People tend to think that increased productivity is going to be exhausting. They believe that they’ll have to work all the time, at full capacity, to fulfil their ambitions.

But in fact the opposite is true. The more productive you are, the faster you can finish your work. That means more time to do things that matter to you. And, as a consequence, you will be more happy and refreshed, which will make you even more productive. So how can we enter this positive cycle? It’s really all about simplicity. Productivity is about developing a certain Zen of busyness, expending minimal effort for maximum results – below are some tips.

Prioritise effectively
Prioritise everything on your things-to-do list and then estimate how long each task needs in order to be completed. Having allocated a time to each task, double it! Type A people are renowned for under-estimating how long a task really needs, which then impacts on other work. And finally, apply a little discipline. If your current workload is scheduled with time estimates, it becomes easy for you to see when you will be able to take on the next project. Only if priorities on items in your current workload change significantly can you offer to fit in yet another project. The scenario of being allocated too much work by a superior and feeling that you cannot refuse is addressed in another page of this topic – The art of saying ‘no’.

Fight Procrastination.
Everyone procrastinates from time to time, but some do it more often than others. For those habitual procrastinators, the ability to complete even the smallest tasks or projects can seem elusive. However, it’s important to remember that procrastination is a psychological issue that can be reversed with a few simple hacks. One of the main causes of our inefficiency and procrastination is a weak willpower. The good news is that recent research shows that our willpower works like a muscle and can strengthen with further training. The stronger the willpower is, the more likely we will convince ourselves to start doing important things.

Quickly handle low-priority tasks by keeping your perfectionism at bay.
At one time or another, you’ve probably spent so much time on small, simple tasks that you never got around to completing the tasks that truly matter. That’s why, when doing work, it’s important to get the smaller pieces out of the way right off the bat. Allocating a lot of time to work that’s not super important, do the simple things quickly to free up more time for the meatier tasks.

Write with efficiency.
You probably write on the job all the time: proposals to clients, memos to senior executives, a constant flow of emails to colleagues. But how can you ensure that your writing is as clear and effective as possible? How do you make your communications stand out? Overworked managers with little time might think that improving their writing is a tedious or even frivolous exercise. But knowing how to fashion an interesting and intelligent sentence is essential to communicating effectively, winning business, and setting yourself apart.

The product you deliver matters more than the time you spend on it.
Do you judge the quality of a book on how long it took the author to write it? Of course not. And the same is true of work. It makes no sense to embrace a culture that favours long hours over productivity. Unfortunately, lots of managers still put more emphasis on hours worked than on results produced.

Prioritise your personal life over work.
It’s normal to feel guilty for putting your personal life before work, but research shows that doing so from time to time can actually be healthy. Whether due to a scheduled holiday, an unplanned sick day, or a family member visiting from far away, we all occasionally take time off work to tend to our personal lives. In fact, stepping away from the office is actually good for you – it can prevent burnout and even boost your productivity and creativity.

In summary…
Productivity relies on efficiency. That means nothing will stop you from becoming a faster, smarter worker if you set clear goals and priorities. This results driven approach will do away with procrastination, break up big projects and clearly define your working hours.