Do you find yourself taking work home, wondering why you couldn’t get done at work? So many of us do! The reality is — there are only so many hours in a day and time can easily get bogged down with small, often unproductive tasks. Being productive requires work. It requires strategic planning and most all, it requires discipline. It’s easy to arrive on time (or even early) and have your day’s plans get thrown out the window with one interruption, which often leads to another. By the time you know it, it’s 5 o’clock.
But being productive isn’t necessarily a science. There are small but effective changes you can begin applying that will cut down five minutes then ten, 20, and eventually, you will find yourself with an extra hour to accomplish those tasks you’ve put off for a lack of time.
Here are 7 effective strategies to being more productive at work that you can easily begin applying today:
1- Track Your Time
Do you know how long you spend in the break room getting coffee each morning? What about the time it takes to send out emails to your staff or replying to those emails? If you’re not currently tracking your time, it’s time to start today! Estimates don’t count. And if you’re thinking won’t tracking my time take time? It will only take TWO MINUTES out of your entire day to track what you’re working on every 30 minutes. We suggest starting off with the 30-minute interval. This way you can get into the habit of checking in with yourself every 30 minutes. Once you get used to jotting down what it is you’re working on, you can extend it to an hour or every time you change tasks. There are tools like Rescue Time that make it easier to track specific tasks including checking email, talking to coworkers, going to the bathroom, and meeting with clients, all of which make up your entire day.
2- Always Take Breaks
Okay now you’re probably thinking so in addition to tracking my time, you want me to take breaks? The simple answer is yes. While it sounds counterintuitive, taking breaks will help improve your concentration. Keep in mind, these breaks should be short. You also don’t want to take too many frequent breaks. Rather, every 90 minutes take a small productive break. What do we mean by productive? We mean, grab some coffee, go to the bathroom, stretch, take a “smoker’s break” even if you don’t smoke. Essentially you want to use this time to step away from work and reconnect with how you’re feeling. Give your eyes a screen break and your body a reboot.
3- Place Deadlines on Yourself
Ah, deadlines. Whether you love or hate them, deadlines help us stay on pace and they give us the right type of stress. By setting self-imposed deadlines on yourself, you’ll be able to stay focused on what needs to be accomplished and by when. Deadlines will also give you the ability to visualize a finish line. In return, your time will be planned out. Many people are surprised at how self-imposed deadlines force them into mini-athletes where it’s them vs. time. Be realistic about how long tasks should take and also don’t afraid to challenge yourself to some more strict deadlines.
4- Avoid Multitasking
Multitasking can essentially decrease productivity. How is that so? It’s been found that multitasking results in lost time because people cannot devote their energy to competing tasks. For example, the old cliche and driving while putting on your makeup. This can easily result in an accident. There are some tasks that can be done in unison but you want to make sure they don’t compete with one another. For example, while you can’t put on makeup and look at the road, you can drive and mentally plan out your day or visualize what it is your day will entail. Remember to remain positive about it. Visualize being the most productive possible.
5- Minimize Interruptions
Interruptions are inevitable but do your best to let others know that what you’re working on is time-sensitive. When your colleagues respect your time, they’re less likely to interrupt you. If you have your own office, close the door to tackle those projects. You also want to consider mapping out your time to meet with people. Resist the temptation to give away your time as this often leads to staying late in an effort to make up for it or taking work home.
6- Stay Motivated and Determined
Motivation is the key to all of these tips. You know yourself and you know your work habits. Add in determination and you’ll see that work is feasible. Don’t allow feelings of worry to take over. Even if you know something may not get done “on time,” knowing it needs to be accomplished, just get to work on it! Eliminate all feelings of doubt and productivity will follow.
7- Keep Your Energy Level High
Once you have time management down, it’s all about your energy. Your energy level is essential to not only remaining productive at work but also outside of work. We’re not robots. We require exercise, connecting with friends and family, and doing the things that motivate us. Where does your source of energy come from? It may be your morning run, a 10-minute meditation, or a mid-day walk. No matter how you get energized, make sure to prioritize these rituals. They matter your mind and body.
“Action Expresses Priorities.” — Gandhi
How you choose to spend your time says a lot about who you are and what your goals are. We are given the same hours in a day but how we spend those hours will determine our legacy. What do you want your legacy to be?