5 Top Tips To Improve Productivity (Part 3 of 3)

Sep 22, 2021 | Aussie Nurse

Productivity crosses into many different areas of our lives including work, study and our personal lives too. This blog is the third and last piece in a series of three blogs that have covered productivity and the processes that make a difference on an everyday basis with finding balance in our lives


Check out the previous 2 blogs 

  • The first blog was – What Does Being Productive Mean?


  • The second blog was – 2 Principles Of Productivity For Nurses


Productivity is about focusing on what areas in life need to be more efficient with time, effort or energy and this takes some consideration to help improve these areas.

Some questions to ask when wanting to improve productivity may be –

  • What needs my attention now?
  • When am I most productive (are you a morning person or night owl)?
  • Are there any interruptions or disruptions that need managing?
  • What is something that you are the most passionate about?
  • What’s is one thing that be done to reach long term goals?
  • Can I use a tool or principle to help reach these goals?
Using tools to help with productivity – 

After discovering what things you want to change, there are many tools that can help to make the day more efficient. 

Apps have simplified many peoples lives and once the upfront work of setting up the devices is done they become automated- set and forget. Apps that are found on smartphones, tablets or wearable devices are quite varied, they can be used for note-taking, managing emails efficiently, automating activities/events on calendars, workplace messaging apps, etc. 

My personal favourite tool is Google Drive (not affiliated), its a great platform as its free and it can be used anywhere from any computer- it has easy storing of documents and editing, with accessibility for others to share documents.

Having the right tools for the job with productivity tools can include hardware too, for nurses working from home having the right equipment such as a workspace and a decent chair is important to save time and help you to do your job properly.

1. Productivity starts with self 

Nurses are well known for being self sacrificing, often in the workplace we can forget about our own needs, thats due to the nature of our job. Its important to take care of yourself first with starting with the simple things like a proper diet, exercise and sleep.

The benefits of focusing on ourselves is immense it offers a clearer mind, room to breathe, manage tiredness better and beating the emotional labour of our work.

Adding in daily exercise either strenuous or even light exercise such as a walking won’t just improve our health and mood, it also increases productivity with our confidence growing after movement.

Taking 10 minutes in a day for some space for yourself helps to appreciate some small moments, this can be done when sitting with a ‘cuppa’. Moments give time to recap on the day, reminisce by yourself to celebrate your wins or even open up to something that you are grateful for.

It is becoming more evident that we shouldn’t sacrifice our sleep, it makes us less productive and even less healthy. This is difficult for some nurses because of working different shifts, including rotating between early, late and nights shifts, nursing is a 24/7 occupation, with everyone needing different amounts of sleep to function and there are many strategies that may help.


2. Reducing Distractions from mobile phones & social media

Mobile phones are a constant in our lives, because of this they can prevent us from concentrating on things that we should be doing. It is well known that having apps that are from social media platforms on our mobile phones can have harmful effects.

One consequence is from instant gratification, having our mobile close by makes it hard to avoid temptations to check our phones, this distracts us from more things that are meaningful in our days. Another negative of social media is doom-scrolling by consuming negative news and both of these can lead to effecting a persons finances, social life and overall health too.

Moving away from the negative its important to remember that the proper use of social media can actually enhance interactions with others by staying connected with family and friends, help develop new professional or social contacts by networking with people who we would normally not have access to. 

Because having mobile phones constantly in our lives has both a bad and good side it is important that we manage these technologies, to reduce the distractions and there are many strategies to help. Here are a few –

  • Turning off notifications – This reduces the distractions from the sounds of the phone when notifications are received such as the ‘beeps’ that come from new email’s, messages or app’s notifications. 
  • Delete social media apps off the mobile phone – This might sound harsh having the apps that are not essential removed from the mobile phone reduces any urges to quickly have a glimpse especially if you feel like you’re missing out, but it may just be fluff and the time lost quickly adds up to being quite a lot. An alternative is to use these apps on different devices such as on a tablet, on a laptop or a computer. 
  • Setting the mobile phone onto Airplane Mode – Airplane Mode can be used to turn off the wireless features on your phone, it was designed for when we are travelling in aeroplane’s yet works really well in everyday life too. Airplane mode silences all calls and notifications and is great for everyday life when you’re at an appointment, at a cafe with mates, basically when you need some time with no distractions.
  • Setting your mobile phone to Greyscale – This setting can be done on both iOS and Android devices, it takes the colour away from the screen of your phone and this is not attractive to the eye. Some people find the Greyscale setting helpful as it has reduced their time on social media and gaming apps, the screen is just too bland and a little boring.
  • Use apps to limit your time on social media – This is so counter-intuitive, apps to reduce the amount we use apps seems weird!! To ‘disconnect to reconnect’ can be through an app called ‘Forest’ (not affiliated), the concept is that you set a timer for how long you want to limit your phone use for, say 30 minutes, in that time a tree grows in the app but if you get the urge and use your phone before the time is up, the tree dies. It does have an element of gamification as you are rewarded if you do well and there are many more apps that can be found to help with your productivity.

