Have you ever felt like you’re constantly chasing your tail at work?

Too many scheduled meetings and then there’s the emails flying into your inbox so fast you barely have time to look at them? And yet, at the end of the day you haven’t got much done. Nothing to show for the hours of ‘hard work’ you’ve put in.

There’s nothing worse than having an unproductive day at the office. And yet in my opinion it’s pretty easy to waste a lot of time in an office environment.

There are ‘unsaid’ rules that we abide by:

  • Meetings are important.
  • Email is king.
  • We must ‘look busy’ even if we’re not.
  • We must ‘look stressed’ — otherwise we can’t possibly be busy.

The best thing you can do is throw all of these outdated rules out the window and replace them with one rule:

Focus on output

Not how many minutes or hours you ‘put in’, but the ‘results’ you ‘get out’ of your day.

The thing is, a lot of people don’t really care about results – they just care about ‘feeling busy’ and working long hours for the sake of it. But when you switch from a ‘busy’ mindset to a ‘results’ mindset your whole world starts to change.

You have more time to spend on the important things, which equates to more results.

Here are my top 5 tips for being productive in the office:

1. Prioritize

Focus on a maximum of 3 priorities each day.

This means ‘ignoring’ everything else on your list…until tomorrow. When we’re distracted and overwhelmed by a long list of ‘to do’ items, we can find it hard to focus on getting ‘anything’ done and procrastination takes over! Cut back and focus on the 3 most important things ONLY.

2. Always do the most important things first

Never, never, never start your day with your easiest or most liked tasks. Always start off with the hardest, most important task. Because this is the only way you’ll get it done.

If you leave the hardest task until last guess what happens? You run out of time and it doesn’t get done. By tackling your hardest task first you can be certain it will get done no matter what happens.

3. Take control of email

For many of us, email is like a wild beast that takes over our office life. Take control of your email by limiting the time you spend checking and replying to emails. Just because there are emails there, doesn’t mean you have to reply to them all immediately. The world won’t end if you reply to an email an hour or two after it was sent.

I recommend only checking email 3 times a day max. Once in the morning, once just after lunch and once late afternoon. You’ll notice how much quicker you reply when you do it in bursts too. See my recent email tips for more tricks to control your emails.

4. Make all meetings 20 minutes long

Meetings can be the biggest waste of time. There’s an unspoken rule that all meetings must be for an hour. Why? How can all ‘topics’ neatly fit into a one-hour time slot?

Cut down meetings to a 20 minute maximum. One way to speed them up is to do meetings standing up – people seem to magically get across their point much quicker when they’re not lounging around a board room table.

5. Always have an agenda for all meetings

Many meetings run over because there’s no structure to them. Insist all meeting owners provide a full agenda before any meeting detailing exactly what they want to discuss. This forces the meeting owner to do a lot of the work before the meeting and reduces any time wastage during the meeting itself.

(Photo credit: Fast Typist via Shutterstock)

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