The smell of coffee hits your olfactory senses, the steam rising from your cup to add a nice touch.
Ah, the start of every weekday morning. Your freshly ground beans soaked in boiling water firmly in hand, you trot to your desk ready to attack the day with some vigor. After all, your mind is clear of all drama and distraction. At least temporarily.
But as soon as you nestle in your chair and get ready to hit the ground running, the distractions come flying at you full force. Your focus, to say the least, begins its rapidly declining state. That fresh cup of coffee tries its hardest to keep you in check, and it might for maybe an hour. But it’s a losing battle; a battle we seem to forfeit on an almost daily basis.
There are ways to help combat such terrible odds though, and the good news is you’re in complete control of them. The better news is they don’t require extra cups of coffee.
The following six suggestions are easy ways to modify your work habits to instantly boost your productivity.
1. Get to work earlier
By this point, you’re probably yelling at me. Hey, I didn’t say this stuff would be easy, just that it’ll be worth it.
It’s been scientifically proven that a lot of people get their best work done in the early morning. Your mind is clear of most distractions, and you’re able to apply yourself to the task at hand.
Getting to work early serves two purposes:
One, it allows you to take advantage of the fact we’re capable of focusing on the hardest things up front in the mornings. And two, it allows you to beat the rush of your colleagues coming in and contributing to your lack of focus.
Think about it like this:
At 7 AM, no one’s really in the office yet. This means no one is going to stop by your desk to chat about how your weekend was or how your kids are doing, since your colleagues aren’t there yet. It also means no one is going to bug you via email or whatever internal chat client you use for the same reason — they aren’t there yet.
Fewer people around and fewer emails, which are two of the biggest time drainers taken care of.
In comparison, if you get to work at 9 AM, most people are probably there by then, or right behind you. You really don’t have a chance to be “alone”, so to speak.
2. Put your phone face down or in airplane mode
If you sit at your desk and your phone lights up, your eyes dart right to it. Once they do that, forget trying to check it later — you need to check it now. Because, after all, we love that small dopamine hit we get when a new notification comes through.
At the office, you don’t have the luxury of throwing your phone across the room or leaving it somewhere else. So your options become two-fold. Either put it face down and stop the habit of constantly checking. Or, put it in airplane mode. Ideally, keep it face down as well.
If this were your house or if you’d have important clients calling you, I’d tell you to put your phone in another room while you focus on working.
I know this sounds incredibly simple, but you’d be surprised how easy and effective this trick can be when trying to focus.
3. Don’t check emails immediately
When you first sit down, you’ve probably collected quite a few emails overnight. But try to hold off on firing away with your responses.
Checking emails first in the morning isn’t good for you. Here’s why.
Remember, you do your best work in the early mornings most of the time. Don’t waste it checking emails and crafting responses that don’t require much brainpower.
When you feel the lull of the afternoon or need a little break, use the time to deal with emails.
Getting better at focus is like a game of trying to understand when you’re the most efficient and then “trapping” that state and using it to your advantage. It’s a skill which takes time to master. We can be incredibly inefficient due to the simple fact we don’t utilize our time properly.
4. Bring headphones
Having a pair of headphones serves you two-fold.
One, you’re able to use the time to listen to audiobooks or listen to some music if your surroundings become too distracting. Music has proven itself to get us into the right mood on the right occasion, depending on what we listen to. We can also get ahead with our reading and feed ourselves knowledge by listening to audiobooks.
The second way could be even better — coworkers will leave you alone. We all know those people in the office who love to walk around and just waste a lot of your time with small talk. Look, we get it — your kids and wife are doing great and you’re also miserable since you can’t seem to sit down and focus on your own work, so you come to me in the hopes I’ll get sucked into the depths of your small-talk black hole.
Your only chance of survival? Don those headphones. You’ll deal with less small talk since you look like you’re in the zone. And no one wants to interrupt someone in the zone.
5. Schedule meetings for the afternoon
For the exact same reason not to check your emails in the morning, try to schedule most meetings for the afternoon.
Corporate environments are known for their plethora of meetings anyway, so instead of spacing them out throughout the day, put them off until you absolutely need them.
If the meeting involves strategy and creativity (in other words requires some actual serious brainpower), it’s not a bad idea to have it in the mornings. And some meetings are inevitable to have in the morning, namely because it isn’t your choice.
But for a general rule of thumbs, put them off until later in the day when you don’t need to worry about your focus as much.
And in case you want your meetings to be effective, here’s how:
6. Get more sleep (before work)
Last but not least, sleep! This is the biggest one and also the one which will give you the best return on your investment.
Lately, I’ve noticed a trend on social media. One which says in order to be successful, you must give up sleep. Because apparently, without my knowledge, you can only become the best version of yourself and obtain the riches you so desire if you sacrifice serious shut eye.
As if the secret key to success we’ve all been missing has been to stay up later than our colleagues and fellow compatriots. Ah, if only it was that easy. Mainly because we already sacrifice a lot of sleep.
If you can manage to get a bit more shut-eye on a fairly consistent basis, the payoff is worth it. I’ve seen it first hand myself. Your need for caffeine decreases, your alertness and focus increases, and your desire to be productive jumps ten-fold.
In fact, research suggests that in a typical 8-hour workday, we’re only productive for 2 hours and 53 minutes of that time. A large part of that is our consistently tired state of affairs. Want to instantly boost your productivity? Make it a habit to get to bed earlier.
I understand it’s not easy. It requires putting your phone away earlier the night before, drinking less caffeine leading up to the evening, and potentially getting more exercise in so you can feel tired earlier. But getting the right amount of sleep is your single biggest weapon against a lack of focus.
As they say, the best things in life aren’t free. While monetarily this may be free, figuratively it’s far from it.
The bottom line
With a few good habits, you can improve your productivity at work without having to rely on eight cups of coffee a day. Some may require a bit more willpower and discipline to implement, but they’re all great ways to get more work done.
What will you do to help improve your productivity?
Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com
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