Does this sound familiar: You start your workday with the best of intentions, coffee in hand and a mental list of projects to tackle with super hero speed and attention to detail, all swirling amid thoughts of how good it will feel to accomplish your “to do” list by quitting time.
Fast-forward your 8-10 hour day, which has been riddled with interruptions, projects you didn’t anticipate and the feeling that, while you were busy all day, you didn’t accomplish nearly enough items on your list.
You, my friend, are a member of a rather large club. We’ve all been there. We all strive to be productive at work because we know time is precious, so it’s important to make the most of it.
Try these seven strategies to pump up your productivity:
Your “to do” list is important, but be sure to identify which tasks are “must dos” and focus on tackling them first. If some of the tasks are larger, then break them into multiple, smaller tasks.
Track your time
To be sure you are using your time well, it’s important to know how much time you are spending on specific tasks. If you tend to lose your focus on time-intensive projects, resolve to work on them for a set amount of time, then change to a new task. This will keep you from spinning your wheels and not making progress. Also, be aware that personal distractions are a major predator of productivity. Handle any personal “to dos” during your break or lunch hour.
Have an email plan
Build time into your daily schedule to check emails and messages. This will help you be proactive rather than reactive, which means you’ll have more control over what your day will look like, as opposed to spending your time putting out fires. And if you receive a lot of emails each day, be sure to keep your inbox organized.
Take regular breaks—and make them fun
It’s important to detach yourself from your work for small amounts of time throughout your day to maintain or boost your energy level. Remember: strive for productivity, but not at the expense of your health. Kids don’t sit at their desks for the entire school day—they get recess to run around and re-energize their brains, which actually helps improve concentration. Take a short walk to stretch your legs. Or if you’re in our neck of the woods, stop by and join us for a game of ping pong at our PONGference table.
Say no to meetings when you can
You heard me. Meetings seem to be the norm, because someone, somewhere made it that way. But meetings are notorious for sucking time out of a productive day. Before calling a meeting or attending one, ask yourself: What is the purpose? Could you accomplish the same work through email or by phone? Sometimes meetings are needed, and sometimes they are not.
We all do it—or at least try to—and it’s common to believe that multitasking fuels the productivity train. The truth is: trying to accomplish more than one task at a time can actually be more harmful than helpful. Studies have shown that people who try to do two or more activities at once end up becoming distracted, and it takes a toll on their quality of work. Focus on one task at a time, finish it, then move on to the next task. If you need more examples of how multitasking works against productivity, check out this article.
Beware of interruptions
To minimize in-office interruptions, keep your door closed while focusing on an important task, or try working from home on time-sensitive projects. If a co-worker wants to chat at an inopportune time, politely tell him or her you’re in the middle of something and as soon as you’re finished you’ll check back in with them.
Entrepreneur Jason Fried gave an excellent talk on the struggle for productivity in the workplace, and what you can do to be more efficient. View it here.
Being productive does not mean working longer hours or packing more work into your already busy day. Pick and choose the tips that work best for you. Your goal is to work smarter, so that when you leave the office at the end of the day, you can focus on other things, not unfinished tasks.