We live in a society that focuses a lot on productivity. The truth is, productivity doesn’t simply revolve around how busy or “productive” we appear to be on the surface. It’s about understanding how to work smarter and more efficiently – utilizing our time, energy, and resources in the best way possible. That means critically examining our own productivity habits and finding ways to streamline them.
It also means looking at some of the ways in which an overemphasis on productivity can sometimes be to our own detriment. We’re taught from a young age to constantly be on the move and “get things done.” This drive to constantly achieve and produce can come with numerous benefits, like financial success or career advancement. However, many individuals find themselves burnt out or dealing with physical and mental health issues as a result of pushing themselves too hard.
There are a number of interesting things to know when it comes to our psychology and what actually helps and what hinders productivity. In this article, we’ll discuss some specifics on this, discover strategies that can help, and dive into how technology can help us be more efficient. We’ll also take a look at how artificial intelligence is changing the way we work and helping us become more productive than ever before!
Table of Contents
What Hinders Productivity
To get us started, let’s go over some statistics around productivity that might surprise you.
Did you know?
- Only 60% of work time is spent being productive
- It takes 16 minutes to refocus after responding to an email
- It can take 25 minutes to refocus after being interrupted
- The average employee gets interrupted 56 times a day
One huge takeaway from these statistics is that the interruptions, distractions, and notifications that pop up in our emails or on our phones can cause huge damage to how productive we are able to be. We will discuss some solutions for this later on.
A common myth that has now been debunked is the concept of multitasking. We have been told that it can help us save time or be more effective. However, we now know that our brains are not really able to successfully focus on more than one task at a time.
There have even been studies that have shown that trying to multitask can actually damage your brain or lower your IQ. Multitasking reduces productivity by about 40% and will likely increase your stress levels.
What Helps Productivity
Do Not Disturb
As discussed above, one of the biggest hindrances to productivity is consistently getting interrupted. Interruptions are commonplace these days as we live in a world where our phones are pinging us constantly for our attention. One of the most helpful tips for being able to get things done is to use the technology of settings such as Do Not Disturb for set chunks of time in order to minimize these distractions. There are ways to enable notifications for certain people only, which can be useful if you’re waiting on an important call or just need someone to be able to get through at all times. Otherwise, turning your phone off and putting it away is a great first step to allow you to truly focus.
In addition to this, really setting your space up for your work – whether it be at the office, in a coffee shop, or at home – by cutting out any potential distractions can also really help. Closing the door to the office to signal to others not to interrupt, or putting on headphones at the coffee shop or your desk can help make sure that others do not cost you 25 minutes of time by interrupting.
Scheduled Productivity Time, with Breaks!
Sometimes sitting down to focus on a task can feel a bit overwhelming. One tool that can be extremely helpful is to set aside a scheduled chunk of time to work towards said task. Studies have shown a few different approaches that can be helpful. One is the Pomodoro Technique, which works in 25-minute intervals. You set a timer for 25 minutes, then get a 5-minute break. After three 25-minute intervals, you get a 15-minute break! Whether it’s this technique or another, studies have shown that the brain can only truly focus deeply on a task for about 45 minutes before it will start to lose steam. Keeping this in mind can help you set realistic goals for yourself while building in those much-needed breaks.
Chunking Projects Down
Sometimes, huge projects, whether work related or just personal, can feel extremely overwhelming. We don’t always know where to start. One technique that can be very helpful is to take big tasks and spend time breaking them down into all of the smaller tasks and steps that need to take place to make it come to fruition. Taking one of those 25-minute time chunks to get all of the details out of our brains can help us to have more clarity and be better organized. For additional help, spend time guess-timating how much time each individual task will take. Then, you can manage your time more effectively – knowing when you’re committing to a bigger project, or being able to take care of smaller tasks whenever you have a few minutes to do so. This process can help relieve anxiety over having to remember lots of to do’s running around in the brain. Additionally, checking things off of a list in this way gives the brain a dopamine hit, and can show us externally the progress we are making.
The 4-Minute Rule
Another good time management technique to implement is the 4-Minute Rule. Some might do a 1-minute rule, which is great as well. Either way, the idea is fairly simple. If a task pops into your head that would take less than 4 minutes to complete – responding to a message or email, for example – try to take care of it right away. Taking care of those tiny tasks as we go in order to prevent them from building up and taking up too much spaces in our brains can create a lot of relief. That being said – if you are in the middle of focusing on another task, it may be best to write that task down and stay focused until your 25-minute timer runs out (or else risk losing 20+ minutes of time refocusing after!)
COVID-19 changed so many things about the world, but one of the more positive improvements has been how it’s led to an increase in businesses adopting remote work as a viable option for employees. While being able to work from home comes with its own challenges, it also creates more openness and flexibility for workers without sacrificing productivity.
