for many of us. Kathy Soulsby from Personally Virtual shares her top five tips for productivity techniques you can fit into your day.
Most PAs I know thrive on being busy. We love the fast pace of ever-changing diaries and get a kick from the frantic flight changes created by an ash cloud / missed connection / train strike that mean we need to think fast to unravel and replot a journey.
But August can be a bit of a quiet month with people taking well-earned leave. And whilst in busy moments we yearn for a peaceful day to concentrate on the long-term projects and catching up of admin that are sitting at the bottom of the task list, once peace and quiet is here, it can be really hard to knuckle down and do any of those things. Even worse, for me, the few things I really do need to do with some pace I dawdle over or forget! I am at my least productive when I have too much time on my hands. A little gentle panic makes me work better.
Consequently, I’ve found some ways to force myself to crack on and I’m going to share my favourite productivity techniques with you, in the hope that one or two might help you as well.
Tip Number One – The Pomodoro Technique
I won’t go into the full details here, there’s plenty of information with a quick Google, but this is a simple technique where you break your day (or some of your day) into “Pomodoros” to increase prodctivity. These are 30-minute blocks, you decide what work you are going to do, set a timer for 25 minutes and crack on. No glancing at email, no scrolling LinkedIn, all Teams and Slack pings turned off just focused work time. If you’re really stuck, a committed 10 minutes to do something is remarkably helpful. I find this useful if I’m dreading something or it’s really hard. Just committing to 10 minutes will break the horror of it and get me started. And then I’m allowed to stop. But almost every time, once the 10 minutes is done, I am less stuck. I also use this technique to persuade myself to exercise.
You can get special Pomodoro software or you can use a timer on your PC or phone (don’t get distracted by Instagram on the way!). If you do the full 25 minutes, you then take a 5-minute break to move, load the washing machine, go to the coffee machine – away from your desk – and then come back and repeat. After four Pomodoros, take a decent length break.
Tip Number Two – Accountability Partners
If you are finding that you can’t set targets for yourself and keep to them, how about buddying up with a colleague or a friend and being accountable to one another? You don’t need to be working on the same project, or even at the same company.
Just agree between you how often you’ll meet and then share your targets for the day or week. You need to keep one another informed of how you’re progressing against the plans. You could even add some jeopardy – anyone that doesn’t finish what they laid out has to buy lunch on Friday!
Tip Number Three – Co-working Sessions
Whether you do this in-person or remotely, having someone watch you is a great way to force you to concentrate on the task at hand. Ideally, you set goals at the start of the session or day and check in at the end. Then you each get your head down and crack on.
Tip Number Four – Change your Scenery
If you are in a rut, a new view can make all the difference. Try working from a meeting room, a different desk, a local café or even the park. Our best thinking can be done in nature so if wrestling with a problem is what is stopping you from working, move away from the screen and go outside for a bit.
Tip Number Five – Give in to it
If you’ve been at your desk for four hours and accomplished nothing, perhaps, just perhaps, your brain needs a rest? Working at full pelt takes its toll on us. It’s not wrong to have days that are lower energy, we all have peaks and troughs of productivity. If you can, pack it in for the day and take a half day off. If that isn’t possible, can you find something completely different to do, maybe something physical rather than desk-bound so you give your mind a breather?
I hope some of those are helpful for you and get you to your most fabulous productive self. It will soon be September and the memories of slow days will be a thing of the past.
You may also enjoy reading about how to encourage productivity and wellbeing amongst office returners