Who doesn’t want to walk out of work with a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment? Work success depends on your ability to take care of crucial tasks that drive your business forward, without logging hours of overtime. We’ve collected strategies to optimize your office, hours and workload for increased productivity. Get ready to say, “I got so much done!”
Fighting to get comfortable and find the materials you need sabotages your work productivity before you even begin. Here’s how to make your space (both physical and virtual) work better for you:
- Work in designated areas. At work, you have an office. When you bring work home, set aside a spare room (or just a desk in the corner) to store materials and work. You’ll reduce the chance of losing an important document because you were reading it at the dining room table ... or wait, did you take it with you into the basement? In some cases, a home office may even entitle you to a tax deduction.
- Tidy your desk. A Harvard Business Review study found that participants exposed to a clean work environment spent 50 percent more time on a frustrating task than when they were brought into a messy office.
- Hide your phone. Research suggests that even the few seconds it takes to reach out and silence your phone is enough to break your concentration and increase the chance that you’ll make errors in your work. Silence or turn off your phone, and stash it out of sight.
- Clean up your virtual space. A State of Mobile report from Flurry found that U.S. consumers spend a jaw-dropping five hours a day using a mobile device! If you often find yourself swiping through screens to find an app you want, it might be time to do a digital purge. Try deleting a time-wasting game, along with redundant apps.
With your workspace set up, it’s time to dive in! Get more out of each hour by applying these strategies:
- Stop multitasking. Bragging about your ability to juggle a conference call, draft an email and brainstorm new project ideas simultaneously is like bragging that you can change clothes while driving down the highway. Workers spend an average of 75 seconds on a task before hitting their first interruption, and it takes 25 minutes to get back on task. It's no wonder why lost productivity costs businesses $450 billion per year!
- Schedule shorter meetings. Cut idle chit-chat and encourage workers and clients to get to the heart of the issue. Try scheduling 45-minute meetings instead of blocking out an hour.
- Write an agenda for meetings. Make better use of your shortened meeting time by having a written list of topics ready. Keep it to the top three to five priorities, tops, so you don’t run over. Note unrelated-but-important issues that arise at the bottom of the list to follow up on later.
- Train yourself to focus. Techniques like Pomodoro (where you work without distraction for 25 minutes and then take a short break) can improve your ability to use time effectively. Try a formal technique, or simply shut the door, turn off Wi-Fi and put your phone on airplane mode for an hour to eliminate work distractions.
No matter how neat your desk and how deeply you concentrate, pouring your attention into low-priority work isn’t going to lead to meaningful productivity. Use these ideas to track your most important projects.
- Identify the one most important task to do today. Forcing yourself to pick just one task you must do today gets you thinking about both importance and timeliness. If you know there’s two more urgent tasks as well, that’s okay. But try to limit yourself to no more than three must-do projects so you can get to all of them before your energy drops too much.
- Decide whether to dip your toe or dive in. Some productivity experts promote Mark Twain’s advice to “eat the frog,” or take on the toughest, most unpleasant task first so that everything that follows feels easier. Others recommend starting the day with an easy task so you get an early win. The best approach for you depends on your work style and personality.
- Stop when your plate is full. When it comes to work assignments, that is (whether you want seconds at lunch is your business). More than 60 percent of workers say work overload is harmful to their productivity. Cutting or delegating as much lower-value work as you can may give you both more time and mental energy to give your best effort to high-value projects.
- Keep a to-do list. Whether it’s a pad by your desk where you jot down daily tasks, or a master to-do list with key projects for the quarter, knowing what’s next cuts down lost time between tasks. Even if some priorities have to shift a little as new developments unfold, knowing what goals you’re pursuing can keep you on target.
- Give yourself precise instructions. If you told an employee to “make some calls,” you wouldn’t be surprised if he or she didn’t accomplish exactly what you had in mind. Treat yourself the same way. Write goals like, “Contact prospects X and Y to discuss social media marketing options.” You’ll get to work with a better focus on what you have to do.
Which category do you need to improve to increase productivity: workspace, time management or prioritization? Tell us about it in the comments section below!