The daily commute is a big factor here. It makes sense that not having to spend time driving to and from the office would save people time. For many of us, the daily commute also means sitting stuck in traffic for extended periods. This alone can take a big toll on people’s mental health and stress levels, which in turn, decreases our ability to be clear and efficient in our work.
The statistics cited above truly speak for themselves when it comes to just how much remote work increases productivity! We believe this is a great change and an essential step to a more efficient and productive future.
An often-overlooked aspect of productivity is actually its opposite – rest! Life is all about balance, right? Well, if you aren’t convinced, here are some statistics:
- Sleep deprivation and lack of rest costs companies up to $65 billion per year
- People who get between 7.5-9 hours of sleep are 20% more productive
Getting a good night’s sleep will make all of the difference in your overall health, as well as your work life. Sleep is when our bodies and minds can restore, and studies have shown that stepping away from a task, allowing the brain to process subconsciously, and then coming back to something can really improve our productivity, as well as the problem solving abilities we have.
Technology Tools That Can Help
“46% of employees report increased productivity as a result of digital tool usage.”
Source: Pew Research
The thing is, while our phones can distract us with notifications, they also can be tools that help us with our productivity goals when used appropriately. Even the Do Not Disturb setting is an example of how the technology can help us to focus more and cut out distractions. There are a myriad of apps, tools, and technology out there for probably just about any given task one may need help with. Here are just a few of the top tools that we believe can help you with productivity today!
Interested in that 25-minute on, 5-minute break system we mentioned earlier? The Pomodoro technique is a great one, and there are a number of apps and websites out there that have this built in so that all you have to do is hit play, and let it generate these time intervals for you. Many of them can be customized as well if you have a productivity schedule that works best for you.
Always thinking up different to do lists or need help with “chunking projects down” as we talked about above? Todoist is an awesome app that allows you to make and keep track of numerous to do lists. You can organize them by themes, set timelines for your goals, prioritize things by importance or urgency, and keep all of it in one place!
There are a number of project management tools out there. One that can be really helpful for not only individuals, but also teams of people collaborating is Asana. They claim that their tool “makes teams 42% faster” by helping keep things organized and on track, being able to assign tasks to individuals and having concrete, clear goals all in one place.
How Artificial Intelligence Can Help Us Be More Productive
“In this current era of business process transformation, AI systems are not wholesale replacing us; rather, they are amplifying our skills and collaborating with us to achieve productivity gains that have previously not been possible.” – Daugherty Wilson, Human + Machine
As an AI company and startup, we would be remiss to not focus on one of the top ways that technology is going to make us all more productive – and already is in many ways! According to Gartner, business and enterprise use of artificial intelligence has grown 270% the last 4 years. We are currently in the 4th Industrial Revolution, which involves the transformation of business processes so that humans and machines can work together.
We’ve already written some pieces about how AI is changing the workplace as well as how AI can be helpful in a number of spheres: from impacting the medical industry to tools one can use for social media marketing. There are so many applications for artificial intelligence to help us save on time, freeing us up for the tasks and decisions that require more of a human touch.
Not only will tools like artificial intelligence help to automate time-intensive processes, but they will also help us discover entirely new methodologies and practices we can’t even conceptualize quite yet. Decisions will be made with real-time data, as opposed to always following a rigid system or structure that may not work for everyone. So, let’s dig a bit more into how artificial intelligence will be essential for individuals and businesses alike in increasing productivity and efficiency.
AI and machine learning are revolutionizing data analytics and data science. This is another one of the biggest ways in which AI will be helping businesses boost productivity. Normally, extracting insights from large data sets is a time-consuming task, which now can be automated almost instantaneously.
Implementing AI Tools
There are artificial intelligence tools and plug-ins for just about any business task one could think of. For example, one of the strongest cases for ways in which AI can assist us in business has been the rise of smart chatbots. These friendly little helpers have popped up all over the place to help guide customer experience, answer questions, assist with customer service complaints and much more. Imagine if, instead of having to respond to every personal DM or message request yourself, you could trust AI to resolve most customer service issues and inquiries around the clock.
Here we can see how the technology can save us tremendous amounts of time, freeing up humans to do what we do best and tackle more complex or nuanced issues. Additionally, the extra time we save on the monotonous, tedious tasks can help us all with the mental health aspects of productivity.
Ultimately, artificial intelligence is a win-win all around when it comes to this topic.
We hope this article has helped to show some helpful tips around your own individual productivity goals, as well as some of the many ways in which technology and AI can assist us tremendously in these efforts as business and organizations.
As always, please reach out if you have any questions or would like to chat! We’re always happy to help where we can.