Struggling with productivity in the workplace can be frustrating at best and job-threatening at worst, and that’s a position no one wants to be in when trying to succeed.
If you’ve found yourself in this situation, you’re definitely not alone. Everyone goes through a productivity slump at some point in their career, whether they’re just starting out or are veterans (or even experts) in their field.
But don’t worry, you’re in luck:
Becoming more productive is only a matter of effective time management and can be done by making just a few changes to your routine. The best part is, you can start right now and see results the same day.
If you’re ready to take control of your time and enhance productivity at work, then let’s jump into the 12 tips that will help you get back on track and get more done.
1. Keep a junk journal to declutter your task list
During a busy work day, it’s not unusual for unexpected tasks and requests to pop up and ruin your concentration and delay your project. That’s where a junk journal, notebook or even a Word document can take the frustration out of interruptions.
Why this works?
Giving into coworker requests and new tasks in the middle of your work forces you to pause what you’re doing, complete the requested task, and then get refocused on what you were previously working on. This causes large blocks of time spent on non-critical items instead of on your current priority, which delays your work and decreases productivity.
Using the junk journal method, whenever a non-critical request or task comes up in the middle of your current work, you simply jot it down in your notebook or file, effectively saving it for later, and continue working on the task at hand.
Then, once your priority task is finished, you can revisit the junk journal and begin working on the extra tasks.
This method will help you keep your focus on what’s important, still complete unexpected tasks, and keep your productive flow throughout the day.
2. Stop multitasking to get more done (Yes, really!)
We often find ourselves multitasking from the moment we clock in. Perhaps you’re making calls, checking email, and working on projects all at once. While this common skill is often favored by your boss, it can actually be a detriment to productivity.
When we multitask, we’re actually “task-switching.” This is much less working on two tasks simultaneously and closer to switching our focus between several tasks at once, with each task getting very little focus spread among them.
Sure, this method of attack can get more done in a shorter time, but the tasks might not be done well. In fact, multitasking has been shown to harm our ability to accomplish important tasks or to distinguish priorities from distractions.
When we become used to rapidly changing our attention from one thing to the next, we give everything a piece of our attention until focusing becomes difficult and productivity inevitably suffers.
To boost your productivity and quality of work, make sure to tackle your priorities one task at a time. Bonus points if you file away distractions for later in your junk journal.
3. Your device’s do-not-disturb feature is your new go-to
Let’s be honest, plenty of us put our phone’s text or email notifications on vibrate, only to check the screen at every little buzz—just in case.
The more this pattern continues, the more we end up deep in email or social media while projects sit undone.
Since we dove into how multitasking hurts productivity, now we need to learn how to cut out distractions in ways that actually work to keep us focused on a single task.
Do-not-disturb mode for phones and web browser apps are a modern blessing. They help block distractions during work so our attention isn’t switching between priorities and pesky notifications.
But the real tip here isn’t just “silence your devices” but “stick to silencing your devices.” To do this, maybe you need to put your phone face-down, in a drawer or bag, or turn a second computer screen off.
Whatever it is that works for you, be sure to do it and stick to it and keep your attention focused.
I’ve found that it helps tremendously to set a time every few hours or so to allow a quick 5-minute glimpse at notifications and other distractions, as long as you keep to that time and return your focus to priorities afterward.
4. Honor your priorities
So, how do you know what tasks you should be focusing on? How about when to focus on them?
Easy: you set priorities, with time in mind.
You’ve probably heard how setting priorities is crucial for productivity, but instead of focusing on how to set priorities, we’ll be focusing on when to accomplish those priorities.
For maximum productivity, break up your priorities into three segments: morning, mid-day, and late afternoon. This allows dedicated time to focus and also leaves blocks of time in between priority tasks to handle any unexpected issues that arise.
This method boosts productivity in the workplace since it allows you to tackle priorities and provides time to work on other time-sensitive or important projects.
5. Schedule uninterrupted time every day to improve focus
As we discussed above, setting dedicated time to complete your most important tasks can give you a huge boost in overall productivity.
Unfortunately, few people are immune to meetings, client calls, or other events that tear you away from your work.
This is why scheduling that time is so important, and here’s how to do it effectively:
Each morning, give your work calendar or a schedule a good look-over. Schedule your priority tasks in empty spots on your calendar, according to how long you estimate them to take.
Make sure to account for any meetings that can pull you away from your priority projects, and remember to leave time to tackle those unexpected tasks that are sure to pop up during the day.
Next, let everyone know this will be your uninterrupted time. This might feel weird at first, but trust me, this communication is the key to ensuring your uninterrupted time stays uninterrupted.
The better you get at sticking to this time (and that includes your coworkers respecting this time) the more productive you can be throughout the day.
6. Give yourself a break (Or several)
Here’s a fact for you:
A recent study by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign recently found that prolonged focus on a single task actually hinders productivity and quality of the completed work.
