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Published on September 11, 2018

Struggling With Productivity in the Workplace? 12 Tips to Get More Done

Struggling With Productivity in the Workplace? 12 Tips to Get More Done

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.[1]

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.

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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.

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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.[2]

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:

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  1. Set your big-picture goal and be specific.
  2. Identify what needs to happen to achieve that goal from the top down.
  3. 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.[3]

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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.

Bonus:

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

Reference

More by this author

Kileen Robinson

Kileen helps people live their most productive lives possible, one article at a time.

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Published on January 16, 2019

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

We’re all busy, but sometimes we go through periods where the work piles up and it seems like it might never end.

You might have such a heavy workload that it feels too intimidating to even start.

You may have said yes to some or too many projects, and now you’re afraid you won’t be able to deliver.

That’s when you need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and start looking at what’s working and what’s not working.

Here’re 13 strategies you can use to get out from under your overwhelming workload:

1. Acknowledge You Can’t Do It All

Many of us have a tendency to think we can do more than we actually can. We take on more and more projects and responsibility and wear numerous hats.

We all have the opportunity to have and take on more work than we can reasonably expect to get done. Unfortunately, our workload is not static. Even now, while you are reading this article, I’m guessing that your inbox is filling up with fresh new tasks.

To make real, effective progress, you have to have both the courage and resourcefulness to say, “This is not working”. Acknowledge that you can’t do it all and look for better solutions.

At any given time in your life, there are likely many things that aren’t going according to plan. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself and those around you about what’s not working for you, both personally and professionally.

The more you exercise your ability to tell the truth about what’s working and what’s not working, the faster you’ll make progress.

2. Focus on Your Unique Strengths

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a leader or working as part of a team, every individual has unique strengths they can bring to the table.

The challenge is that many people end up doing things that they’re simply not very good at.

In the pursuit of reaching your goals or delivering a project, people end up doing everything themselves or taking on things that don’t play to their unique strengths. This can result in frustration, overwhelm and overwork.

It can mean projects taking a lot longer to complete because of knowledge gaps, or simply not utilizing the unique strengths of other people you work with.

It is often not about how to complete this project more effectively but who can help deliver this project.

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So, what are your unique strengths that will ensure your workload is delivered more effectively? Here’re some questions to help you reflect:

  • Are you a great strategist?
  • Are you an effective planner?
  • Is Project Management your strength?
  • Is communication and bringing people together your strength?
  • Are you the ideas person?
  • Is Implementation your strength?

Think about how you can bring the biggest value to your work and the projects you undertake.

3. Use the Strengths of Your Team

One of the simplest ways to manage your workload effectively is to free up your time so you bring your highest level of energy, focus and strengths to each project.

Delegation or better teamwork is the solution.

Everyone has unique strengths. It’s essential to think teamwork rather than working in isolation to ensure projects can be completed effectively. Besides, every time you give away a task or project that doesn’t play to your unique strengths, you open up an opportunity to do something you’re more talented at. This will empower both yourself and those around you.

Rather than taking on all the responsibilities yourself, look at who you can work with to deliver the best results possible.

4. Take Time for Planning

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. – Abraham Lincoln

One hour of effective planning could save hours of time. Rather than just rushing in and getting started on projects, take the time to map everything in.

You can take the time to think about:

  • What’s the purpose of the project?
  • How Important is it?
  • When does it need to be delivered by?
  • What is the best result and worst result for this project?
  • What are the KPIs?
  • What does the project plan and key milestones look like?
  • Who is working on this project?
  • What is everyone’s responsibilities?
  • What tolerances can I add in?
  • What are the review stages?
  • What are the challenges we may face and the solutions for these challenges?

Having absolute clarity on the project, the project deliverables and the result you want can save a lot of time. It also gets you clear on the priorities and timelines, so you can block out the required amount of time to focus and concentrate.

5. Focus on Priorities

Not everything is a priority, although it can often feel, in the moment, that it is.

Whatever you’re working on, there is always the Most Urgent, Important or Most Valuable projects or tasks.

One tool you can use to maximize your productivity and focus on your biggest priorities is to use the Eisenhower Matrix. This strategic tool for taking action on the things that matter most is simple. You separate your actions based on four possibilities:

  1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
  2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
  3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
  4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

James Clear has a great description on how to use the Eisenhower Matrix: How to be More Productive By Using the Eisenhower Box

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    The method I use with my coaching clients is to ask them to lay out their Top Five priorities for the day. Then to start with the most important priority first. At the end of the day, you review performance against these priorities.

    If you didn’t get everything accomplished, start the next day with your number one priority.

    If you are given additional task/projects during the day, then you will need to gauge their importance V the other priorities.

    6. Take Time Out

    To stay on top of a heavy workload, it’s important to take time out to rest and recuperate.

