- Stop multitasking
- List down your priorities
- Practice Deep Work
- Take regular, relaxing breaks
- Create a comfortable dedicated workspace
- Measure progress with the 4DX Framework
- Enhance your productivity with the right tools and software
- Delegate secondary tasks to the MySigrid Assistant App
1. Stop multitasking
Cooking lunch while handling a Zoom meeting and tracking a delivery parcel on your phone? While you might be tempted to tackle several tasks at once during particularly busy days, multitasking actually reduces your overall efficiency and productivity, according to numerous academic studies.
Multitasking in a world brimming with technology is particularly insidious. According to a study released by Stanford researchers, people who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic info have poorer focus, have difficulty switching tasks, commit more errors, and generally have poorer memory.
Social scientists say the human mind simply wasn’t designed to process more than one string of info at a time and neuroscientists believe multitasking drains the energy reserves of the brain.
“When we think we’re multitasking, most often we aren’t really doing two things at once, but instead, we’re doing individual actions in rapid succession or task-switching,” notes neuropsychologist Cynthia Kubu in an article published in the Cleveland Clinic.
To boost efficiency and productivity, as well as improve the quality of your output, it’s far better to focus your full attention on one task at a time rather than trying to juggle several at once, especially if it involves multiple screens.
2. List down your priorities
There are multiple tasks, projects, and people competing for our attention on any given day. To boost productivity, consider listing down your priorities for the day. A great tool that you can use to distinguish your priorities from your secondary tasks is the Eisenhower Matrix.
Also known as the Important-Urgent Matrix, the Eisenhower Matrix helps you prioritize tasks based on their urgency and importance.
The matrix will help you identify the following:
- Your “do-first” tasks - these are urgent tasks that need to be done on the same day.
- Your important but not-so-urgent tasks - these can be accomplished later.
- Your urgent but less important tasks - these should be delegated to others for resolution.
- Your least important tasks - these are neither urgent nor important and shouldn’t be done at all.
The tasks will then be divided into four quadrants, and each quadrant will be governed by different work strategies.
To optimize productivity and ensure that the most important tasks are resolved in a timely manner, it’s recommended that no more than eight tasks are added to each quadrant. Before adding a ninth task to a quadrant, complete one task first to free up more space in that quadrant. Moreover, a separate list is recommended for private and work-related tasks.
Following the Eisenhower Matrix will help you accomplish more each day, as well as reduce stress and burnout.
3. Practice Deep Work
Now that you’ve gotten your daily priorities sorted out, you’ll need to focus on minimizing distractions and producing the best work possible during each workday.
Sadly, much of our workday is spent doing “shallow work”. These clerical tasks include answering emails, attending pointless meetings, and responding to memos from HR. While they’re an important part of our jobs, shallow work takes our attention away from vital and cognitively demanding tasks.
To counter these challenges, consider practicing “Deep Work”. First coined by author and computer science professor Cal Newport, Deep Work allows practitioners to tackle cognitively demanding activities and produce remarkable results.
Whether you’re trying to draft a new business plan, formulate a new strategy, or solve a problem by crunching analytics, the Deep Work methodology leads to greater breakthroughs and better outcomes.
A prerequisite for a successful Deep Work session is a distraction-free environment. Another is to implement a Deep Work strategy that works for you.
There are currently four Deep Work strategies:
- The Monastic Approach - This involves the elimination or significant reduction of shallow priorities (including recurring tasks). This allows you to focus on a singular, high-level task during work hours.
- The Bimodal Approach - This work mode divides your workday into two modes: deep work and all other tasks. This arrangement allows you to maintain other activities in your life that you find meaningful.
- The Rhythmic Approach - This approach focuses on daily cycles, which allows you to practice Deep Work sessions at scheduled times each day. The Rhythmic Approach works best for workers with a fairly static work schedule.
- The Journalistic Approach - This work mode allows practitioners to fit Deep Work whenever they can into their schedules. This approach is best for workers who have shifting schedules and priorities.
You’ll need to select the Deep Work strategy that best suits your work, priorities, and lifestyle.
Before you start a session, determine how much time you’ll need to set aside to complete the task at hand. Then, divide your session into work and rest periods. A great approach would be to work straight for 90-minute blocks and then rest for 10 to 20 minutes in between sessions.
Just as importantly, keep all distractions at bay during Deep Work sessions. This could mean switching off your smartphone and temporarily disabling email and social media notifications so that you can focus 100% of your mental faculties on the task at hand. Also consider informing colleagues, personal assistants, and family members about your Deep Work sessions to avoid jarring interruptions.
Don’t forget to supply yourself with the add-ons you’ll need to realize a fruitful Deep Work session. This could mean a cup of coffee, a glass of filtered water, or your favorite Spotify playlist.
4. Take regular, relaxing breaks
As previously mentioned, you should take breaks in between your Deep Work sessions. Instead of using these breaks to catch up with secondary tasks (like checking emails or social media), use these intervals to relax your mind and body. This will help reinvigorate you for the next Deep Work session, as well as keep you “in the zone”.
