5 Easy Ways to Increase Your Productivity

I recently wrote an article on my science blog, Inside Our Lab, that talked about being productive. And you know what? I thought you might be interested, too. It was originally written for science-types - who do a lot of writing and typically don't give themselves enough time to just think. But you can translate these words into whatever applies to your own job or blog or whatever. Here you go.

Life is short, and there's no need to waste it on junk mail, or by staring at blank computer screens, or by accompanying office mates to coffee not once but three times daily. Here are some tips for making your work more productive.

No matter how tough the terrain ... you can do it.

1. Don't start your day with email. 
This isn't intutitive, because who doesn't want to clear their inbox first thing in the morning? But email is a massive time-waster, and you want to start off your day feeling good about yourself and your work. Plus, most people write best in the morning - why waste that precious, focused time?

Instead of email, write something. Read something. Do something. And then a couple hours later - when you're ready for email - you'll have already ticked things off your list.

2. Give yourself goals.
Start with the long-term. Where do you want to be, in 5 or 10 years? What do you need to do to get there? Relevance is the key to performance - so if you can draw a link between what you're doing now and where you want to go, you'll likely be more motivated and focused on your work.

Use your long-term goals to make shorter-term ones - what will you do this week or this year to make your long-term goals more achievable? Make a list and start working.

3. Find balance.
Working hard is great, but you need to give yourself work-free time, too. Exercise. Read novels. Have entire weekends where you don't even think about opening your laptop.

Everybody has days where work just doesn't happen. The words don't come out onto the screen or the journal article glazes in front of you. Sometimes - on those days - the best thing you can do is just let it go. Shut off your computer and take yourself for a walk outside. Do something completely different and try to focus your brain on other things. Any other things.

(Pretending you're having a hazy day - just to give yourself the day off doesn't count).

And if you must sit at that desk and do something? Just do something different for awhile, and see if that helps.

4. Talk to people.
Have you ever found yourself working in a bubble? Me, too. Particularly in the academic world, it's hard not to. You want others to be impressed with your work - your genius ideas - so you toil away in isolation waiting to (surprise!!) impress everyone with the final product.

It may not be easy, but one of the best things you can do to increase your productivity is to talk about what you're doing. Talk through your ideas, your problems, your excitement. Seeing your own ideas or writing or whatever from a new perspective is invaluable, whether it's with your workmates or your supervisor.

5. Turn off the internet. 
When you really, really need to write or think - turn off your access to your email, to the web. (I turn off my wifi). BUT - you say - I need the internet for my research! How will I find references to back up what I'm saying?

The point is - you don't need those right now. What you need is to put words to paper (so to speak). You can do the other bits and pieces later, when you aren't feeling (or needing to be) so focused. Do not tempt yourself with casual looks at Facebook. Do not shoot off quick emails to colleagues. Do not order that book from Amazon - even if it's work-related. Just write.


So these are a few tips I've learned about increasing my productivity. Some of these ideas originated with Rachel Meeks, who writes a fabulous blog about simplifying life. Some came from a book on time management I've read recently.

Mostly, they've developed from years and years of effective time-wasting in the process of my academic life. And you know what? There's not enough time for that. I want to have a life ... and that means my work needs to be more productive.

What do you do to increase your productivity?
Amanda xx


  1. Mmm... these are good tips. I can relate! The overarching problem that really cuts down my productivity is feeling overwhelmed. I tend to look at too big of a big picture, make long lists of things to do, set lofty goals that I want to achieve all by myself. All your tips I think speak to that -- one thing at a time, focus, don't try to do it all yourself! Thanks for the reminders!

  2. Jennifer - that's a great one! I feel that way about cleaning, actually - when the house is a *disaster* ... I start in one corner and work from there!

  3. Can totally relate to the cleaning approach and also with Jennifer. It's tips like these i need. Somedays it all just seems to much but I am sure if i turned off my internet i would be far more productive without a doubt. Not checking emails in the morning is my first goal. It side tracks me from all the things i should be doing.

  4. that 5th tip! I HAVE TO learn :)

  5. @Anh What a better excuse then hiring a cabin in the mountains (or beach, or wherever) that's so thoroughly, enjoyably rustic there's not a hope of wireless signal.

    Just hot chocolates and log fires and lots of books. And pen to paper.

  6. This is a great nudge. Thanks, Amanda. I'm new here -- found you through Rachel Meeks' great blog.

    A think that works well for me is to imagine myself five years from now, looking BACK to what my daily life up to that moment has been. Then, I just have to include those activities day by day until then. Easy-peasy, right? :)

  7. @Lori
    Well, I meant to say, "A THING that works well for me...," but "a think" actually fits pretty well.

  8. Thanks Lori - I remember someone once said something similar to me ... I was trying to make a decision and she asked me "in 5 years' time, will you be more likely to regret going or not going?"

    So I went.

  9. Very good advice. Now if only I could put it into action! I'll try.

  10. These is a great list of tips. Thanks for sharing this. Definitely will try to start my day off tomorrow in this way and see how it goes.

  11. I could not have read this at a better time. Thank you! (but also, sadly, if I wasn't procrastinating, I would never have found your beautiful, beautiful blog). Ok. Kick in the bum. Back to work.


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Thanks for commenting! Amandaxx