10 Ways To Be More Productive

Like many self-employed people I get to enjoy the freedom of taking on diverse creative challenges and consulting work. And like so many others, I’m trying to juggle a pretty full plate. I’m an advisor for the HOW Design Live conference, write for HOW, teach at Columbia University, serve as president of the board at InSource, volunteer for a public art study in my town… oh and I’ve got a consulting business which means lots of clients, and lots of projects, and each of those projects have multiple tasks to get completed. And then there’s my home and family life on top of everything else.

One of my fellow board members at InSource and I spent some time together in Seattle for an InSource event. After talking about what we’re both up to outside of InSource she said “Andy, I don’t know how you do it all”… and that’s honestly not the first time I’ve heard that. The director of the program at Columbia asked the same thing, as have several other people.

I could very easily feel overwhelmed if it wasn’t for my system for staying productive, and not just busy. I’d like to share some advice, tips, and tricks to help anyone who feels too busy and unproductive to gain more control over all the stuff and information we consultants have on our plates.

So lets start with 10 ways to be more productive.

1. Just start. Starting a task makes it easier to finish; our brains are wired to complete tasks

2. Work in short bursts. You can do more in less time, if you’re focused and energized.

3. Be unavailable during your peak performance hours,  so you can use your energy for big projects.

4. Quit whining.  You don’t have to ‘feel like’ doing something in order to do it.

5. Forget perfection. Get things done.  If you aim for perfection, most tasks will never be completed.

6. Take breaks. Increase productivity by 16% by taking 20-minute breaks in between 90-minute work sessions.

7. Take a vacation.  For every 10-hours of vacation, performance improves by 8%.

8. Work in bursts. The best performers across many disciplines work in 90-minute sessions, for no more than 4-hours a day.

9. Create a productive office space. Warmth and natural light make us happier and more productive.

10. Take a nap.  Recommended nap time varies from 10-minutes to 30-minutes. Pick a length that energizes you.

Bonus: Practice meditation. Studies prove mindfulness meditation improves concentration and strengthens memory.