As a busy business owner, and even if you are just starting out in business, do you wonder where all the times goes in the day and how you can do more? Do you ever finish your workday feeling like you weren’t able to accomplish everything on your list? You start with a plan, a list, a goal… but by the end of the day, you find your to-do list is even longer.
The question is how you can be more productive – perhaps in terms of getting more done in less time, or finding ways to achieve better results with fewer resources. We have put together our top 14 tips for how to be more productive at work.
We can all agree being productive is a good thing. There are only so many hours in the day, so making the most of your time is critical. There are two ways increase your output–either put in more hours or work smarter. As the saying goes, “it’s not the number of hours you put into work, it is the amount of work you put in those hours.”
Most of us aren’t as productive as we would like for two reasons: We have bad habits that interfere with our workplace productivity and we’re reactive rather than proactive, putting out fires instead of making progress toward our goals.
The solution is simple: We can replace our bad habits and reactive patterns with good habits that will make us proactive, and take charge of our own workdays. Imagine closing each workday with a satisfied sigh, knowing that you had been so productive that you accomplished everything on your list. And knowing, too, that you were at the top of your creative game—getting your tasks done both efficiently and well.
Being more productive at work isn’t rocket science, but it does require being more deliberate about how you manage your time. You can get help with improving your productivity and time management through our Skills Bootcamps
We have put together our top 14 tips for making your day more productive! By making simple adjustments to your daily workflow one at a time, you can begin to see changes in your productivity
People with a messy workspace are less efficient and more frustrated than those who have an organised work desk. Clutter limits your brain’s ability to concentrate and process information. This, in turn, contributes to stress and fatigue. So improve your mental health and work efficiency by decluttering your workspace.
Start by getting rid of all the non-essential items and assigning a proper place to everything. The best way to keep things organised without feeling overwhelmed or exhausted is to clean up your work desk every day before you go home or stop work.
Sometimes, looking at our goals can be overwhelming. Seeing a handful of big projects on our calendar can be stressful… but if you break it up into smaller tasks, you’ll feel more in control and will be much more productive.
“Nothing is particularly hard when you divide it into small jobs.” – Henry Ford
Rather than approach large goals that would require long amounts of time to achieve them, consider planning out small objectives throughout your day. For example, rather than write down “finish project,” break that into all the tasks it will take. Things like filing required paperwork, responding to those four client emails or compiling all the resources together that your team will need to complete a future project – these are small, daily objectives you can set and reach during your eight hours of work time. Similarly, you may use these short objectives as milestones to measure your progress toward a larger goal. This will keep you on track in your day-to-day and make the bigger projects seem less daunting.
It can be tempting to want to take care of a few tasks at once, especially if they seem small or easy. However – this is actually a productivity killer. Research shows that productivity can be reduced by as much as 40% by the mental blocks created when people switch tasks. While we tend to think of the ability to multitask as an important skill for increasing efficiency, the opposite may in fact be true.
“The key is not to prioritise what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” – Stephen Covey.
We’re fooling ourselves when we say we can easily juggle phone calls, presentations, and eating lunch. So stop trying to do everything at once. Instead, dramatically increase your productivity by giving your full attention to one task at a time. If you do focus on one task at a time, you’ll actually end up completing it faster.
We all sometimes push aside a big goal because we’re not confident we’ll accomplish it. And by the time we get to it, we’re too exhausted from our day for far to give it the attention it needs. That’s how projects end up seeping into additional days, and making it feel like productivity has disappeared.
There’s endless advice out there for people not to do tasks like answering email or routine chores in the morning, but to start out instead doing whatever tasks are most creatively demanding—which is great if you’re a morning person – not so great if you are more of a night owl! So – understanding when and how you work best is key to getting those big projects done on time. There’s no set schedule that works for everyone… if you’re a morning person, tackle the big tasks (i.e. the heavy lifting) first thing in your day.
While we usually think of stress as a bad thing, a manageable level of self-imposed stress can actually be helpful in terms of giving us focus and helping us meet our goals. For open-ended tasks or projects, try giving yourself a deadline, and then stick to it. You may be surprised to discover just how focused and productive you can be when you’re watching the clock.
Make the most of your time at work by filling any free small windows of time you have with actual tasks. According to entrepreneur Steve Olenski, finding and immediately completing tasks that take two minutes or less actually saves you time. So, if it takes less than two minutes, do it now. According to Olenski, completing the task right away actually takes less time than having to get back to it later. Implementing this has made him one of the most influential content strategists online.
