How To Be More Productive At Work
Learning how to be more productive at work and in business, is a skill which takes conscious action and deliberate practice.
There are many tips, tools and apps available to become a more productive worker.
“You must use this app to track time spent on tasks.”
“Try to reduce the amount of meetings you have per week.”
It’s a little hard to do that when every meeting in your organisation is a mandatory meeting.
Contrary to popular belief, productivity levels at work has more to do with our behaviour outside of work.
Research shows that making slight changes to our daily habits contribute greatly towards becoming more productive at work.
We’ve written this article to teach you how to be more productive at work.
There are 19 smart strategies here. Make yourself a cup of tea and take your time. 🙂
1. Routine, Routine, Routine
Learning how to be more productive at work isn’t about using ingenious time-saving hacks.
Most of the time, it’s about discipline.
And I can assure you there is no aspect of life which requires more discipline than sticking to a strict routine.
By having a steadfast routine in place, you can focus solely on the task at hand.
Branding yourself a queen at multitasking is nothing to be proud of. You’re only dividing your attention which invites errors.
If you lead a busy, multi-faceted life, the demands on your time, energy and focus will become a distraction in itself. This will in-turn hamper your ability to get anything done.
By creating a routine which accommodates everything you have to do in your schedule, means that you can compartmentalise all of your different pursuits.
Studies have repeatedly shown that you can dramatically boost your productivity by concentrating on one thing at a time. Therefore having a good routine allows you to concentrate on one thing at a time, without neglecting the others.
2. Eat the Frog
Here at Grow, we have a saying called “Eating the Frog”.
Contrary to what the name suggests, it’s not a French themed office lunch, but the practise of getting the most unpleasant and most important task out of the way as soon as you step into the office.
Whether you’re an employee or a small business owner, you probably spend a lot of time each day “putting out fires”, so to speak. Even with the best-laid plans, something will inevitably come up which will side-track you from what’s really important to your business and your goals.
That’s why you must focus on completing your most important tasks the second you get into the office – before the printer has had a chance to break or your new intern has deleted your website.
If you struggle to get enough done in the morning, perhaps you should consider waking up early.
3. Waking Up Early
You’d be amazed how much you can achieve if you wake up early.
Free from the distractions of ringing phones, email notifications and the needs of your employees, you can focus on doing the work that really matters, whilst the rest of the nation is still asleep.
Even if you don’t use this time to get work done, you can get other life admin out of the way or, for example, go to the gym, safe in the knowledge that you won’t have to queue for an aeon just to get onto the machine you need.
Speaking of the gym…
4. Take Care of Your Body – Exercise and Eat Healthily
It’s no secret that exercise boosts energy levels and leaves you feeling more invigorated.
According to a number of studies, exercise actually boosts your focus, motivation and discipline, which means that you can get more done over the course of your day.
Diet is just as important; excessive amounts of sugar will ruin your concentration and focus.
By eating healthy, balanced meals, your energy levels will be stable, and you will avoid those post lunch energy crashes.
If you’re looking for some health food ideas, our friends at InSpiralled sell exceptional kale chips which are as healthy as they are tasty.
5. Sleep Is Incredibly Important
Want to learn how to be more productive at work? Get some quality sleep!
When you’re running your own business, it can feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done, so it can be tempting to work late into the night and continue waking up early every day.
“Sleep is for the weak” is something of a mantra amongst entrepreneurial types.
However, good sleeping habits are much more important than many people recognise.
Sure, Margaret Thatcher famously survived on 3 hours’ of sleep a night for most of her adult life, but if you’re anything like 90% of the population, you actively need at least 7 hours’ sleep a night to function optimally.
Every hour you chip off your night’s rest will make you more sluggish, slow and zombified the next day.
Therefore, skipping sleep actually decreases productivity. If you just can’t get a good night’s sleep, no matter how hard you try, you should try to…
6. Take Power Naps
The Spanish have already gotten a lot right: Tapas, Gaudi, Paella, Picasso, Sangria – the list could go on. But their crowning productivity achievement would be the Siesta!
Sleeping during the afternoon seems like the polar opposite of being “productive”, but, as it turns out, a nap can actually reinvigorate you and boost your productivity throughout the day, so that you will more than make up for the time you spent napping with renewed focus and energy.
Napping is so beneficial for productivity that many leading global companies actively encourage their employees to take naps and provide nap rooms. Companies with a pro-nap policy include:
• Ben & Jerry’s
The time you take your nap is very important, too. You can use this interactive nap wheel to calculate when you’d get the most benefit out of a short nap.
If you’re worried about a nap eating into your valuable work hours, don’t worry, as some experts even suggest you should…
7. Work Fewer Hours
It may seem like a paradox, but by setting fewer working hours, you may actually get more done!
Everyone is familiar with the “all-nighter”. The act of putting off a big piece of work until the night before the deadline and subsequently having to spend the whole night frantically trying to write a 20,000 word proposal whilst weeping bitter, Red Bull scented tears into the keyboard.
This phenomenon is so well known that it has its own law named after it, Parkinson’s Law, which states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”.
Therefore, by working fewer hours, your time will be more focused and productive, so you will be able to complete more in a comparatively shorter period of time.
By allocating yourself less time to do your tasks, you increase the pressure you’re under, but even so, you should always make time for…
8. Micro Breaks
Productive people tend to approach work as a number of short sprints, as opposed to a marathon.
By focusing completely on one task for short periods of time, you’ll find that you get much more done than if you try to focus for hours on end.
For 90% of us, our brains just don’t work that way, and we’re incapable of truly focusing on work for long periods of time. Even if we do force ourselves to slog it out, our productivity dramatically drops as time goes on and we become less able to concentrate.
