9 tips to improve productivity
by Leon McQuade 
Welcome back to "Ultimate Productivity Guide" As we bid farewell to another year and welcome the fresh possibilities of 2024, it's the perfect time for reflection and planning. This year's end marks not just a transition of calendars but an opportunity for personal and professional transformation. In this updated blog post, I share insights from my end-of-year review in the video and the timeless effectiveness of a classic tech tool Pen and paper. 
Let's dive into the power of pen and paper, and discover how these humble tools can unlock a more productive and fulfilling 2024.. As we step into 2024, I want to share a life-altering approach that has personally helped me in planning and enhancing productivity. This simple yet profound exercise is all about reflection and intention setting, and it's something I cover extensively in my latest video, "Productivity Unlocked: How Two Lists Can Radically Change Your Year Ahead."  

The Power of Five Simple Lists 

Click on this text to edit it. 
“How do you handle all the responsibilities that come with being an entrepreneur?”, and “how do I get things done?” 
Now as part of my role as an Entrepreneur In Residence (EIR) mentoring students on the BA business management with entrepreneurship degree at Hull university Business School, I still consistently get asked by my students and now my collegues and peers:  
🧐……… This also got me thinking how can I give the students a business lesson. We’d discussed business is all about building relationships and adding unique value by seeking out what challenges your customers are facing and solving them. The students are my customers, so thinking about how can I best serve and add value to them when we next meet. 
I thought about, instead of answering with a long speech about productivity or time management when we next meet- which are both boring as heck (and also not very helpful) --I wrote this actionable system that will help! 
I wanted to also teach them about finding a way no matter what. As I have always struggled with the written word. When I was younger, my dyslexia made it difficult to write anything that could be read by others. Even now as an adult there are still some days where words just don’t behave on the page like they are supposed to! 
Lucky for me nowadays I pack heat and use various tools such as AI-powered dictation and writing apps which have my back with getting words to behave on digital paper ! 
I'm also excited to share an amazing framework with the students this month (and all the readers of this blog). One that has been inspired by some incredible minds like Bob Proctor, Tony Robins... Brian Tracy and my take on David Allans Getting Things Done system. Its also has a super guide on how to achieve inbox zero in less than 15 minutes per day ! 
We all want to be more productive and get more done in less time. It feels like we're constantly strapped for time, running from one meeting to the next with barely enough energy left to keep our heads up. There are many ways to make your day more efficient and achieve peak productivity! 
In this blog post, I'm rounding up my top 9 Tips to Supercharge Your Productivity. So you can get more done in less time! 

How To Be More Productive: The Ultimate Guide For 2024 

1. Set the alarm earlier to tackle your priorities for the day 

Start the day with a plan
First, make sure you get in your beauty sleep. But that said, there are a few reasons why you might want to set your alarm for an earlier time than you usually wake up. First, it can be helpful to wake up early so that you have time to get organised and start your day without feeling rushed. Additionally, waking up earlier can give you a chance to get some extra work done before the rest of the world begins to wake up. 
When you're able to get a head start on your day, you'll be able to accomplish more and feel less stressed out. If you find it difficult to wake up early, try adjusting your alarm time gradually until you find a time that works for you. 
The better organised you are, the more productive your day will be. Check out how I create my daily plan on my iPad with a must have app. I use my plan from jotting down my shopping list to my long term goals for the day. This is available for free, I've also included my CPR Workflow jump to my top tip number 5 to help you boost your productivity! 
Complete the form below and I will email you the free templates today ! 
If you have everything laid out in front of you, it'll make it easier to stay on track and, as a result, increase your daily productivity! 
Winston Churchill famously once said, "He who fails to plan is planning to fail." This simple phrase, which I love, maybe applied in various settings. By taking the time and effort to build a plan, we exponentially increase our chances of winning the day ahead! 

