There are so many hours in a day but more and more tasks to fulfill. The only solution to get things done without stressing out, spending countless nights sleepless or damaging your health is productivity.
Yes, you’re busy. I’m busy. We’re busy all the time. There’s always something to do and there’s rarely a day when one doesn’t receive a new assignment or project.
Technology facilitates our life a lot but it also makes it possible to:
- Be constantly available
- Join teams off-site
- Work anywhere
- Take more responsibilities
Every day, we’re bombarded with new tools and data to process. But how can we stay productive in the middle of this information overload? Or even better: How can we become even more productive with so much going on?
Here are eight ways you can become more productive at work today.
Ways to be More Productive at Work
1. Don’t Start Your Day With Your Emails
In times when so many of us use our smartphones as alarm clocks, it’s hard to resist the temptation to check emails even before leaving bed. At work, if you place your emails as your number one priority, you’ll see your productive time running through your fingers.
Have in mind that, for urgent matters, people will call to make a request. If they just drop you a message, it isn’t their priority and it shouldn’t be yours either. Instead doing your emails first thing in the morning, set two or three fixed hours throughout the day to go through your inbox.
2. Define Your Priorities for the Day
Since your emails shouldn’t be your main priority anymore, it’s time to define which tasks deserve your focus first. When planning your day, ask yourself questions like:
- What are my due dates for today?
- What tasks or projects require my immediate attention?
- Do I need to collect data for an upcoming meeting?
- How much time do I need to complete these assignments?
Assess the value of the items on your list. Prioritize the ones you can’t delegate and that need your immediate attention. Schedule all the rest accordingly.
3. Take Regular Breaks
Spending countless hours staring at your screen waiting for a great idea isn’t exactly productive work. On the contrary, studies demonstrate that short breaks can improve the ability to focus on a task for longer periods (1). Those minutes spent at the coffee machine can become a much deserved, and needed, mental break that will boost your productivity in the long run.
The next time you feel like you’re forcing yourself too much, get up, stretch your back and move your legs a bit. It’ll work wonders for your body and your brain.
4. Think Twice Before Multitasking
The brain can only process one string of information at a time (2). So if you think you’re working on different things at once, you just aren’t. In addition, some studies point out that multitasking can cause declination of IQ scores as well as brain damage.
Instead of working on two or more tasks together, dedicate part of the time to one and then to the other. You’ll probably be able to finish them faster and you’ll surely be less stressed and more productive.
5. Avoid Unnecessary Meetings
Just like emails, there seem to be more meetings than time to do the work. Even worse is when these meetings are unnecessary and could be easily substituted by a checklist or by a five-minute team call.
Keep meetings short and reinforce minutes with clear action points and deadlines. When everyone knows what is expected from them, there’s no room for endless discussions about the obvious.
Setting a hard stop rule in the beginning also reinforces a focused approach.
6. Eliminate Distractions
Distractions are similar to multitasking. They take your focus away from the things that matter. Some easy ways to cut them down are by:
- Closing programs you aren’t using.
- Turning off notifications (email and phone).
- Removing clutter from your desk and computer.
If you work in a noisy environment, noise reduction headphones may also be handy. Get rid of anything that may drain your attention and energy.
7. Eat Mindfully
Meals play a key role in regulating energy levels. It can be tempting to grab something from the vending machine but your productivity will pay a high price for that. Make sure you have small meals throughout the day. Avoid simple carbs and opt for a protein-rich lunch with vegetables. Have fruit at hand for the breaks.
8. Learn How to Say No
It’s not because people can reach you outside office hours that you should work 24 hours a day. Everyone has their own priorities but they aren’t necessarily yours. While assisting a colleague is part of your responsibilities, finalizing an urgent project for your manager comes first.
Be in control of your time by managing other’s expectations. Assuming more tasks than you can handle isn’t good for your productivity or your career.
Putting It All Together
Productivity is about working smarter, not harder. It’s about efficiency. The goal is to get as much done within a certain timeframe without exhausting oneself or feeling stressed. Get more done today with these eight tips.
- “Brief and rare mental ‘breaks’ keep you focused: Deactivation and reactivation of task goals preempt vigilance decrements.” Atsunori Ariga, Alejandro Lleras. 2011.
- “Media multitasks pay mental price, Stanford study shows.” Adam Gorlick. 2009.