Staying productive, both at work and at home, can at times be a real challenge – especially with summer enticing. By the end of any given day, the odds are that you are not satisfied with the workload you accomplished, leaving even more work on your pile for the next day. There are things you can do to avoid this from happening.
#1 – Get organized
Before setting out to work, create a to-do-list that includes all the little and bigger tasks you want or have to accomplish. You can create a list for every workday or one that spans the workweek depending on the deadlines the tasks are due. In order to stay on top of your task list, it’s best to track their progress with a task management tool. Using a software to track the task status allows you to create a reminder for the task shortly before it’s due, making sure that you don’t miss any deadline. Additionally, if the software syncs with your e-mailing program, it’s easier to work with them and refer to them in e-mail conversations.
By the end of the day, make it a point to go through your task list and check off all the completed points on your list. It is one of the most satisfying things to do and gives you a sense for what you really accomplished throughout the day. One of the best ways to close a workday and real motivator for starting out fresh the next day.
#2 – Set realistic goals
Productivity is the combination of clever planning and prioritization and this also includes setting ambitious, yet achievable goals. Creating a checklist for the day that overestimates what you can really accomplish in a day will only leave you frustrated and demotivated. Pick the two to three most important tasks you need to complete in a day and start working on them first. Once you’re done with them, move on to the less important tasks that you could also get done the next day if they remain incomplete.
Another reason for not getting things done is the lack of setting a deadline. Even if your supervisor didn’t forward a deadline request, set personal deadlines for all your tasks and put it down in writing – no matter how simple the task is. This will help you to hold yourself responsible for completing the task.
At times, you will have to shift your priorities as needed. If you can’t complete one task because you’re waiting for feedback from a colleague or executive who’s out of the office for the day, move on to the next important task that you can complete independently.
#3 – Take a Break
Every employee needs a break and studies prove that our concentration and motivation actually improves if we take short breaks. Productivity is not measured by the amount of time we spent at our desk and by the end of the day, you will have accomplished more if you don’t spend 8 hours straight at your desk.
Include short breaks in your work routine that include movement – moving around every few hours is a real stress reliever. And we are more productive if we are less stressed. Take a few minutes’ walk sometime in the morning, don’t have lunch at your desk but instead leave the office to go to a nearby park or café with your colleagues. Most employers will allow you to take a longer lunch break if you arrive earlier in the morning for work that day. Listen to a song you like in the afternoon.
#4 – Limit interruptions
A great majority of work today is done with the aid of technology; most employees can’t fulfill their daily lot without the help of a PC. It is therefore a little surprising to find out that technology is among the top 10 productivity killers as found by a recent survey conducted by CareerBuilder. Not so much surprisingly, it is the personal use of technology that is most distracting.
Minimizing interruptions like browsing social networks, checking private e-mails, answering private phone calls and text messages or reading random facts on Wikipedia can result in a tremendous productivity boost. If you find that you are falling behind on your work, you might want to consider uninstalling social media apps from your smartphone to help put more momentum back into your workday.
#5 – Avoid unnecessary meetings
Knowing what meetings to join and which ones to refuse is very important. Even though it might be helpful from a networking point of view to meet with as many people as possible, the time you get at your desk to work on your core responsibilities is extremely valuable. If your work is meeting intensive, it helps to dedicate specific days or times for meetings and not have meetings during the rest of the week.
As a manager, you should ensure that only those employees participate who are directly involved in the topics discussed during the meeting. For everyone else interested in what happened during the meeting, you can make a protocol available that summarizes the most important details and results.
#6 – Make “appointments” with your work
Block out time on your calendar to work on specific projects. This helps especially to tackle less preferred tasks that you would otherwise keep on delaying – and only end up wasting more time. It also signals your colleagues that you are busy at that time and they are less likely to stop by for a casual talk.
#7 – Create dedicated e-mailing time
First, turn off the automatic e-mail notification feature from your e-mailing program. Every notification for a newly arriving e-mail that pops up will break your concentration and will tempt you to read the message right away. According to Tim Burress, co-author of The Hamster Revolution, it takes on average 64 seconds to return to the task you have been work on before you got interrupted by the e-mail notification. Cognitive skill tests also show that we do perform poorly when affected by the distraction of an interruption. The tests also prove what most of us implicitly know: if you do two things at a time, neither one gets done perfectly.
Instead of stopping what you’re doing to respond to an e-mail, set a designated time for responding to e-mails. After getting organized for the day (see #1), you can set a time window for handling e-mails and an additional 15 – 20 minutes at the end of the workday. This not only improves your time management, it also helps to ensure that you respond to incoming e-mails in a timely manner.
#8 – Communicate wisely
Even though much communication is done via e-mail it might not always be the most efficient means to communicate. Instead of spending 20 minutes to compose and e-mail to the colleague in the office next door, pick up the phone and place a call or arrange a one-on-one meeting. Everyone involved saves time because complex topics can be discussed in person and you don’t need several instances of writing back and forth.