27 Easy Tips to Increase Productivity at Work
It seems like more and more companies are adopting the motto “do more with less”.
So where does that leave you?
Scrambling to complete deadlines, wearing 18 different hats, answering the slew of emails and phone calls… you get the point.
The goal of this post is to help you find ways for you and your team to increase productivity at work. Instead of trying to do a bunch of these at once, find a couple that you can implement within your organization or department and practice them for at least 21 days (the time it typically takes to form a new habit).
1. List your “crucial results” for the day
Crucial results are a list of objectives that absolutely need to be accomplished during your day to move your projects and goals forward. Create a spreadsheet listing your top 3 crucials for each day. This will help you plan each day and make sure you’re maintaining focus on the most important tasks each day.
2. Use tools to make your life easier and help you work more efficiently
There’s a lot of technology being developed to help you organize your life, use your time effectively, and make your life easier. Here’s a couple to try out that can help you increase your productivity at work:
Time Doctor’s time tracking software helps teams be more productive. By running in the background on your team’s computer, you’ll be able to see high level and granular reports about how your team spends their day. You’ll see which apps and websites they use while working. When team members begin to spend too much time on black listed sites, Time Doctor gives them a friendly reminder to get back on track.
Boomerang is an app that works with your Gmail to help you take control of your inbox. The main feature of this tool is the ability to schedule the exact date and time to send out an email. You can also “boomerang” an email to come back to the top of your inbox if you don’t get a response within a specific time frame after sending a message.
Have you ever wondered exactly how much time you’re spending on important vs. non-important things throughout your day? RescueTime is the answer. It runs in the background of your computer and mobile devices to track the amount of time you spend on applications and websites. At the end of the week (or whatever time-frame you prefer) you receive a detailed report that breaks down where you’ve been spending your time.
15Five is a tool that allows you to easily get feedback from the people you manage. You create a list of questions that takes members of your team about 15 minutes to complete each week and takes managers about 5 minutes to review and provide feedback (hence the name). We use it at our company and we’ve found it to be a great way to get weekly engagement between team members and their direct reports.
3. Eat healthy foods throughout the day to avoid energy crashes and keep your brain properly fueled
The food we eat is extremely important in boosting our brainpower and impacting how productive we are at work. Imagine you eat a Snickers bar versus a fruit and nut bar – which do you think is going to give you the energy necessary to finish strong through the afternoon? Junk food not only affects your weight. It also causes decreased productivity and energy crashes.
Here’s SnackNation CEO Sean Kelly breaking down some quick ways you can turn a healthy snack into a meal:
Keep healthy snacks at your office to stay fueled for a productive day.
4. Complete tasks in batches
Tim Ferris, author of the international best seller The 4 Hour Work Week, is extremely good at finding ways to be more efficient in everything from work to cooking to bodybuilding. One of my favorite insights from his book is how much more efficient it is to batch your activities instead of breaking them up into small chunks.
The logic behind this is that it takes time for you to get into a rhythm with whatever you’re working on. If you constantly start and stop that process, you’re wasting time getting back into your rhythm or catching up to where you left off.
How can you use this in your day-to-day life to improve productivity at work?
- Instead of spreading out data entry and reporting tasks throughout the week, set a block of time to knock it all out at once
- Set meetings with colleagues back to back in the afternoon
- Answer voicemails for a chunk of time in the afternoon
Exercise is not only important for the body, it is almost as important for your mental wellbeing. According to this article from Brain HQ, exercising has been shown to reduce stress hormones while also increasing growth factors in the brain necessary for new neuronal connections.
I’ve personally switched back and forth between exercising in the morning versus at night and I typically find that it works better for me earlier in the day. The motivation to go to the gym after a really long day is hard to find. However, the important thing is that you are consistent with your exercise.
6. Morning huddles with your team
This point made the list of employee wellness ideas for offices, but it’s also worth mentioning again here. Each morning, huddle together with your team for about 15 minutes and go over each person’s main crucial results for the day. This helps everyone get on the same page and lets people know where their assistance is needed.Work Productivity Tip #6: Each morning, huddle together with your team for about 15 minutes Click To Tweet
7. Prioritize your most important tasks first
Stephen Covey’s book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, there’s a chapter dedicated to a subject he calls putting “first things first”. There’s a great analogy of this concept using rocks and a bucket. Here’s a video that illustrates this concept from the book:
8. Turn off the gadgets for crunch time
Corresponding through social media, making phone calls and emailing, ranks as the 4th biggest workplace distraction behind food and bathroom breaks, and talking with coworkers. Have you ever been in state of flow where you’re completely focused on the task at hand when your phone beeps or buzzes and gets you sidetracked? I think we’ve all experienced that. Remove the distractions by silencing your phone, exiting out of chat applications and closing the inbox before you start any important task where complete focus is necessary.
