To increase your productivity at work requires seemingly simple changes in our behaviour. However, it requires us to change habits that have evolved over many years. Habits, as we all know, are difficult to change. It requires a disciplined approach but the rewards are worth it.
Many people reading this will feel that to increase your productivity at work is only of benefit to your employer. This is not correct. If you increase your productivity successfully, you will have more control over your job, reduce the stress of rushing to meet deadlines, create more time to do the parts of your job you love, and it will make you look good to your employers. All of these personal benefits will help you if a promotion opportunity arises.
10 Tips to Increase Your Productivity
Plan your schedule for tomorrow before you go home
The best time to plan and prioritise tasks for your next working day, is just before you finish and go home. Make a habit of dedicating your final 10 to 15 minutes of each day to plan for the next day. This is when you are clear about what you need to do. It means you can get started straight away the next morning rather than spending time trying to remember what you need to do.
Manage your emails
Email makes our working lives more productive in so many ways. Poorly managed, though, and it is a source of distraction and time wasted. Make sure you keep your inbox clear and spend some time every day with your emails turned off (including your smart devices!) Set time aside to clear out your emails and try to do this outside of your busiest hours. Remember, your emails rarely reflect your own priorities. They are a list of someone else’s. Keep your prime times for your own core work.
Keep a ‘To Do List’
I run the risk of sounding lame here. Everybody tells us to keep a to-do-list. Yes, it is an important and frequently communicated technique. Yet, somewhat undervalued. Our brain, or short-term memory to be precise, simply isn’t equipped to cope with the amount of information, tasks and deadlines we need to do everyday. We need lists in order to be effective. Put them on paper or technology – it doesn’t matter, just have a list.
Take a break
Pay attention to what your brain is telling you. It is better to take a break when you are feeling fatigued than to push on through. You will make less mistakes and produce better quality work.
Set deadlines for yourself
By doing this, you are giving yourself focus and structure to achieve your goals. Budget your time so you know how much you have and how much is being asked for by your most important objectives. This allows you to prioritise and delegate, delay or dump those tasks that are not as important.
Lose the meetings
The need for face-to-face meetings has reduced over the past number of years thanks to products such as Zoom and apps like Google Hangouts or Slack. We can communicate in so many ways now and hold remote meetings. Why, then, spend so many energy sapping hours travelling to and from meetings? Plan to work more flexibly. Organise remote meetings. Only agree to physically attend a meeting when you are clear that this is the best way to achieve your goal.
“Meetings should be like salt – a spice sprinkled carefully to enhance a dish, not poured recklessly over every forkful. Too much salt destroys a dish. Too many meetings destroy morale and motivation.”
Jason Fried, Founder of Basecamp
No more ‘multi-tasking’
Forget about all the hype around multi-tasking. By trying to achieve more than one task at the same time, we actually reduce the quality of our work. We are easier distracted and more stressed. Plan your day to dedicate some time to each task. Do one single task first for the duration of time you have assigned to it.
Go for a walk
Get away from your workstation at break times. Even a short walk and fresh air will do wonders for your working day. We perform better when we take a break away from our work, even for a few minutes. It clears the clutter from our minds, refreshes our thinking and perks us up.
Set yourself little milestones throughout the day on a reasonable timeframe. It is important that the time between milestones is relatively short. The milestone must contain a task to be completed. It does not have to be a major achievement. Then set a reward – e.g. ‘when I achieve this milestone, I will have a coffee’, or ‘I will take a few minutes and then start again’.
Clear the clutter
I don’t necessarily buy into the phrase ‘a cluttered desk is a cluttered mind’. There are many highly successful people with cluttered desks. Those successful people with clear desks probably have good administrative support! So, don’t beat yourself up over this one. The key thing to do is to avoid wasting time having to search for important documents etc. Time searching is time unnecessarily wasted. Clear the clutter enough so you know where all your important documents and materials are.