2. Create a task list for the day, prioritise your tasks and order them by importance 

It can be helpful to create a task list to know what needs to get done on any given day. It's often challenging to keep all your tasks in mind, and having a written record of things you need to do can help avoid losing track of anything. 
To create a task list: 
Start by writing down everything on your plate for the day, including work-related items and personal tasks. 
Prioritise your tasks according to their urgency or importance. 
Assign deadlines for when each of these should be completed by if necessary! 
It is helpful to make this list before doing anything else because once you have all the tasks out there, you'll feel more motivated and less overwhelmed with the work that awaits you. 
This means that you'll work on the most critical tasks first and then move on to the less urgent ones. When you're able to focus on the most important things, you'll be able to get more done in a shorter amount of time. 
To start prioritising your tasks, make a list of everything that needs to get done and then order them according to their importance. You can use a variety of different criteria to determine which tasks are more important - such as urgency, financial impact, or how much time it will take to complete. 
A great way to prioritise your tasks is to use a tool such as the Covey time matrix. This tool will help you visually see which tasks are the most time-consuming and which ones can be completed more quickly. 
To use the Covey time matrix: 
Start by creating a table with two columns. 
In the first column, list all of your tasks. 
In the second column, list how much time each task will take to complete. 
Then, connect the tasks that will take the same amount of time to complete. 
This visual representation of your tasks can help you determine which ones are the most urgent and need to be completed first. 
When I'm feeling overwhelmed, sat procrastinating sat looking at my project list, think how I will get stuff done. The Covey time matrix is my weapon of choice for stress-free productivity; it helps me prioritise my tasks and organise my time. 
The secrete art of stress-free productivity for me is how the matrix is divided into four quadrants, which are labelled as follows: 
- Quadrant 1: Important and Urgent 
- Quadrant 2: Important but Not Urgent 
- Quadrant 3: Urgent but Not Important 
- Quadrant 4: Not Urgent and Not Important 
Each quadrant represents a different type of task. Quadrant 1 tasks are both important and urgent, while tasks in Quadrant 4 are neither important nor urgent. Quadrant two tasks are important but not urgent, while Quadrant three tasks are both urgent and important. 
The Covey time matrix can be used to help you become more productive. When you know which quadrant a task falls into, you can then decide. 

3. Make Tasks Smaller 

Break down your task
One way to make tasks seem less overwhelming is to break them down into smaller chunks, making them easier to manage and allowing you to stay focused on each individual task. 
Additionally, you'll feel more accomplished and motivated to move on to the next one when you complete a task. 
There are a few different ways that you can chunk down tasks: 
Break down big projects into smaller tasks 
Break down long tasks into shorter ones 
Set time limits for each task 
Take breaks between tasks 
It becomes less daunting and easier to complete when you chunk down a task. This will help you stay focused and motivated, leading to increased productivity. 

4. Set deadlines and due dates for yourself 

Another way to become more productive is to set deadlines for yourself. When you have a specific deadline for a task, you'll be more likely to work faster and stay focused. Additionally, it's often helpful to break down bigger tasks into smaller chunks so that they're easier to manage. 
To set deadlines and due dates for yourself: 
Start by estimating the time it will take to complete the task. 
Add a few extra minutes for a cushion if something goes wrong. 
Set a date and time for when you want to have the task completed. 
Use your Calendar or list apps (I love Google Calendar for this) 

