Increasing productivity: getting things done

Areas of interest

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Dear all

Thank you for your responses to the survey letting us know what topics you would like to see covered in the blog. So far you have highlighted the following topics:

* increasing productivity/overcoming procrastination
* increasing concentration and memory
* maintaining motivation
* communication with supervisors
* balancing research with work/personal life
* dealing with perfectionism
* preparing for confirmation of registration/viva

If you haven’t had a chance to let us know what topics you are interested in, here is  link to the survey.

Increasing productivity: getting things done

There are many factors that can influence our productivity, so today I will focus on a few things that can help to shift your mindset if you are feeling your work is slow, or if you are feeling stuck.

1.Be curious:  step back from what you are doing and look at it as if for the first time. What do you notice? What are you curious about? What alternative interpretations can you think of? How could you relate it to what you are working on? How can you apply the new concept/s?

It is also helpful to speak to other people to get a different perspective, even if they don’t know much about your subject.

2.Make a choice: if you have several tasks to work on, and you are debating what to do, pick one task and start with this, now. If it is too difficult to get started break it down into smaller steps and see what you can do in 25 minutes. Then, take a short break.

You may already have a method of working, or perhaps you would like to try the pomodoro technique (

3.Take breaks: these are necessary to restore energy, and to increase concentration. In fact, one major factor in limiting our productivity is lack of energy. Maintaining healthy habits such as eating well, doing some exercise and establishing a good sleep routine, keeps us energised.

In addition, restoring energy regularly can help to prevent stress symptoms, can increase motivation and maintain an overall sense of wellbeing.

It may be difficult to develop healthy habits when you have competing demands that leave you with little time to focus on looking after yourself. And this is the challenge for most us, even if we know protecting our health is a priority. To make a change, we can start with small steps and these can make a significant difference over time.

4.Set goals: decide a specific goal for each study period so that it is clear what you need to focus on. Then, visualise the steps you need to take to get on with the task. This will help to manage distractions, and to monitor your progress.

5.Manage thought patterns: sometimes it is our self-critical thoughts that can prevent us from making progress. Notice these negative thoughts and observe them without judgment. Then ask yourself: “is this thought helpful? Not really.” Then focus your attention on what step can you take to make progress. No step is too small, the aim is to move forward.

6.Develop an optimistic attitude: if you feel you have made a mistake, or if things don’t work out the way you hoped,  give some space for your feelings of disappointment or frustration and then focus on what you can learn from it.

The key to increasing productivity is to focus on the progress you are making,  acknowledging your effort will make a difference. Every step counts.



“A failure is not always a mistake, it may simply be the best one can do under the circumstances. The real mistake is to stop trying.” (B.F.Skinner)


Bandura, A/ (1997) Self-Efficacy. The exercise of control. New York: W.H. Freeman and Company.

Dweck, C. (2017) Mindset. Changing the way you think to fulfil your potential. Updated edition. New York: Ballantine Books.