So, make sure that you punctuate your day with a number of short breaks in between intense bouts of work.
Disclaimer: This is not an excuse to mindlessly click through your Facebook page for 10 minutes each hour; get away from your computer screen, go for a brisk walk or go and grab a coffee.
9. The Two Minute Rule
David Allen is something of a productivity and time management guru, who is perhaps best known for his “Two Minute Rule”.
The two minute rule is beautifully simple: if a task takes less than two minutes to complete, do it straight away.
It’s simple in both idea and implementation, but it will help you shift all of those annoying, petty little tasks which you can get bogged down with later in the day if they’re put off.
10. Turn Your Office into a Mini Jungle
According to scientific studies, having plants in the office can boost productivity and your cognitive functions.
Our ability to concentrate and think creatively has been shown to benefit from contact with nature and other living things.
Plants in the office can also demonstrably improve your health, as the story of Indian businessman and environmental activist Kamal Meattle goes to show.
Kamal became allergic to the polluted air in New Delhi and began introducing different kinds of plants into his office. Over time, the plants cleaned the air in his office, which dramatically improved his health and wellbeing.
11. Listen to Music in the Office
Although some people insist on working in total silence, studies have shown that a little ambient noise, be it some quiet music or the sound of nearby traffic, actually stimulates us and increases productivity.
12. Delegate the Non-Essentials
As a small business owner, your priorities should be leading your business and steering it towards new growth and development. This sort of leadership is almost impossible if you have to spend the majority of your time at work dealing with the day-to-day admin of running a business.
Instead, make the best use possible of your employees, delegate all the tasks which aren’t totally essential, or don’t require your direct input.
By delegating these tasks, you’ll free yourself up to focus on what really matters in your business – generating more sales and profits.
13. Trust Your Employees
Put your faith in your staff and give them room to complete their tasks their way. Let them take ownership of their duties, so that they will feel responsible for them, and therefore be motivated to complete them to the best of their abilities.
After-all, if you can’t trust your employees to do a good job autonomously, why are you hiring them in the first place?
14. Say “No” More
As a small business owner, you’re always going to have lots of demands on your time, which means that you constantly have to balance many different obligations at any one time.
Sometimes, the best thing you can do to boost productivity is just say no, even if that means turning down opportunities. Instead, focus on taking care of what really matters for your business.
Learning how to be productive as a business owner can be very difficult. By saying “no”, you give yourself more time to do the things that matter to you.
15. Set Limits on Meetings
Meetings are one of the biggest time drains any professional faces, so it pays to be ruthless when allocating your time to them.
Following on from the Parkinson’s Law principle we’ve already discussed, you can increase productivity at work by limiting the length of your meethings.
16. Be Ruthless With Email & Online Content
We’ve all been there – we nip onto Wikipedia to quickly read up on something or other, and somehow emerge 3 hours later with an in-depth knowledge of the Swedish leather industry.
As well as providing us with the greatest learning resource in the history of mankind, the internet has also given us endless options for distraction, so it’s important that we limit the information we receive and read to the bare essentials.
Go through your inbox and unsubscribe from the emails that aren’t essential to your business, or don’t provide something incredibly valuable.
Unroll.me is a great free tool which allows you to unsubscribe from unwanted emails quickly and easily.
If you don’t want to get rid of so many emails, start a reading list.
Instead of reading interesting content then and there, compile a list of things you want to read in your leisure time, so that it doesn’t eat into your working hours.
17. Only Check Emails at Specific Times
Email is one of the business world’s biggest time sucks.
On average, reading and responding to emails takes up 28% of your working day.
Of course, we need to respond to our emails, and as small business owners, often our emails represent real sales and money making opportunities.
However, as we know, we are at our most productive when we are concentrating on one task at a time, rather than flitting between tasks.
As well as this, the time you’re losing from email isn’t actually the time it takes you to read and respond, but rather the time it takes you to get back into the swing of the work you were doing.
Therefore, you should allocate specific times to check your email throughout the day. At all other times, you should avoid email.
18. Use a Call Answering Service
We’ve already covered the benefits that call answering services have on small businesses, but it bears repeating here.
A constantly ringing phone is a huge distraction and drain on your time and your staff. If you’re constantly being dragged away from your work by having to take sales enquires, it can be difficult to get anything done.
That said, you can’t just leave calls unanswered and let potential customers get away, which is why we highly recommend using a call answering service.
A call answering service essentially operates like your own personal receptionist, but at a hugely reduced cost.
Call answering services are incredibly versatile and can do everything from managing your calendar, to answering enquiries about your business for you.
They will be able to screen all calls for you, and let you know who has rung and what they wanted, so that you can follow them up in your own time.
19. Monitor and Curtail Your Social Media Usage
Time can really run-away when using social media, and those who use it as part of their overall marketing strategy are particularly prone to getting sucked in.
You can monitor your social media usage with software such as Rabbittime or Rescue Time, to get an accurate idea of just how much of an impact those little forays into the Twittersphere have on your workday and make sure that the time spent is appropriate for the return you get from it.
Social Media automation software such as Buffer and Hootsuite can also help you keep on top of your company’s social media presence by allowing you to schedule your posts in advance, so your profiles will keep ticking over, even when you’re away from the computer.
If you don’t handle social media as part of your job, it’s probably a good idea to strictly limit your usage whilst at work. If you haven’t got the willpower to avoid your favourite sites during working hours, you can use stayfocusd, a Google Chrome app which cuts you off from distracting sites after a specific amount of time, which you set yourself.
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