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5 Ways to Be More Productive in the Office

5 Ways to Be More Productive in the Office


    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.

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    The best thing you can do is throw all of these outdated rules out the window and replace them with one rule: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

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    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.

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    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.

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    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)

    More by this author

    Zoe B

    A strategist, coach and blogger who shows people how to stop what isn't working for them in life and to start to plan the life they really want.

    How to Increase Brain Power: 10 Simple Ways to Train Your Brain 6 Ways to Enhance Your Problem Solving Skills Effectively How to Stop Procrastination By Overcoming Boredom 12 Inspiring Quotes from Richard Branson that Enrich your Life 7 Irritating Thoughts That Throw You Off Track

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    Last Updated on March 29, 2021

    5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

    5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

    When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

    What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

    The Dream Type Of Manager

    My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

    I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

    My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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    “Okay…”

    That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

    I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

    The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

    The Bully

    My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

    However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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    The Invisible Boss

    This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

    It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

    The Micro Manager

    The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

    Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

    The Over Promoted Boss

    The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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    You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

    The Credit Stealer

    The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

    Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

    3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

    Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

    1. Keep evidence

    Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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    Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

    Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

    2. Hold regular meetings

    Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

    3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

    Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

    However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

    Good luck!

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