The time we spend using our phones to text or browse can feel like only a few minutes at any one time and if you add up doing that for so many times in a day, it can become quite substantial. On your phone you can turn on ‘Screen Time’, this reports on your phone how long you use your phone for and will allow you to set limits.


3. Making manageable lists

Identifying priorities may help to add some balance for both limiting procrastination and on the other side avoid working excessively, a way to do this is by making a to do list. Making lists helps to capture and organise what is urgent for you to complete in any day and may give some sight to know if you’re actually being productive or not.

For times of prioritising tasks that are urgent may mean to get rid of any tasks that aren’t important to you and this may help combat procrastination. By doing the hardest or most stressful job first and early in the day, gets it done and out of the way with the rest of the day left being more positive. To do lists don’t have to be just boring things to do, adding some ‘fun’ tasks into the day is a great way to reward yourself.

For workaholics setting a to do list may help to recognise when you aren’t really being productive especially if you’re not fully present to the task or even when multitasking with skimming through work. A list may help put limits or boundaries in place by identifying and ticking of when one task is finished – with progress made and then another task can be started. For workaholics its important once the day is completed to give yourself permission to do non-work related things to switch off.

My personal favourite way to make a list is to write down 3 things that need completing in a day as having 3 things written down allows me to break down my day in small achievable blocks and if anything spontaneously pops up I can attend to that first and then come back to the list later without getting overwhelmed.

Highlighting and writing down in a list what you need to do is an effective productivity tool, it adds some clarity in a simple way. Lists can be written in different formats such as paper-based diaries, calendars, notes on devices or on apps.


4. Managing your time – Pomodoro technique

The Pomodoro technique helps to improve time management into achievable blocks of time where our concentration is maintained on a task and did you know Pomodoro is Italian for tomato.

The technique was invented by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s when he was a student in Italy, he called this the Pomodoro technique because he used a Pomodoro timer to break down his work into intervals.

The Pomodoro technique is

Step 1 – Set a timer for 25 minutes

Step 2 – When the alarm sounds on the timer have a 5 minute break. This is called 1 Pomodoro (tomato) & mark it down 

Step 3 – Keep going with step 1 & 2 until you reach 4 Pomodoro’s (tomatoes). Once you’ve reached 4 Pomodoros have a longer break of 15-30 minutes

Step 4 – Go back to step 1 & repeat the steps until the task is completed


5. Managing Productivity at Work 

Nurses lives can be chaotic especially with trying to manage shift work, workloads and then when we get home we have our personal lives too, we do a lot.

Simple steps of productivity add up over some time, the aim is to do things that help move you forward in your work and have a sustainable career that is healthy for you. These tips are some you already know, they are just reminders not to lose sight of them as the simplest things are the hardest – 

Taking your breaks –

This happens to all of us, sometimes there are shifts where we can’t have a full break because of our workload on the day, mind you I do see a few nurses who regularly will not have a break- working long hours doesn’t improve our work or productivity. 

By having regular breaks you are allowing yourself to breathe, eat something more than just sweet snacks at the nurses station and return back with a clear mind, re-energised and ready to go again. The effects of regularly not taking breaks and working for hours on end can cause a person to be in presenteeism, burn out or even reach compassion fatigue and if working in a clinical area the possibilities of errors increases. 

Not forgetting nurses working at home or in offices need to regular take breaks to help avoid musculoskeletal problems that working for long periods at a desk can cause. 

Keeping hydrated –

We monitor patients fluid intakes like a hawk sometimes, these that are on fluid restrictions we have to make sure they are not sneaking water somehow and these that do not drink water we have to regularly encourage them to.

If our work day is overwhelming we may forget to drink water, getting dehydrated just creeps up on us and saps our energy levels quickly, staying hydrated will boost your productivity to the next level.

As a nurse it’s a bit of a balancing act trying to manage energy levels especially with work, family life etc. Using productivity is about owning your own time by focusing on what areas you can improve on. 

These changes will eventually form into habits, especially if every single day for the next year you could actually do one thing differently and the progress made over the course of a year becomes a game changer especially as you reclaim your energy and helps you to do things that make you feel like you.

“We are what we repeatedly do

Excellence then, is not an act but a habit” 

– Aristotle

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