5. CPR Your To-Do List And Turbo-Charge Your Task Management App Stack 

When you CPR your to-do list, you'll be able to get more done in less time and ultimately be more energy efficient. This will help you to achieve peak productivity and improve your work efficiency. 
My CPR method works by: 
1. Capture - Stuff  
When it comes to productivity, capturing tasks is essential. By capturing tasks right away in inbox(s), you'll be able to see them all in one place and be able to track their progress. This will help you stay organised and keep on top of your work. Think of this as your production process getting all the tasks out of your head and from your inboxes, digitally or physically. And free up your headspace to get things done! 
2. Plan - What's the next action(s)? 
One of the most important things is to plan your to-do list when it comes to productivity. By planning your to-dos, you'll be able to see all of your tasks in one place and track their progress. This will help you stay organised and keep on top of your work. Additionally, you'll be more likely to work faster and stay focused when you have a specific deadline for a task. 
3. Run - At your task list !  
Knowing the next action is a key step for productivity, which will help you stay focused and move forward on your tasks. 
To stay focused and productive: 
Start by identifying the next action for each task. 
Then take a few minutes to plan out how you will complete the task. I borrow the GTD method of context and what people, places, or things I need to complete the task, and I can filter my tasks by context making me more efficient. 
Lastly, take a few minutes to write down the steps you need to complete the task. 
I use the 5 D's to get more done 
If a task takes less than two minutes to complete, I'll usually do it right away. This way, I can quickly get it off my plate and move on to the next task. 
Delegating tasks is a great way to get things done quickly and efficiently. By delegating tasks, you can free up time to focus on more important things. Move tasks on to a "waiting for" list, or if its email, I have a label set up with any emails I have "delegated" or am "waiting for" 
There are a few different times when it's a good idea to defer a task: 
- When you don't have enough time to complete the task 
- When you're not in the mood to complete the task 
-When you don't have the resources to complete the tasks, i.e. you need your laptop but left it in the office. 
I move all deferred tasks if it has a non-negotiable deadline onto my calendar or file it with a future date in my task manager of choice. 
When you're trying to figure out what needs to be done, it can be helpful to ask yourself a few questions: 
- What are the consequences of not completing this task? 
- What are the benefits of completing this task? 
- What's the deadline for this task? 
- How much time do I have to complete this task? 
- What's my motivation for completing this task? 
-What do I need to complete this task, think of resources, time, people, places and things, i.e. laptop, or a certain app etc 
Creativity is often misunderstood. It's not just for artists or those who work in creative fields. Everyone can and should tap into their creativity to develop new ideas to solve problems and make progress in their lives. However, many people find it challenging to be creative on demand. 
There are a few different ways to be more creative and productive. One way is to use an app that helps you turn your ideas into reality. 
My favourite app for this is Notion which is a great way to brainstorm. I also use Evernote to come up with new ideas. They both offer a great way to track your progress and stay on top of your larger projects. 
There may be times when you realise that a task is unimportant, and it's best to delete it. For example, if you're working on a project and realise that it's not essential to the bigger picture. 
Another example would be recurring tasks or meetings, but they are no longer relevant. For example, perhaps your team is restructuring, so some of your weekly meetings will stop happening. If this happens, I'll delete those appointments or the following actions you once had that are no longer relevant to you. 
4. Review 
The weekly review is an integral part of my getting things done process because it allows you to take a step back and assess how well you have been doing regarding your goals. It also allows you to identify any areas that need improvement to make the necessary changes. Additionally, the weekly review helps to keep you accountable and on track. 
5. Engage 
My top tip for engaging in getting things done is by working out of your calendar. When you have specific times scheduled for your tasks, staying focused and on track is more manageable. This also prevents you from procrastinating since you only have a certain amount of time to work on a task. 
The idea that we can multitask is a lie. You may be able to switch back and forth between tasks but the human brain cannot perform two complex operations at once without losing focus on what you are doing because it's too hard for our brains! 
The truth about "multitasking"? It just means rapidly switching from one thing you're thinking/doing while continuing another with less concentration - So doing two things not as well as you could !  
I'm dyslexic (so hard for me to spell) and reading and responding to email I've realised is my kyrptonite. But its not only that we have to think about The Cost of Email Interruption Which some time ago I read a research paper by Thomas Jackson, Ray Dawson and Darren Wilson. 
Their research found that the interruption effect from emails is far more greater a problem than generally believed. They found that the reaction to an email being received is not to delay responding when is more convenient for the responder. The person in rreceipt of the email reacted and responded on average within just 6 seconds!  
To compound their findings science furher suggests, if you're trying to get something done and an interrupt strikes, it can take up to 23 minutes for your brain to be ready to fully focus again . Additionally, if the interruption diverts your focus experts are suggesting that multitasking may sap upto 10 points off our IQ ! 
To combat the cost of email interruption I have a personal email policy which pings out an auto responder advising, "I schedule time to turn my email into tasks at 4pm each day". I follow the amazing Inbox Zero workflow, which means that I only have a few emails in my inbox at any given time. This system has worked wonders for me, and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to get their email under control. 

