Between a hectic home schedule and a challenging work life, it’s easy to lose track of the hours in your day. Of course, if you want to reach your goals, and enjoy that satisfying sense of accomplishment that comes with tackling your everyday tasks, then you need to learn how to make the most of your time.
There are plenty of ways to increase your output, without having to work from dawn until dusk. While being more productive at work isn’t brain science, it is going to take some dedication, and a little careful fore-thought when it comes to planning your day. The following tips will set you off on the right track to success.
Step 1: Identify Your Time Thieves
Some tasks simply take up more of your time than others. However, the chances are that you don’t know where you’re spending most of your day. If you can figure out where you’re spending time productively, and which tasks are simply draining your resources, you can plan to eradicate time thieves for good.
Track how much time you spend on each task throughout your day, and make a note of things that you could do faster, or things that you are doing that fits into another person’s role. Ask yourself, who is better, or quicker than you at a task that you could delegate! Once you’re ready, remove one time thief from your day at a time, and watch your productivity sky-rocket.
Step 2: Quit Multi-tasking
It’s tempting to tell ourselves that working on multiple tasks at once is the key to productivity. Unfortunately, the truth is that multi-tasking simply doesn’t work. You might feel like you’re getting a lot done, but you’re actually wasting time, forcing your brain to switch between several points of focus. That means that you never fully concentrate on a single challenge.
Focus on your work one step at a time, and make sure you’re happy with what you’ve done before you move onto something else.
Step 3: Stand-up Meetings
Meetings can be productivity killers. When hosted without a plan, or any sense of direction, they simply distract people from more important tasks, and rob you of valuable time. However, if you do hold a meeting, there is some evidence that standing meetings can help to improve innovation, and group performance. Test them out for yourself.
Step 4: Do Work in Batches
Convincing yourself that you need to get your entire day of work done as quickly as possible is likely to leave you feeling overwhelmed and stressed. Instead, focus on working to complete tasks in 90-minute blocks, followed by a small break or downtime. These breaks will help to refresh your brain between periods of work.
Depending on your environment, you might discover that your focus period will be shorter. Test out routines to find what works best for you. Also get away from your desk in your breaks in-between your 90-minute block even if it’s only top get a refill of water or walk around the office.
Step 5: Turn off Notifications
Allowing your day to be completely overrun by emails and phone calls means that you’ll be working “reactively” instead of proactively. In other words, you’ll be responding to tasks that arise, rather than getting your existing work done. Since it’s tough to resist the allure of a text notification, or email, the best thing you can do is turn off notifications, and schedule time to address them later in the day.
By setting aside specific slots of time to check your phone and email messages, you reduce your risk of going home at the end of the day, without really getting anything done.
Step 6: Minimise Distractions Wherever You Can
Today, we live in a world that’s so noisy and distracting that it’s hard to get anything done. If you don’t make the most of your resources to reduce the distractions around you at work, then your productivity is sure to suffer. You could experiment wearing noise-cancelling headphones to help reduce your exposure to noise around the office, and decide to make your computer a no-social-media zone.
Ideally, you might want to restrict “chat” time to your breaks and lunch times too. Some companies have social media policies aloha these lines already.
Step 7: Schedule to Your Natural Rhythm
It’s a good idea to schedule your day according to the natural rhythms of your body. Human beings have different levels of productivity at different times in the day. Some people work best in the early morning, some in the afternoon, and some later in the day.
Schedule your high-priority tasks for the times when your energy is highest, and save your low-intensity or routine tasks for times when your energy starts to deteriorate – such as in the late afternoon.
Step 8: Declutter Your Workspace, and Your Mind
It can be difficult to set aside time to tidy your office space when you’re already rushed off your feet, but a cluttered office is unlikely to support you getting things done. Your attention can be distracted by various things in your immediate space. For instance, visible files might remind you of unfinished tasks, while a stress ball is a temptation for procrastination!
Step 9: Know your HVAS
Finally, remember that people are more efficient at the things that come naturally to them. Tasks that feel like a struggle are more likely to impede your progress. If possible, delegate tasks that you suffer with, and focus on your “High value activities”, the activities that leverage your strengths, and allow you to shine.
Knowing how to delegate tasks beyond your HVAs will help to create clarity and simplify your schedule. In fact, distributing the tasks that you struggle with could help your work community, as your worst challenges could be someone else’s HVAs.
What are your personal time thieves and which of these suggested steps will be your starting point to boost your own productivity?