Everyone struggles with productivity at one point or another. When this happens, it feels like a challenge to complete even the simplest of tasks. Luckily, there are things you can do to get back on track. In this article, we’ll look at how you can be more productive at work.
To keep things clear, we’ve organised these tips into three categories:
- Plan your workday.
- Work better.
- Optimise your mind for work.
By implementing some of these tactics, you’ll soon be back to your most productive best. Let’s get started.
How to be More Productive at Work
Step One: Plan Your Workday
Planning is the first step toward a productive day. Taking a short amount of time before getting started ensures you go into your day fully prepared and knowing exactly what you have to do.
Here are three tactics you can use to ensure you attack the day with a proper plan.
Set Goals at the Beginning of the Day
Setting goals at the beginning of the day (or the night before) is a common productivity recommendation, for a good reason.
Going into the day, knowing what you have to do will focus your mind on completing these tasks. Additionally, preparing beforehand will make it less likely that you’ll forget to schedule an important task.
It’s worth mentioning that setting out your day doesn’t have to be a significant task.
Just look at your calendar and spend a moment gathering your thoughts and thinking about what you need to achieve. Then, to reduce the chance of forgetting something, write it down. This could be in a diary, post-it note, calendar, or a to-do-list app.
Do Important Tasks First
In “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” author Stephan Covey recommends prioritising the activities you find most valuable and spending minimal time on less important ones.
By focusing on these activities, for example, completing a project for a client rather than replying to non-essential emails, you’re more likely to achieve your goals.
To do this, you’ll have to go ahead and decide what is important. This is where the next step comes in.
Decide What is Important
As one of the most well-known and well-respected leaders of recent times, a man who introduced several era-defining products, it’s safe to say that Steve Jobs was productive.
One of his most famous quotes on the subject comes from his return to Apple in 1997 when he reportedly said:
“Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do. It’s true for companies, and it’s true for products.”
Focusing on specific products and rejecting non-essential ones was part of a strategy that saw the company go from a loss of $1.04 billion to a profit of $309 million in just one year.
Unfortunately, deciding which tasks are significant isn’t as easy as it sounds. John Kauffman recommends identifying Most Important Tasks. These are the activities that will create the results you are looking to achieve and, potentially, make a difference in your life.
Step Two: Work Better
The best plans only work if you act on them. Here are some strategies you can use to work in a better, more effective way.
Cultivate Deep Work
In his book “Deep Work: Rules for Success in a Distracted World” Cal Newport introduces his theory of Deep Work; the ability to focus deeply on demanding tasks.
It is during this state that, according to Newport, you produce your best, most valuable work. Those who master getting into a state of Deep Work can create higher quality output in less time. I.e., they become more productive.
If you struggle to stay focused on an activity for an extended period, don’t worry. Newport argues the ability to Deep Work is a skill that, like any other skill, you need to work on to get good at.
Those who want to do this can train themselves in several ways. For example, by limiting their access to distracting technology like social media, or only responding to emails during predefined windows of time.
Part of staying productive, especially if you work in a team, is having an effective way to communicate.
This is because communication can directly affect your team’s ability to perform at an optimal level. Effective communication ensures everyone’s ideas are being heard and reduces the chance of confusion about tasks resulting in wasted time.
To learn more about how to improve your team’s communication, check out our article here.
Utilise Technology in the Right Ways
The point above about Deep Work talks about the importance of minimising distractions brought by technology. However, technology can provide a productivity boost when used in the right way.
To-do-list apps and calendars can help you keep organised and focused on the tasks at hand. Additionally, using your phone to reply to emails and messages during a dead time, such as your commute, will free up time during the day to take care of more important tasks.
Step Three: Optimise Your Mind for Work
When trying to improve your productivity, it’s crucial that you feel ready to work. Here are some tips you can use to ensure you’re prepared to be productive.
Treat Your Body Right
There is a ton of evidence that suggests staying healthy can improve productivity. Productivityist points to studies that suggest exercise can both boost concentration, improve motivation, and work for longer without breaks.
What you eat also has a significant effect on how productive you are, something that will not be surprising to anyone who has experienced a post-lunch lull in energy levels.
Your nutrition affects everything from your energy levels post-meal, to how much sleep you get. All factors that can determine your productivity.
Optimise Your Working Day
Energy levels differ throughout the day. Many people feel at their best in the morning, before crashing after lunch and then getting another boost later in the day.
Being aware of and taking advantage of these natural energy patterns is an excellent way to improve your productivity. Think about completing tasks that require a lot of thought and effort during the times where you feel at your peak. You can perform other tasks, such as replying to emails, during the times you have lower energy levels.
Additionally, be aware of how breaks can affect your energy patterns. Research suggests that 90 minutes is the optimal amount of time humans can focus on a specific task. Next time you’ve been working for a long time, and you don’t want to continue, consider stopping for ten minutes.
Standing desks are becoming a common sight in offices worldwide. This is with good reason. A study by Texas A&M University found that they can significantly improve productivity.
The study looked at workers in a call centre and found that over six months, those using standing desks were more productive. In month one, they were 23% more productive. By the end of month six, this had increased to being 53% more productive.
Other studies have shown that standing desks increase engagement and cognitive performance in high school classrooms.
No matter how productive you become, there will still only be 24 hours in a day. Because of this, the best productivity tips ensure you are planning and prioritising the work you find most valuable, working optimally during your working hours, and keeping in the best possible state to work productively.