How To Implement Inbox Zero In Less Than 15 Minutes A Day 

To combat the cost of email interruption, I have put in place a personal email policy, and I follow Jeff Su amazing Inbox zero workflow. Which I time block 4pm each day to read and respond and then schedule any next action on my calendar. I use an autoresponder to let people know how I actively read and respond. 
This system has worked wonders for me, (thanks Jeff) and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to get their email under control along with this amazing inbox zero workflow. 
Contrary to popular belief, the goal of the inbox zero approach isn't to drastically alter how you deal with email. I follow an excellent system for sorting my email, which turns my emails into the next action. In this video, Jeff Su goes through his unique inbox zero tutorial where he shows you how to set up and use inbox zero for yourself step-by-step 
Whether you're using Gmail, Outlook, or Apple Mail, you can easily apply the principles of inbox zero and boost your email productivity. The inbox zero methods I use focuses on organising my Gmail inbox in a neat, organised manner to get to zero emails and prioritise the most essential ones. 
6. Plan > Do > Review 
The 50,000-foot review is a key part of the GTD process which I use within my planning because it allows you to take a step back and assess your progress towards your goals. It also helps you identify any areas that need improvement to make the necessary changes. Additionally, the 50,000-foot review helps to keep you accountable and on track. 
Confession time: I'm an Apple devotee, a 'Fan Boy' if you will. (Scott did convert me over initially when we merged to the Surface Laptop and Notebook both great bits of kit. But both miss the simplicity that comes with Apple - all be it at cost. Consequently, I use the Apple Reminders app on all my Apple devices, including my Apple Watch, iPhone, iPad, and Mac, as my primary personal to-do list manager. For ten years I was an OmniFocus Guy, so don't scoff at the first perceived simplicity of apple reminders read on. 
If you don't know what OmniFocus is it was for a long time the most amazing app if you followed GTD. A word of caution: venturing into this link, where Omnifocus meets the GTD (Getting Things Done) methodology, could lead you down an intriguingly complex rabbit hole! This dynamic system I once considered the epitome of personal productivity - a dream come true, if you will. However, as remote work became the norm and collaboration turned essential, I had to rethink and adapt my strategy. 
Apple revamped its Reminders App, echoing Omnifocus's layout! This lean yet potent app, synced with Siri, enables rapid task additions. Be it on the go with my Watch or iPhone, at home on my iPad, or working on my Mac, a swift Siri command updates my to-do list. Seamless device synchronization ensures tasks are ever-present, ready to be tackled. Location-based and app-related reminders are simply astounding. 
Yet, as much as I love Reminders, my work often involves collaboration. This is where Notion, my preferred project management tool, steps in. It's perfect for liaising with third parties and freelancers on various projects. An integral part of my workflow involves syncing Notion with Apple Reminders, setting triggers in Reminders that prompt me to check my Notion workspace at specified times.  
For managing client projects and internal operations, we rely on a comprehensive ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and CRM (Customer Relationship Management) solution. These systems play a pivotal role in ensuring that we maintain a high standard of service for our clients and keep our internal operations running smoothly.  
Lastly, let's not forget Evernote. This app serves as an extension of my brain, storing everything from quick notes to elaborate concepts. I find it extremely useful for capturing ideas and information, which I can delegate and revisit later when required.  
All the apps I use for tasks management are integrated into my calendar, allowing me to see what I have committed to for the next day, week, month, and my next quarter—helping me stay accountable and on track. By seeing what I have committed to, I can better plan and organise my time. 
I then chunk this down into my single-page time-blocking template, which I call my daily 'launch pad'. This enables me to efficiently time-block, setting clear boundaries for my tasks throughout the day. Rather than carry pieces of paper around I utilise the Notability app on my iPad, which is also accessible from my iPhone and Mac too and backs up to Google Drive (or Onedrive) so your never a click away from what needs to get done!  
To get access to my Productivity Workflow, printable template and also the Notabilty template I use simple complete the form and I will email you a copy today! 
A phone featuring productivity apps
Several other software programs can be used to help manage projects. Some of the most popular ones include: 
- Google Tasks 
- Google Keep 
- Microsoft Planner 
- Microsoft Onenote 
- Outlook 
- Evernote 
- Asana 
- Trello 
- Notion 
- Omnifocus 
Each of these programs has different features and benefits, so it's important to choose one that will fit the needs of your project. For example, if you need a program that can track deadlines and tasks, Google Tasks Of Microsoft Planner would be a good choice. 
Suppose you need a program that offers more flexibility. In that case, Notion provides a vast choice of options, but there are tons of other options out in the wild so happy app hunting !  

