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Last Updated on May 2, 2019

6 Simple Habits at Work That Will Instantly Boost Your Productivity

6 Simple Habits at Work That Will Instantly Boost Your Productivity

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. What you need is to build some simple habits at work.

The following 6 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:

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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.[1]

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.

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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.

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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:

12 Secrets To a Super Productive Meeting You Should Know

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6. Get Sufficient Sleep

Last but not least, sleep! This sounds cliche but really 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.[2] 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.

More Articles About Productivity at Work

Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

Reference

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Adam Bergen

Adam Bergen is the founder of Monday Views, a movement dedicated to showing that with focus and self-discipline, your potential is limitless.

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

What to Do in Free Time? 20 Productive Ways to Use the Time

What to Do in Free Time? 20 Productive Ways to Use the Time

If you’ve got a big block of free time, the best way to put that to use is to relax, have fun, decompress from a stressful day, or spend time with a loved one. But if you’ve just got a little chunk — say 5 or 10 minutes — there’s no time to do any of the fun stuff.

So, what to do in free time?

Put those little chunks of time to their most productive use.

Everyone works differently, so the best use of your free time really depends on you, your working style, and what’s on your to-do list. But it’s handy to have a list like this in order to quickly find a way to put that little spare time to work instantly, without any thought. Use the following list as a way to spark ideas for what you can do in a short amount of time.

1. Reading Files

Clip magazine articles or print out good articles or reports for reading later, and keep them in a folder marked “Reading File”. Take this wherever you go, and any time you have a little chunk of time, you can knock off items in your Reading File.

Keep a reading file on your computer (or in your bookmarks), for quick reading while at your desk (or on the road if you’ve got a laptop).

2. Clear out Inbox

Got a meeting in 5 minutes? Use it to get your physical or email inbox to empty.

If you’ve got a lot in your inbox, you’ll have to work quickly, and you may not get everything done; but reducing your pile can be a big help. And having an empty inbox is a wonderful feeling.

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3. Phone Calls

Keep a list of phone calls you need to make, with phone numbers, and carry it everywhere.

Whether you’re at your desk or on the road, you can knock a few calls off your list in a short amount of time.

4. Make Money

This is my favorite productive use of free time. I have a list of articles I need to write, and when I get some spare minutes, I’ll knock off half an article real quick.

If you get 5 to 10 chunks of free time a day, you can make a decent side income. Figure out how you can freelance your skills, and have work lined up that you can knock out quickly — break it up into little chunks, so those chunks can be done in short bursts.

5. File

No one likes to do this. If you’re on top of your game, you’re filing stuff immediately, so it doesn’t pile up.

But if you’ve just come off a really busy spurt, you may have a bunch of documents or files laying around.

Or maybe you have a big stack of stuff to file. Cut into that stack with every little bit of spare time you get, and soon you’ll be in filing Nirvana.

6. Network

Only have 2 minutes? Shoot off a quick email to a colleague. Even just a “touching bases” or follow-up email can do wonders for your working relationship. Or shoot off a quick question, and put it on your follow-up list for later.

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7. Clear out Feeds

If my email inbox is empty, and I have some spare time, I like to go to my Google Reader and clear out my feed inbox.

8. Goal Time

Take 10 minutes to think about your goals — personal and professional.

If you don’t have a list of goals, start on one. If you’ve got a list of goals, review them.

Write down a list of action steps you can take over the next couple of weeks to make these goals a reality. What action step can you do today? The more you focus on these goals, and review them, the more likely they will come true.

9. Update Finances

Many people fall behind with their finances, either in paying bills (they don’t have time), or entering transactions in their financial software, or clearing their checkbook, or reviewing their budget.

Take a few minutes to update these things. It just takes 10 to 15 minutes every now and then.

10. Brainstorm Ideas

Another favorite of mine if I just have 5 minutes — I’ll break out my pocket notebook, and start a brainstorming list for a project or article. Whatever you’ve got coming up in your work or personal life, it can benefit from a brainstorm. And that doesn’t take long.

11. Clear off Desk

Similar to the filing tip above, but this applies to whatever junk you’ve got cluttering up your desk. Or on the floor around your desk.

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Trash stuff, file stuff, put it in its place. A clear desk makes for a more productive you. And it’s oddly satisfying.

12. Exercise

Never have time to exercise? 10 minutes is enough to get off some pushups and crunches. Do that 2 to 3 times a day, and you’ve got a fit new you.

13. Take a Walk

This is another form of exercise that doesn’t take long, and you can do it anywhere. Even more important, it’s a good way to stretch your legs from sitting at your desk too long.

It also gets your creative juices flowing. If you’re ever stuck for ideas, taking a walk is a good way to get unstuck.

14. Follow up

Keep a follow-up list for everything you’re waiting on. Return calls, emails, memos — anything that someone owes you, put on the list.

When you’ve got a spare 10 minutes, do some follow-up calls or emails.

15. Meditate

You don’t need a yoga mat to do this. Just do it at your desk. Focus on your breathing. A quick 5 to 10 minutes of meditation (or even a nap) can be tremendously refreshing.

Take a look at this 5-Minute Guide to Meditation: Anywhere, Anytime

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16. Research

This is a daunting task for me. So I do it in little spurts.

If I’ve only got a few minutes, I’ll do some quick research and take some notes. Do this a few times, and I’m done!

17. Outline

Similar to brainstorming, but more formal. I like to do an outline of a complicated article, report or project, and it helps speed things along when I get to the actual writing. And it only takes a few minutes.

18. Get Prepped

Outlining is one way to prep for longer work, but there’s a lot of other ways you can prep for the next task on your list.

You may not have time to actually start on the task right now, but when you come back from your meeting or lunch, you’ll be all prepped and ready to go.

19. Be Early

Got some spare time before a meeting? Show up for the meeting early.

Sure, you might feel like a chump sitting there alone, but actually people respect those who show up early. It’s better than being late (unless you’re trying to play a power trip or something, but that’s not appreciated in many circles).

20. Log

If you keep a log of anything, a few spare minutes is the perfect time to update the log.

Actually, the perfect time to update the log is right after you do the activity (exercise, eat, crank a widget), but if you didn’t have time to do it before, your 5-minute break is as good a time as any.

More Inspirations on What To Do During Free Time

Featured photo credit: Lauren Mancke via unsplash.com

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