Interruptions can really distract us throughout the day. Even though you may enjoy your relationships with your co-workers, losing track of time due to conversations, informal and quick meetings or topic discussions can hinder your workflow and decrease your overall productivity.
To be productive, you need to shut down their noise and shoo them away. You may choose to work with your office door closed for a portion of your day, or if you work in an open-office environment, you might use noise-cancelling headphones to help limit the sounds of office chatter and interaction. Headphones can also be a polite but silent way to let your colleagues know that you need to concentrate on the projects you are working on.
Turn off your email and phone notifications if you need full concentration. Are you a Facebook, Twitter or Instagram addict? Use social media as a carrot: Allow yourself X number of minutes browsing after you accomplish a major task. Then shut it off again and get back to work.
We might think working longer hours means we’re getting more done, but we never work as well when we’re burned out. It sounds counterintuitive, but taking scheduled breaks can actually help improve concentration. Studies show taking regular breaks helps concentration and boosts your mood. Working at a task without breaks leads to a steady decline in performance.
Take a five-minute walk around the office, or spend 15 minutes grabbing that mid-afternoon coffee. These short breaks can allow you to recharge, clear your mind and get ready for the next task.
If you have meetings scheduled throughout your day, consider some ways to make these more productive activities that contribute to your overall work progress.
“The least productive people are usually the ones who are most in favour of holding meetings.” Thomas Sowell
Consider standing meetings, where you and colleagues stand up for the meeting. This can help increase alertness and focus when discussing important topics during your meeting. Before booking your next meeting, ask yourself whether you can accomplish the same goals or tasks via email, phone, or via Zoom/Skype/Teams
Studies have shown that physical activity enhances brain function. And while you might assume (rightly) that that enhanced brainpower will give you improved concentration, more creativity, and faster learning, you might not realise that exercise increases your brain’s affective skills, too, meaning that you’ll find it easier to get along with others.
To-do lists, as you might already know, are a great productivity tool. They help you stay organised and focused. Creating a to-do list before going to bed gives you a head start on your morning as you’ve already planned what needs to be done in a day. However, it’s important to note that your to-do list shouldn’t include more than two or three items. Keep it realistic and simple. Cramming numerous items on your list will only make you feel more stressed and overwhelmed.
We all know that sleep deprivation has negative effects on our performance. Lack of sleep decreases our concentration, working memory and logical reasoning. Surprisingly, it only takes one night of sleep deprivation to create big deficits in our abilities.
“When we take time to sleep, recharge we are more effective as entrepreneurs, as leaders. Our cognitive performance improves. We make better decisions. We are less reactive. We get less upset when bad things happen.” Ariana Huffington, CEO and founder of Thrive Global, former co-founder of The Huffington Post
Being well-rested elevates mood, boosts creativity, reduces stress and improves memory. It also sharpens your focus and enhances your ability to accurately take split-second decisions. So make sure you get your 8 hours sleep per night! In addition, establishing a healthy morning routine is also an important step to set yourself up for a more productive day.
Consider using delegation methods to split up tasks between your team members. For instance, if you have a variety of tasks on your to-do list, consider assigning some of these tasks to others if they can be completed without you working on them.
When you delegate properly, you have more time to spend on your own work. The key is to assign the right task to the right person—a person you know has the skills to do the job and that you can trust to get it done—and then leave them to it. It takes some getting used to, but you’ll be surprised how productive you can be when you really let go.
While we have already discussed the benefits of creating a to-do list, a not-to-do list is also a productivity game-changer. The idea is to create a list of all of those activities you’re planning to stop doing in order to become more productive. Take some time to analyse the things you could have done differently or more efficiently, tasks that aren’t contributing to your personal and professional goals, any unproductive habits that you need to get rid of, etc. Now prepare a not-to-do list based on that self-analysis and work on incorporating those changes in your daily routine.
In the months ahead, not every day will be perfectly productive; but don’t beat yourself up over it. Instead, refocus your energy and continue to implement these tips. When implementing strategies to help you increase your work productivity, it is important to be as consistent as you can. Allow yourself to learn and develop your skills, and you can be certain that your productivity will continue to improve.
For more information about how our Skills Bootcamps can help you to build up sector-specific skills and fast-track to an interview with an employer or start-up or grow a business, click here