    If your energy levels are high and your mind and body is refreshed and alert, you are in more of a peak state to handle a heavy workload.

    Take time out of your day to go for a walk or get some exercise in. Leave early when possible and spend time with people who give you a lot of energy.

    In the background, it’s essential to get a good night’s sleep and eat healthily to sharpen the mind.

    Take a look at this article learn about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

    7. Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

    Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be tough. The balance we all crave is very different from one another.

    I’ve written before about 13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life. Working longer and harder doesn’t mean achieving more, especially if you have no time to spend with the people that matter most. The quality of who you are as a person, the relationships you have, the time you spend in work, deciding on what matters most is completely within your control.

    Work-life balance is about finding peace within yourself to be fully present, wherever you are, whether that be in the office or at home, right now. It’s about choosing what matters most and creating your own balanced life.

    If you feel there is not enough balance, then it may be time to make a change.

    8. Stop Multitasking

    Multi-tasking is a myth. Your brain simply can’t work effectively by doing more than one thing at a time—at least more than one thing that requires focused attention.

    So get your list of priorities (see earlier point), do the most important thing first, then move to the next item and work down your list.

    When you split your focus over a multitude of different areas, you can’t consistently deliver a high performance. You won’t be fully present on the one task or project at hand.

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    If you allocate blocked time and create firm boundaries for specific activities and commitments, you won’t feel so overwhelmed or overworked with everything you have to do.

    9. Work in Blocks of Time

    To keep your energy up to produce your best results it’s essential to take regular breaks.

    I use the 60-60-30 method myself and teach it to my coaching clients.

    Work on a project for a sustained period of 50 minutes.

    Then take a 10-minute break. This could be taking a walk, having a healthy snack or just having a conversation with someone.

    Then continue to work on the project for a further 50 minutes.

    Then take another 10-minute break.

    Then take a complete 30-minute break to unplug from the work. This could be time for a proper lunch, a quick bit of exercise, reading or having a walk.

    By simply taking some time out, your energy levels stay up, the quality of your work improves and you reduce the risk of becoming burned out.

    10. Get Rid of Distractions

    Make an estimation on how many times you are distracted during an average working day. Now take that number and multiply it by 25. According to Gloria Mark in her study on The Cost of Interrupted Work, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after interruption.[1]

    “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity.”

    Distractions don’t just take up your time during the distraction, they can derail your mental progress and focus for almost 25 minutes. So, if you are distracted 5 times per day, you could be losing almost 2 hours every day of productive work and almost 10 hours every week.

    If you have an important project to work on, find a space where you won’t be distracted, or try doing this.

    11. Commit Focused Time to Smaller Tasks

    You know sometimes, you need to simply tackle these tasks and take action on them. But there’s always something more pressing.

    Small tasks can often get in the way of your most important projects. They sit there on your daily To Do list but are often forgotten about because of more important priorities or because they hold no interest for you. But they take up mental energy. They clutter your mind.

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    Commit to spending a specific period of time completing all the small tasks you have on your To Do list. It will give you peace of mind and the space to focus more on your bigger priorities.

    12. Take a Time Audit

    Do you know exactly where your time is going each day? Are you spending too long on certain projects and tasks to the detriment of bigger opportunities?

    Spend a bit of time to analyze where you are spending your time. This insight will amaze you and give you the clarity to start adjusting where you focus your time and on what projects.

    You can start by taking a piece of paper and creating three columns:

    Column A is Priority Work. Column B is Good Work. Column C is low value work or stuff.

    Each day, write down the project or task and the time spent on each. Allocate that time to one of the columns.

    At the end of the week, record the total time spent in each column.

    If you are spending far too much time on certain types of work, look to change things so your focused time is in Column B and C.

    13. Protect Your Confidence

    It is essential to protect our confidence to ensure we don’t get overwhelmed, stressed and lose belief.

    When you have confidence as a daily resource, you are in a better position to problem solve, learn quicker, respond to anything, adjust to anything, and achieve your biggest opportunities.

    Confidence gives you the ability to transform fear into focused and relaxed thinking, communication, and action. This is key to put your mind into a productive state.

    When confidence is high, you can clearly see the possibilities at hand and create strategies to take advantage of them, or to solve the challenges you face each day.

    Final Words

    A heavy workload can be tough to deal with and can cause stress, burnout and ongoing frustration.

    The key is to tackle it head on, rather than let it go on and compound the long-term effects. Hopefully, you can take action on at least one of these tips.

    If it gets too much, and negatively affects your physical and mental health, it may be time to talk to someone. Instead of dealing with it alone and staying unhappier, resentful and getting to a point where you simply can’t cope, you have to make a change for your own sanity.

    Featured photo credit: Hannah Wei via unsplash.com

    Reference

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