9. Set an agenda and goal for each meeting
Have you ever walked out of a business meeting and realized that it was a complete waste of time? You’d be lying if you said no. HR consultant Sharlyn Lauby of HR Bartender agrees:
“One of the biggest obstacles to productivity is business meetings. That being said, I do not think the answer is to abolish meetings or create funky rules like ‘no meeting Wednesdays’ or ‘only 10 minute meetings’. Organizations need to give employees the tools to run effective and productive meetings.”
So how can you do that? Make sure there is a set agenda and goal for each meeting. No agenda and goal, no meeting. Also respect participants’ time! A one-hour meeting should only take one hour. If you end early, that’s cool. But don’t run late. For more ideas on how to have more efficient and impactful meetings, check out this infographic from our friends at Taskworld.Work Productivity Tip #9: Set an agenda and goal for each meeting Click To Tweet
10. Work remotely
Working remotely can help you increase your productivity by getting more done in less time. While the office is an environment that can foster collective energy and resources, it can also hinder our productivity. People often interrupt others who are in the middle of work because they think their issue or question is urgent. In reality, their issue is typically not urgent and can wait.
This study by the Harvard Business Review found that employees who worked from home were more productive AND less likely to quit their jobs.
11. De-clutter and organize your work environment
There’s a lot to be said about how much organization and less “stuff” can decrease your anxiety, thereby increasing productivity. Having less clutter will help you think more clearly and waste less time searching for that misplaced document. Toss out the trinkets and old papers sitting around your desk to see if it helps you become less distracted and more productive.
Photo belongs to Mackenzie Kosut via Flickr’s Creative Commons License
12. Love your job
Alexander Kjerulf of the Chief Happiness Officer Blog says loving your job is key to maximizing productivity at work:
“It turns out that the best way to become more productive at work is to love your job. No tool, no system, no bonus scheme and no amount of pressure can match the productivity boost you get simply from being happy at work. Studies show that happiness at work is not a luxury, it’s an absolute necessity because it makes us more productive, more creative, more engaged AND more successful.”
13. Complete the “2-Hour Solution” at the end of your work week
The “2-Hour Solution” was created by Roger Seip, author of Train Your Brain for Success. It’s a method of spending 2 hours each week for the purpose of mentally creating the next week of your life. Roger swears by this method and claims that when he does this, his life goes well. Use this time each week to reconnect with your goals, assess what has been working and what has not, and schedule your calendar for the upcoming week.
How does this differ from normal scheduling? You schedule your “green time” (the work that gets you paid), “red time” (the time that supports your green time), “flex time” (unblocked time to prevent the unplanned from unraveling your plans), and “re-creation time” (the time to take care of yourself – i.e. hobbies, exercise, relaxing, etc).Most of the time you’ll find that you don’t even need the full 2 hours to make this effective.
For more on the 2-Hour Solution, you can read this short book summary.
14. Wake up early
Look at every top CEO, executive or leader and you’ll find they all have 1 major thing in common – they wake up early. How can waking up at 6am or earlier make you more productive at work?
It gives you the time you need to start your day right. Instead of feeling rushed out of the door each morning, you’ll have more quiet time to do things you would otherwise be too distracted to do. You can read each morning, eat a healthy breakfast, or exercise before hitting your stride to start the day. I started doing this about a year ago and it has increased my productivity dramatically.
I typically find that I hit my most productive groove about 2 hrs after waking up. So now I get to read something inspiring or surf at dawn before most people even start their day. Then when I get to work, I’m ready to hit the ground running.
15. Stand more
Jacob Shriar from Officevibe recommends standing more throughout your day to keep your productivity optimal:
“There is a productivity method called the Pomodoro Technique – it forces you to stop and take a break every 30 minutes, so you can use that time to get up and walk around. Also take phone calls standing up and do stand-up meetings.”
16. Learn to say no
Throughout your day, people will inevitably disrupt you to get your help or input on something. It’s so easy to say yes and take on more things, but this is counterproductive. Learn to say no more often to guard your time for your highest leverage activities.
