It’s 8 AM on a Monday morning, and another workday looms. You’ve got a lot of stuff that has to be done and a longer list of stuff you want to get done. You come in ready to go, power up the computer, hit the break room for coffee, check in with your fellow cubicle dwellers to see how their weekend was and before you know it, it’s lunchtime and that pile of work seems to have doubled. If you’re wondering how to be more productive at work, you’re not alone.
It’s almost impossible to enjoy the rest of your evening when you leave the office stressed out over everything you didn’t get done. The key to leaving work with a sense of accomplishment is to work smarter not longer. According to The Muse, “Turns out, the secret to retaining the highest level of productivity over the span of a workday is not working longer—but working smarter with frequent breaks.” We can’t stop obnoxious co-workers from distracting you, but we can suggest a few tips on how to be more productive at work.
1. Avoid Perfectionism
Of course you want to do a good job and attention to detail is important. However, if you’ve done the research, come up with a winning presentation, and completed the project—let it go. Endlessly obsessing over tiny details is a time-waster.
One of the best ways to increase productivity is tocreate a routine. Try to eliminate unnecessary decisions and put yourself on autopilot for certain daily tasks, like what to have for breakfast or the most scenic route to work. You’ll save time and brain power for the important stuff.
3. To-Do Lists
Keep a notebook, use Outlook, or a have calendar app on your smartphone—whatever form of to-do list that works for you. Give each task a realistic time limit and try to stick to it.
4. Ban Social Media
Social Media will suck up time like a sponge. Resist Twitter and Facebook during the workday and you’ll be amazed at how much extra time you have. Your friends will still be there, promise.
5. Limit Multitasking
Although multitasking is supposed to be a virtue, sometimes it’s actually more efficient to focus all of your attention on one thing at a time. You’ll do a more thorough job and you won’t be distracted from your next project by thoughts of unfinished loose ends.
6. Learn to Delegate
A great way to become more efficient is to take advantage of your team and delegate when it’s appropriate. Really, you can accept help and still seem competent. Do you think CEOs do it all by themselves?
7. Time Yourself
Set a timer on your phone or invest in a kitchen timer. Work till the buzzer sounds, then move on. Forward momentum is key for how to be more productive at work.
8. Organize Your Space
Take time each week to tidy and organize your workspace. This will prevent stopping mid project to search for supplies or a needed file.
It can be challenging, but try blocking out distractions like email and phone calls for at least part of the day. Without interruptions, you can give your full attention to the task at hand.
10. Know Yourself
Take advantage of your body’s natural clock and plan your day accordingly. Schedule the toughest stuff for times when you are at your best. If you’re a morning person, get to the office at the crack of dawn and start your day with a bang. If you tend to perk up after lunch, schedule smaller taks for the morning and start your afternoon with a bang.
You likely already know what part of the job is the most important or has time sensitivity. That is, of course, what you do first.
12. Group Similar Tasks
You may have noticed that it’s hard to switch gears between activities that use different parts of your brain. Grouping tasks that require a similar type of thinking will help you transition more quickly and seamlessly from one to the next. For example plan to do analytical, logical activities like organizing files and creating schedules or spreadsheets in the morning and devote the afternoon to creative things like brainstorming and writing.
13. Take Breaks
Even a 15 minute coffee break or stroll is rejuvenating and gets your juices flowing again. If you slog through your day without breaks you’ll wind up slowing down and petering out by the afternoon.
Take a few minutes at the end of the day to write down your thoughts and ideas without worrying about whether or not they make sense. It’s a good way to clear your mind and you can refer to your journal later and expand on those brilliant gems.