Productivity in the workplace — it seems so simple and so complicated at the same time.
The end goal is clear and simple to state. You want to do your work quickly and well without giving in to distractions. It’s the getting there that can seem downright impossible.
That’s where this list comes in. These 5 tips are intended to take the elusive goal of productivity in the workplace and make it simple and attainable.
Log It All
One of the best ways to become more productive at work is to discover exactly how unproductive you are. For two weeks — that’s two average weeks, not the two busiest, craziest weeks of your work year — log every last thing you do during the work day and how long you spend doing it. And by everything, we mean everything:
- Email, phone or social media
- Recurring tasks
- Specific projects
Grab your favorite notebook or app, and log each activity and the amount of time spent on it. The more detailed and accurate you are about tracking your time, the better you’ll see just where all your time is going.
Schedule, Schedule, Schedule
Once you have a clearer picture of how you spend your time, the key is to start managing it. It may not come naturally to all, but there really is no substitute for schedules and to-do lists.
Block off half an hour first thing Monday morning to prioritize and plan your week. Then plan to spend 5-10 minutes at the beginning of each day reviewing your schedule and making adjustments.
When scheduling your to-do’s, make sure to prioritize by deadline and task size. Use a company calendar to mark yourself unavailable when you need to work on big projects. Use a private calendar, app or notebook to divide up the rest of your tasks and to-do’s.
You can use your schedule to help ward off temptation. For example, you can schedule times to check email or social media. Whatever you do, schedule distinct times for distinct tasks. Multi-tasking is a tempting dream, but it never works in practice.
Make the Most of Two Minutes
If you have a task that only takes two minutes to complete, do it as soon as it comes to your attention. Procrastinating on little tasks allows them to pile up and can cause you to fall behind in the long run. On the bright side, stopping for those two-minute tasks can give you a much-needed break or change of pace from working on a bigger project, not to mention that rush of accomplishment from crossing any task, no matter how small, off your to-do list.
Cancel Those Meetings
Okay, okay, some in-person meetings are unavoidable, but the amount of time wasted by unnecessary or unproductive meetings is practically criminal.
There are many factors behind wasted meetings, but a lack of a clear agenda is one of the top culprits.
After you trim out all the meetings that can be replaced by emails or phone calls, it’s time to start providing printed agendas with clearly stated topics and goals for your meetings.
Once you have an agenda, do everything in your power to stick to it. Don’t let the meeting derail over:
- Non-urgent, non-agenda items
- Personal conversations
- Repetitive status updates
- Strong personalities hogging the floor
Meetings often raise points that require further discussion but only between two or three employees. Rather than making all your coworkers wait through a side conversation, encourage those involved to email or schedule a private meeting to follow up on the issue.
Get Pumped Up
Improving productivity in the workplace doesn’t mean you work every second of the day without a break. In fact, regular breaks can actually help you stay focused and motivated, especially if those breaks involve improving your health and stress levels.
Plan ways to stay healthy and motivated, such as:
- Keeping healthy snacks (like almonds or dried fruit) at your desk
- Taking a break to walk outside
- Spending five minutes doing at-your-desk yoga
Do what you can to make your workplace a pleasant, motivating place to be, whether that’s picking a desktop background that makes you smile or bringing in personal items such as plants, photos and motivational artwork.
It might sound over-simplified, but productivity in the workplace really comes down to planning — planning your time, planning your meetings, and planning ways to stay happy and healthy.
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