In today’s stressful work environments, we are faced with the challenge of producing more work in the same amount of time. The positive news is that there are ways to improve your productivity by simply changing some habits and thought patterns.
Below are 10 effective strategies to help boost your efficiency:
1. Set goals and recognize your accomplishments
It’s important to remind yourself why you go to work every day and the goals you hope to accomplish.
As intelligent and creative beings, we naturally crave interesting and purposeful activities to progress through life and feel satisfied. Unfortunately, one of the most significant parts of our lives, work, can become tedious and boring. Sometimes just the establishment of a daily routine can make us feel less engaged and tired of our jobs.
It’s this sharp contrast between our desires and reality that can lead to less motivation and less productivity. People have a difficult time seeing the purpose and results of their efforts.
Set goals. Stay motivated.
One way to combat the lack of motivation is to set goals. These can be broken down into short-term and long-term aspirations. For example, some questions to ask yourself each day:
What are my career objectives for today? for this week? month? year? longer?
How do these connect with the goals for my personal life?
You have to identify your goals to figure out what you want to accomplish and how to get there. These goals will provide you with the focus and motivation needed to keep going and achieve success.
Recognize your success
Review your goals regularly and also keep track of your achievements.
You’ll notice that you’ve accomplished a great deal in your career and there is nothing wrong with acknowledging your success.
It’s easy to focus only on the future but you should also step back and observe how far you’ve already progressed in your career.
Keep your ambitions at the forefront of your mind each day. Acknowledge your accomplishments each day.
This is what will ultimately fuel and drive your success.
2. Centralize all to-do lists and monitor your progress
If you have a million post-it notes and random to-do lists spread around your desk, then it’s time to change this habit and keep track of all tasks in one place.
Create a centralized to-do list and use an app, program or simply write them down in a notepad. Break out the to-do lists in several sections and in any way that helps you to manage the items.
This way, you won’t find yourself scrambling for loose pieces of paper that accidentally get lost or thrown away.
Make sure to include expectations for yourself, including deadlines and the amount of time required for each item. For large projects, it’s essential to create a game plan with detailed items for each step.
If you’d like to learn more about some great task-management and productivity apps, you can visit this post here.
It’s all about results and accountability
Keep the list current and up-to-date. And most importantly, review your progress at the beginning and end of each day.
It’s difficult to hold yourself accountable when there are more entertaining things to do than work. But do not let yourself off the hook for not meeting your to-do list objectives for the day.
Consider establishing a simple reward structure for yourself. As an example:
- “If I complete these specific tasks then I will receive a reward”.
- “But if I don’t finish these then I do not receive any rewards and will be stuck at work.”
The rewards can be small and simple such as leaving on time, meeting friends and family for dinner, watching your favorite show, etc.
Use any type of system that works for you to keep you on track.
3. Prioritize correctly: Important projects come first
It’s easy to spend the entire day doing lots of small, quick deeds, while the larger projects continue to be put off and never started.
But what does this pattern actually accomplish? Aside from brief feelings of satisfaction with quick busy work, this usually results in all-night marathon sessions to complete large projects right before the deadline.
These projects then don’t receive the level of attention and focus that they deserve, and hence the quality suffers.
Waiting for the perfect time
There is never a good time to start a large, time-intensive endeavor. So just start right away. And always prioritize your tasks based on the level of importance.
Focus on those big dreadful activities first. If the amount of effort seems overwhelming, then create a plan and break the project into smaller pieces. Target a small piece every day until you finish the entire thing.
Important Projects = Success
It’s also crucial to keep in mind that these significant projects ultimately determine your success. By continuing this pattern, you are sabotaging your chances of progressing with your career.
No one will notice (or remember) if a small task does not get finished, but everyone will notice if a business-critical assignment was not prepared with the highest level of quality.
These are the items that you will hear about during your performance review and will affect your chances of promotions.
4. Block out distractions
The work day is meant for productive work. So focus only on work-related items and block out distractions as much as possible.
You can easily lose track of time checking e-mails and visiting internet and social media sites throughout the day. In the end, these are all time-wasters and the time could be spent on your actual tasks.
Here are a few actions that can help you control these distractions:
Check e-mail only at certain periods during the day
There is one thing certain in life (along with death and taxes): work e-mails are never-ending. But the e-mails don’t have to control your life, you can take charge instead.
Set aside specific times during the day to read and respond to e-mails. For example, 3 times a day: first thing in the morning, at lunch and end of day.
Prioritize and respond to urgent e-mails first and leave the others until you have gotten through your high-priority deeds for the day.
Block social media sites
People have become obsessed with constantly checking social media sites and staying up-to-date on all current posts/tweets/pins. So it’s no surprise that these are the biggest time wasters for employees.
