Work smarter, not longer
Being continuously productive in the workplace is a challenge. We have meetings that run on, can get bombarded by emails or distracted by colleagues, which can all take up time in the day. However, with a few minor adjustments around intelligent planning and focused effort, we can get to the end of the day and feel better about what we’ve accomplished. Here’s our top 10 productivity tips that will help you say goodbye to extra hours and hello to smarter working.
1. Track your time
Most of us aren’t great at time management. Just underestimating how long one thing takes can put the rest of your day in disarray. Which is why time management programs like Rescue Time can be so useful. It gets to know your daily habits then gives you tools and suggests ways you can be more productive. It includes social media, emails, word processing and app use – so there’s no excuse.
2. Take regular breaks
Having a short scheduled break during a long task can aid concentration. That doesn’t mean lingering with the gossips by the water cooler. But giving yourself a quick tea break can mean you’re instantly refreshed when you’ve a lot to get through. And if you can manage to take a bit longer, then scheduling an exercise break can help clear your head, get your blood pumping and refocus your mind, even more.
3. Don’t multitask
According to psychologists at the American Psychological Association, trying to do several tasks at a time actually decreases productivity and slows us down. Much as we’d like to be, we’re not designed for heavy duty multitasking. Instead, try to commit to a single task before moving on.
4. Set deadlines for yourself
A certain amount of stress isn’t a bad thing. Giving yourself self-imposed deadlines can actually help give us focus and achieve our goals. As long as you stick to them. For small windows of time try the two-minute rule. Anything that can be done in two minutes or less, do it now. It actually takes less time, than having to do it later. Plus, you’ll feel great that you achieved another deadline – even a small one.
5. Opt out of meetings
Time is your most important currency and meetings consume it like nothing else. Middle managers spend about 35% of their time in them; upper managers 50%. Yet before you agree to your next one, ask yourself whether you could accomplish the same goal via email, phone or Skype. And if you must have one, why not have it standing up? Evidence suggests this is a great way to increase focus and productivity.
6. Avoid being reactive
Answering phone calls and emails as they happen, will turn you into the office equivalent of a fire-fighter but it won’t get other work done. Instead, set aside a specific amount of time each day to respond to emails. Have that as your plan as you start your day but don’t go over it. You’ll be more proactive and less reactive.
7. Work in 90-minute slots
Studies by scientists at Florida State University found that high performing athletes, and musicians, who worked in intervals of no more than 90 minutes were more productive than those who worked longer. And even better, the top performing subjects worked no longer than 4.5 hours a day. What a result!
8. Dump the distractions
We’ve all let our mind and mouse wander over to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram, Pintrest… the options go on. Yet, if you want to be really productive, it’s best to limit your use – or self-ban them altogether.
9. Create a to-do list
It’s not a new tip but it is effective. To-do lists give you a sense of satisfaction as you cross each item off. You can check them on the go. Large tasks can be broken up into multiple, manageable smaller ones. And it gives you real focus. It’s a great visualisation tool, too. Try Google Tasks which syncs with your calendar, app and gmail.
10. Minimise disruptions
When your colleague pops by to say hello, it can be great. But it can really mess with your focus and flow. Constant interruptions are one of the biggest problems to being productive. Maybe the only way is to close your door (if you have one), work from home on important projects and keep chats friendly yet brief. It’s about working smarter not harder after all.