They found the longer we focus on one thing, the less motivated we are in achieving the original goal of the task. They call this “goal habituation.”
Their cure for goal habituation is taking frequent breaks to reset your brain’s focus and cognition when it starts to decrease.
This allows you to avoid a lapse in focus and productivity, and to work smarter, not harder.
Of course, when we’re “in the zone” it’s important to capitalize on that state of focus. But once your mind starts to wander, it’s time for a break.
7. Set your goals the right way for success
It’s no secret that having big-picture career goals can keep us motivated in the long-run, but it’s also a great idea to break larger goals into smaller ones.
Why? Because achieving smaller goals on a weekly or daily basis keeps us motivated and in a state of flow when it comes to keeping up productive output.
Setting short-term goals that stem from the big-picture also helps prevent you from becoming overwhelmed or discouraged by a goal that seems too far away or too big in comparison to where we are now.
To set goals the right way, try this method:
- Set your big-picture goal and be specific.
- Identify what needs to happen to achieve that goal from the top down.
- Write out each of these lower-level goals in descending order, until they’ve been broken down into weekly and even daily goals.
Once you have smaller, more immediately actionable career goals, you’ll have more motivation to achieve the smaller ones, which will help boost productivity and personal morale in the workplace.
8. Set boundaries and stick to them
Many people have a tough time setting boundaries because it means saying “no” more often.
How often do you say “no” to your boss or coworkers? Do you end up staying late or taking work home?
Though you may think that taking work home or working long hours allows you to get more done, it doesn’t.
When we know bringing work home at night is an option, it’s easy to let productivity slip away during the day. Then, when we arrive home, the time that should be spent unwinding is instead spent finishing the day’s work or playing catch-up.
It’s much easier to be fully present at work when you know you have a solid block of time to get things done. When you know you’ll have a total disconnect once you leave the office, your hours spent at work suddenly becomes more valuable, and you’re more motivated to be productive during the day so you can fully unplug when the workday ends.
Of course, there are times when we have deadlines to meet, and the occasional evening or weekend will be spent working.
But the more you set and stick to your boundaries whenever possible, the more productive and valuable you’ll be during work hours.
9. Turn your task into a process
One of the easiest hacks for boosting your workplace productivity can be summed up in one word: streamlining.
Most of us have repetitive tasks we do weekly or even daily, but many of us attack them from scratch each time these tasks come up.
Creating a solid process for these tasks can not only make them easier but also allow us to complete them in a quicker and more efficient way. Creating processes can also include templates, such as email scripts, which can help us work even faster.
This is streamlining in action. The more we can streamline our tasks, the more we can get done and the easier our workload becomes.
Even better, the simple processes you create may even help your colleagues and who knows, maybe even your department or company at large!
10. Spend time with your coworkers to strengthen relationships
Sure, goofing off and chit-chatting with your coworkers during work hours doesn’t sound very productive, but it is.
Getting to know your coworkers and communicating with them in a more relaxed manner can easily strengthen your working relationships. These strong bonds can help craft a positive work environment, which is shown to enhance productivity in the office by a significant amount.
So don’t be afraid to get to know your colleagues, or engage in “water-cooler chat” on breaks—those chats might just be the productive boost your team needs to get more done during the day.
11. Ask for feedback
A big contributing factor to decreased productivity during the workday is a lack of communication.
While we covered how communication can strengthen your work relationships with your coworkers, it can also strengthen your overall work and productive output when feedback is involved.
Simply requesting feedback or being particularly present during performance reviews can give you a detailed view of where you are in relation to your performance and your workplace goals.
After all, what good is being productive if you’re on the wrong path, or focusing your attention in the wrong areas?
Strong feedback can help set you on the right course or enforce that what you’re doing is helping you—and your company—to succeed.
While constructive criticism from your boss is important, asking for feedback from your coworkers can also be highly beneficial for smoother communication and teamwork.
12. Find meaning in your daily work
The final tip for boosting productivity in the workplace is crucial not only to our quality of work, but the quality of our lives, and that tip is to find real meaning in your work.
When we’re doing work that has meaning or makes us feel fulfilled, we are far more likely to enjoy the work we do and become more productive in turn.
Now, this is easy if you work for a non-profit that helps to serve the community, but what if you work a typical desk job for a large company?
Finding fulfillment in the office is different for everyone, but starting out with small steps like practicing gratitude and establishing a personal mission statement can help you feel fulfilled right away, which will help boost your productivity in no time.
Your new toolkit
From cutting back on multitasking to finding meaning in your work, you now have the tools to tackle workplace productivity head-on and get more done.
Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com
|||^||Eyal Ophir, Clifford Nass, and Anthony D. Wagner: Cognitive control in media multitaskers|
|||^||Cognition: Brief and rare mental “breaks” keep you focused: deactivation and reactivation of task goals preempt vigilance decrements.|
|||^||Harvard Business Review: Proof That Positive Work Cultures Are More Productive|