6. Use The Pomodoro Timer Method 

The Pomodoro timer method is a time management technique that involves breaking down tasks into shorter, more manageable intervals. Francesco Cirillo developed this technique in the late 1980s. 
The Pomodoro timer method consists of the following steps: 
Choose a task to work on 
Set a timer for 25 minutes 
Work on the task until the timer goes off 
Take a five-minute break 
Repeat steps 2-4 for four more cycles 
Take a longer 15-minute break after completing four cycles 
One of the benefits of the Pomodoro timer method is that it helps you focus on one task at a time. When working on a large task, it can be easy to get overwhelmed and become distracted. The Pomodoro timer method helps you avoid this by breaking the task into smaller, more manageable intervals. 
This makes it easier to stay focused and avoid distractions. In addition, by taking short breaks after each interval, you're allowed to take a few minutes to relax and rejuvenate so that you can continue working with fresh energy. 
It's essential to take breaks throughout the day so that you can recharge and refuel. When you work for long periods without taking a break, you'll eventually start to feel overwhelmed and stressed out. Breaks also allow you to reflect on what you've accomplished and reevaluate your goals for the day. 
There are a few different ways to take a break. You can go for a walk, listen to music, read a book, or take a nap. The key is to find something that will relax you and help you rejuvenate so that you can get back to work with fresh energy. 
Pomofocus is a customisable pomodoro timer that works on desktop & mobile browser. The aim of this app is to help you focus on the task and chunk it down! Check it out to the right of this article Ive inserted a demo you can play with ! 

7. Work during times of the day when you're most productive 

It's often helpful to work during times of the day when you're most productive. This means that you'll be able to get more done in a shorter amount of time. 
There are a few different ways to determine when you're most productive. One way is to track your productivity over a period of time, and another way is to ask people when they think you're most productive. 
To work during your most productive times, start by identifying the times of the day when you feel the most energetic and focused. Then, schedule your most important tasks for those times. You may need to experiment a little bit to find out what works best for you, but eventually, you'll figure out what times of the day are best suited for you. 

8. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated 

Drinking plenty of water throughout the day is another way to stay productive. When you're hydrated, you'll be able to think more clearly and focus better. In addition, dehydration can lead to fatigue, so it's essential to drink plenty of water if you want to stay productive. 
To stay hydrated, drink at least eight glasses of water per day. You can also drink other fluids such as tea, coffee, and fruit juice, but it's important to make sure that you're getting enough water as well. 

9. Reward yourself after completing a task or goal 

One way to stay motivated and productive is to reward yourself after completing a task or goal. This will give you a sense of accomplishment and help you stay focused on your goals. 
There are a few different ways to reward yourself. You can treat yourself to a piece of chocolate, take a break for a few minutes, or go for a walk outside. The key is to find something that will make you feel good and help you refresh so that you can get back to work with renewed energy. 

My Final Thoughts 

So there you have it! These are my 9 top tips for measuring productivity and making the most of your time by achieving peak productivity. I hope you have found them helpful. At Think Cloud We Help You Work Faster, Work Smarter, Work Better - Together! 
Ps... Also if you enjoyed this blog post check out The Hack Newsletter and our The Hack Podcast talking people, process, and technology. 
Thanks for stopping by and reading! 
You might also like reading our article: Google Workspace VS Microsoft 365 (2022) Which Is Best? 
Find out how Think Cloud's award-winning IT Support and managed IT services in Hull can empower your business to operate more efficiently. 
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