Productivity is often touted as the one of the most important elements in determining success in the workplace. However, between all those everyday distractions and new tasks that have to take priority, finding that optimal level of productivity and staying there throughout the day is much easier said than done.
So what can we do to stay productive? Take the time to find some effective productivity techniques that fit your working style and personality, keeping in mind that it might be different depending on the project you are working on – and even factors like the time of day.
If you’re looking for new inspiration, here are a few productivity tips for – whether you’re working from home (WFH) or at the office – which can translate into productive weeks and ultimately, a productive year.
1. Do the easy stuff first
Any period of productivity must start somewhere. To help build up your momentum before tackling a big task, look at completing a few easy tasks, such as answering a batch of emails, clearing some administrative work, or producing a quick result or outcome. By doing tasks that are simple and easy, you switch your mindset into work mode and it can help you get you into the mental zone of working towards tackling the bigger projects. Plus, it feels good to cross a few things off the list, and you’ll be more likely to keep the same level of productivity after that.
2. Block out time in your calendar
Distractions such as meetings, phone calls and other last-minute interruptions can slow down productivity. Try blocking out an hour or two in your calendar, get some noise-cancelling headphones and get down to it – minimise the number of things that could ultimately distract you. Additionally, when faced with a big task or project, it can be more effective to plan exactly when you are going to work on it and for how long.
3. Leverage technology: use tools and apps that can help
Search for “productivity apps” online and you’ll find a large list of applications that help with all aspects that go into productivity such as organisation, to-do lists, limiting social media, timing productive work and generating ideas. Explore them and use the apps you enjoy and that truly add to your day.
One view on procrastination inversely links happiness with the tendency to procrastinate, so maybe it’s worth checking out these apps designed to boost your happiness at work too.
4. Forget about multitasking
Past studies have shown that as much as we would like to think so, our short-term memory just isn’t that good. This means that we can only process a certain amount of information at one time, leading to the conclusion that multitasking doesn’t work nearly as well as focusing on one thing at a time.
Remember that time you blocked out in your calendar? Use it to focus entirely on one task. Ignore emails and other projects that need your attention. Focusing entirely on one thing can get into the state of flow and will likely produce better, higher quality work than if you were trying to do several things at once.
5. Find your inspiration
What motivates you? What are the parts of your work that really do inspire you? On a micro level, what is it about this project speaks to those larger things that motivate you? If you are really having trouble starting, take time to seek out the ‘why’ behind the project – and use that encouragement to keep going if you’ve come to standstill.
6. Take plenty of breaks
It may seem counterintuitive but in many ways, taking more breaks can in turn make you more productive when you get back to work. This must be done carefully of course. You might find yourself down a rabbit hole three hours later on Google when you were really only there to search for one thing. However, taking some downtime to stop thinking about the work at hand can make you more productive when you return to it. Take a quick walk around the block for fresh air, do a mindfulness meditation at your desk, or chat to your colleagues about another project you’re working on together to change the pace and topic.
More WFH tips
While WFH or remotely, finding that optimal state of productivity can be even more daunting. There are many distractions in the office but even more at home with household chores, other family members or housemates and a constant temptation to get snacks from the kitchen. Here are a few tips for finding productivity from your home office.
Make your home office comfortable
Set up your home working station in a comfortable spot with a high-backed chair and at a desk or a table. You will be spending hours sitting at this spot, just like in the office so make sure it’s ergonomic and comfortable. Now isn’t the time to spread out on the bed or couch.
The home environment is full of distractions, and it can be easy to put off a big task in favour of taking care of small things around the house. As much as you can, when WFH, try to remove the distraction. This may mean setting up your home office in one room and staying there. Think about noise cancelling headphones, choosing a room without a TV (or resist turning it on) and work away from other family members as much as you can.
Stay connected with your team
Separate to your regular meetings, also communicate with your team throughout the remote work day, even if it’s quick chat messages to check in or more formal emails for work-related tasks. Knowing that other people are working with you can help keep you focused on the task at hand and helps find a rhythm to be productive.
Organise your day
To be productive at home, make a list every morning of everything that you need to accomplish for the day. Block out set times for different projects and as much as you can, stick to that schedule. Without the structure of being in an office, having a stricter schedule can help increase productivity, particularly when you are getting used to WFH.
Use these tips to make sure you make the most of each day – and you’ll find that productivity comes from being structured, committed and undistracted from your tasks at hand.