Productivity is that elusive quality that few seem to master.
The Golden Age of technology hasn’t helped. Our tablets, phones, and smartwatches constantly beg for our attention. We try to ignore them, but it can be an effort that requires just as much energy as your work.
Reaching a high level of productivity can be a tough task but it’s not an impossible one. We talked with workplace consultants and coaches to find out what you can do this week to strengthen your productivity.
1) Learn how to say “no”
Workspaces should have a certain level of privacy to them but, even if they do, your colleagues may have a knack of popping in right when you’re finding your groove on a project.
Alison Haselden, a marketing consultant at www.canirank.com, says a well-intentioned tendency to be too accommodating can crush your productivity.
“Getting distracted from the task at hand is a sure-fire way to ruin efficiency and productivity. It can be difficult especially in a busy office setting with co-workers constantly dropping by your desk for advice or assistance on a different project,” Haselden said. “As wonderful as it is to support your teammates, it’s necessary to learn to say ‘no’ and set boundaries to enable you to complete your own work first.”
2) Take Mini-Breaks
Your mind is a terrible thing to waste, especially at work. However, that’s exactly what can happen if you lock yourself in the office for hours on end and don’t get some fresh air.
To help your mind stay fresh and focused, make a habit of getting away from your workstation, said Zana Amin, co-founder of Canadian lifestyle company Continual Growth.
“Every 50 minutes, get up and go for a short walk, perhaps to the kitchen or around the office or to the other side of the office. Just make sure you get up and move around; you’ll come back to your work refreshed,” he said.
3) Don’t Over-Schedule Your Day
One of the age-old bits of advice for productivity is scheduling. Write out your day and there’s a good chance you’ll be more productive than you would be without a list.
However, there can be drawbacks to getting so intense about your scheduling that every quarter-hour is mapped out, says Harrison Doan, director of analytics at mattress company Loom & Leaf.
“Don’t try to go overboard with your scheduling. Mapping out every 15 minutes of your day may seem productive in theory, but things rarely work out as we plan,” Doan said. “I’ve found success by writing out weekly and daily to-do lists without specific time constraints. That way, I’m able to prioritize my tasks and get them done in an order that makes sense for that day.”
4) Cut Back on Your Email Time
Imagine what your day would be like if you answered every email the moment it arrived in your inbox. Nothing would get done outside of clicking the “send” button dozens of times.
That’s why Mark Lavercombe, founder of The Productive Physician, calls email “the destroyer of modern workplace productivity.”
“Close your email app/browser for as much of your day as possible. Email is the destroyer of modern workplace productivity, and by taking back control of your time and attention you will become far more effective,” Lavercombe said. “Set an autoresponder that explains that you process email between certain times each day and provide a phone number if you need to be reached in an emergency. Then work on the tasks that truly matter.”
5) Clean Up Your Desk
If you’ve got planners and calendars on your desk amid a sea of staplers, papers and all sorts of other office-related knick-knacks, it’s time to clean up a bit.
Doing so can clear your mind and it will also help you to focus on one task at a time, said Nicky Peachment, a business coach in the U.K.
“Tidy your desk so you can easily reach what you need to. Keep the project you’re working on out, and put everything else away,” Peachment said. “This helps you to focus on what you need to do next, rather than allow other tasks to distract you. Multi-tasking is a myth. You can only do one thing at a time, so do it and move on.”
Looking Ahead: Part Two of Our Series
We received an overwhelming response when we reached out to experts about things you can do to increase productivity. In our next post, we’ll review what was shared here and provide 10 more tips we think you’ll enjoy.