Let’s say you’ve scheduled your Deep Work session into two 45-minute blocks, separated by two 20-minute breaks. Use these intervals to relax your mind in preparation for the next session. This could include some light physical or breathing exercises or meditation. You could also use this time to take toilet breaks, hydrate, or eat a snack. As much as possible, you’ll need to avoid engaging in secondary activities that will remove you from the flow state your mind has settled into.
5. Create a comfortable, dedicated workspace
A comfortable dedicated workspace is vital to the success of your Deep Work sessions. This workspace should also be distraction-free and utterly conducive to mentally challenging work sessions.
If space permits, consider setting up your workspace in a separate room with a door that can be shut. To increase your focus, consider using noise-cancelling headphones or a white noise machine.
Aside from your computer, tablet, and other gadgets, consider investing in the following:
- A reliable Wi-Fi connection
- An ergonomic chair
- A table or desk (height-adjustable desks are popular with those who don’t want to sit down for long periods)
- Great lighting
- Stationary (including memo pads, pens, paper, and files)
- A whiteboard and calendar
- Inspirational decor (including plants)
- A cabinet or filing system
- Miscellaneous creature comforts (like a diffuser, supporting pillows, or water dispenser).
6 Measure your progress with 4DX software
Developed by business consultants to help companies execute their most important agendas, the Four Disciplines of Execution (also known as the 4DX Framework) was adapted by Newport to complement the Deep Work methodology. It also complements the Eisenhower Matrix.
The 4DX Framework can be broken down into four components:
- Focus on the wildly important - Ultimate priorities need to be defined beforehand (e.g. executing a new business strategy, rolling out a new app, or producing a new eBook). In other words, great execution starts with narrowing down one’s focus to the top priorities.
- Act on the lead measures - Remember the old adage, “what gets measured gets managed?” The 4DX Framework uses two metrics to accomplish this: lead measures and lag measures. Your lead measure is the time spent working towards accomplishing that wildly important goal, while the lag measure pertains to your output (e.g. that new business strategy, app, or eBook).
- Keep a compelling scoreboard - You’ll need to create a tracking system to monitor how much time you’re spending on your priority project. The right kind of scoreboard will foster engagement and keep you working towards your goal.
- Create a cadence of accountability - Of course, you’ll need to review your progress periodically. Set the review cadence that works for you (e.g. weekly, monthly, or quarterly). This will help you assess how much you’ve accomplished and help you plan for the coming weeks.
7. Enhance your productivity with the right tools and software
Aside from prioritization, execution, and measurement, you’ll also need tools and software to help you navigate each touchpoint and enhance productivity.
The right personal productivity tools will help you execute your work efficiently and systematically. You can also use these tools to delegate tasks to colleagues and report progress to superiors, clients, and stakeholders.
Useful project planning and task management tools include Asana, Monday.com, Trello, and Basecamp. Check out Sigrid.AI’s complete list of Best Task Management & Project Management Software for Remote Workers for more information.
8. Delegate secondary tasks to a team of virtual assistants and specialists with the MySigrid Assistant App
If you want to boost your productivity and stay focused on your top priorities, you’ll need to delegate recurring and secondary tasks to the people who can best solve them.
The MySigrid Assistant app is a revolutionary new to-do list app, personal productivity tool, and reminder app. Unlike other to-do list apps, the MySigrid Assistant app doesn’t just capture and organize your tasks - the team behind the app but resolves them for you.
The app connects you with our team of highly-trained and professionally managed shared Virtual Assistants and Specialists at an affordable monthly fee.
You can use the MySigrid Assistant to accomplish the following:
- Delegate work-life tasks via the MySigrid Assistant app,
- Set deadlines for each task,
- Receive reminders about important events and dates,
- View all delegated tasks in one interface and follow real-time progress towards task resolution,
- Receive status updates about the ongoing resolution of a task,
- Communicate seamlessly with our team of Remote Virtual Assistants and Specialists.
Some of the tasks you can delegate to our team include:
- Specialized research,
- Email inbox management,
- Scheduling & calendar management,
- Document management,
- Online shopping & vendor procurement,
- Expense management,
- Event & travel management,
- Household management,
- Contact profiling,
- Online bills payment,
- Household maintenance & repairs, &
- Child & family logistics
These features and benefits are available through flexible subscription pricing. You can delegate anywhere from five to 25 tasks starting at US$24.95 each month. You get a 14-day free trial before committing to a subscription plan, and you can upgrade to one of our Dedicated VA Plans anytime.
The MySigrid Assistant app will help you save up to 120 hours per month. This time can be reinvested into accomplishing your most important projects or enjoying a better work-life balance. To see the app’s benefits first-hand, sign up for the free trial today.
Are you interested in learning more about how to hire a Virtual Assistant? Read our guide 'How to Hire a Virtual Assistant: A Complete Guide'.