A quick break to a site turns into an hour of reading posts and looking at pictures. Before you know it, you’ve not just lost an hour of your work time but also your thought patterns and ideas for the job at hand.
If you can’t trust yourself to avoid social media sites, then you can use apps to block these sites from loading on your computer. Just search online which apps are most appropriate for your web browser. Two great apps are StayFocusd (Chrome) on PCs; and SelfControl for Mac.
It takes some time, but the addictive behavior to social media sites can be unlearned. The saying “out of sight, out of mind” will hold true in this case.
Turn off your phone/tablet
Now that you’ve blocked the social media sites from your computer, it’s essential to also avoid any temptations from your phone and tablet. Simply turn these off during the day or put them in your desk drawer.
Check the devices only on breaks or at lunch. This will also help you to avoid texting, playing games and using other non-work related apps during the day.
5. Multi-tasking is inefficient. Concentrate on one thing at a time.
Most people have the perception that doing many things at once is the most efficient use of their time. In fact, research studies have shown that multi-tasking is less productive than concentrating on one task at a time.
When your attention span is shared across many items, then you don’t actually focus on any of the items very well.
Focus your energy on one item at a time. You will be able to finish more activities properly and in less time.
It’s impossible to be the master of 10 things all at once, but it is possible to master one thing at a time.
6. Organize everything
Organizing your work environment is crucial to attaining your productivity goals. This leads to an organized mind and you’ll feel more confident and in-control.
You’ll be able to find all of the information you need very quickly and saves you a lot of time and unnecessary stress.
Here are some tips to get organized:
- The papers on your desk should be filed in folders and in a logical way (for example, by project). Keep only the files that you are currently using on your desk. Move all other files to cabinets or to your office’s central files system.
- Maintain a good electronic filing system to organize your electronic files.
- Label all files in a clear descriptive way and keep track of current and older versions of files so that this does not create any confusion for you and your team members.
- Set up folders and sub-folders to manage all items in a smart, easy-to-find way.
- Follow the same practices to organize your e-mails from your inbox and move these to folders by specific topics.
7. Be protective of your time. Keep meetings and social interactions to a minimum.
Which one of these pictures describes your office meetings best?
——————– OR ————————
If the first one looks all too familiar, then try to avoid meetings as much as possible. They don’t typically have a positive effect on your work and your time can be used better elsewhere, such as completing your important projects.
If you must attend a meeting, then try to keep the focus on the relevant topics and that it ends at the scheduled time. Meetings tend to run for hours if left unchecked and can really cut into your productive time. Especially when you sum up the time you could have saved by not attending meetings over the entire week or month.
Imagine all of the work you could have finished with this time instead.
Avoid complaints and gossip
Also try to minimize social interactions with your colleagues during work hours. Friendly chatting is fine but you don’t want to become the sounding board for all of the complaints and gossip.
If you happen to get stuck in one of these discussions, just excuse yourself nicely and say “I’m so sorry, I have a deadline and really need to get back.” The gossiper or complainer will then forget about you and just move on to their next target.
8. Delegate and look for process improvements
Try to delegate as much of your non-critical work as possible. For instance, the simple, tedious, repetitive type of activities that someone else can easily pick up and learn.
This will free up your time to focus on the complex work that requires your talents and full concentration.
Don’t be afraid to raise ideas for process efficiencies with your boss or team members. If you find ways to complete certain tasks smarter and faster, then mention these improvements to your co-workers.
Everyone is ultimately in the same boat as you and would like to find more time-saving and efficient ways to complete tasks.
They will even thank you for it!
9. Take breaks. And remember to eat healthy and exercise.
Working non-stop for many hours at a time can cause you to lose focus and become less efficient. Take regular breaks to rejuvenate your mind and you’ll be more productive each day.
If possible, take a quick walk. Exercise is both a mood and mental booster. Or grab a coffee or healthy snack and have a quick friendly chat with a colleague.
Remember to avoid unhealthy, fatty foods as they can leave you feeling tired and sluggish.
10. Don’t burn yourself out
Working into the late hours of the night can be a waste of time and a waste of your mental abilities.
Don’t spin your wheels and over-analyze.
The more time you spend can actually diminish your focus and inhibit your ability to complete the tasks. You will feel exhausted and drained of your creative powers.
Go home at a decent time, get some rest, and the next day you’ll be able to produce even more, and with higher quality. Overnight your mind will also have a chance to stew over everything you’ve accomplished thus far and spur creativity for the next day.
What tips work best for you?
If you have any feedback, tips or suggestions for improving productivity, then we would love to hear them! Please leave a comment below.