17. Complete your most dreaded tasks in the morning
At SnackNation, we use 9am-10am as “Crush” time. During this time, we get our most challenging tasks out of the way and don’t disturb one another with questions. Whichever activity you are dreading the most is probably the one you need to complete first thing in the morning. Once you get started, you’ll quickly find your flow and get that task out of the way.
18. Stop checking email
Freelance Writer Kristi Hines explains how to escape the blackhole of the inbox:
Unless your clients could have true emergencies where time is of the essence, there is no reason to check your email more than a couple of times a day. In The 4 Hour Work Week, Tim Ferriss suggests only checking email twice a day max (or once, if you can get away with it). This approach will help you stay on track with your work by limiting distractions. It will also keep you efficient when you do check your emails.
19. Focus on one thing at a time
You’ve undoubtedly heard that multitasking is detrimental for productivity at work. Too many people fall victim to the trap of doing several things at once so it bears repeating here to help you increase your productivity.
Multitasking lowers IQ and reduces the performance with which you can complete any task. So would you rather do 3 things with mediocre results or 1 task with excellent results?
20. Find simple tasks to outsource so you can focus on high-leverage activities
Do you ever find yourself wondering how you’re possibly going to complete all the work on your plate? I’m willing to bet there are some low value tasks that you could outsource. Things like data-entry, document formatting or running errands are all going to eat away at the precious time you have during your day to get stuff done.
Luckily there are some great online services that connect you with cheap labor to get tedious tasks done so you can spend your time focusing on the most important projects.
21. Give yourself less time than you think you’ll need
This is another piece of gold from Train Your Brain for Success. However long you think it will take you to complete a project or task, give yourself less time to complete it. You’ll find that giving yourself a deadline will keep you more focused to get the job done.
22. Constantly ask yourself if what your working on is important
Staying busy is not hard to do. What’s difficult is focusing on the activities that will yield the most results for you.
I highly recommend printing out this quote and taping it somewhere around your desk – “Am I inventing things to do to avoid the important?” I’ve found that this helps remind me to avoid being busy for the sake of feeling productive.
23. Read in the morning
Most people don’t wake up super energized feeling inspired and excited to take on their day. One of the best ways I’ve found to get my mindset in the right place to be productive at work is to read for about 15-30 minutes before I start my day. Books on business, psychology, behavioral economics and personal development are the subjects that I personally find to boost my creativity and inspiration for my day.
Photo belongs to Kate Ter Haar via Flickr’s Creative Commons License
24. Protect the time in your schedule to get real work done
We all have those days that fly by as we jump from meeting to meeting. At the end of the day, we come to realize that we didn’t actually get any work done. How can you make sure you’re as productive as possible each day?
Steve Boese, host of the popular HR Happy Hour podcast, has this advice for you:
“One sure fire way to improve your work productivity is to make sure you protect enough time in your schedule, in other words, time that is not in meetings, conference calls, or any other activity that is not conducive to thinking, planning, and creating. Lots of us will book back-to-back-to-back meetings in a day, then all of a sudden it’s 6:00PM and we feel like we did not accomplish much at all. So protect your time, keep your most productive times meeting-free if you can, and even consider designating one afternoon, or even an entire day if you can, as a ‘meeting-free’ zone where you can dig in, concentrate, and get some ‘real’ work done.”
25. Listen to calming sounds to help you concentrate
Sometimes a bit of music in the background can help enhance your focus. Studies show that music without lyrics works best for repetitive tasks. Outside of the variable effects, music can also have an impact on shutting on the sounds and distractions of a noisy workplace. I personally enjoy the calming sounds I find on Noisli.
26. Create an ID statement or a list of affirmations and read it each morning
An identity statement or affirmations is a list or paragraph that describes who you are as an individual. It’s a combination of your beliefs, aspirations and values. Write your identity statement as the ideal version of yourself, meaning all the things you aspire to be. Include things like the position you want to hold professionally, the personality traits that you want, and the dreams you want to achieve.
Creating an identity statement will help you be more productive at work by helping you visualize the traits you need in order to be successful. This visualization will in turn keep you focused on the activities that will help you achieve the success you desire.
27. Replicate the body’s natural cycle
Jamie Lawrence, Editor for HRZone, recommends replicating the body’s natural cycle to boost productivity at work:
“Replicating the body’s natural cycle in office environments is a fundamental, but often ignored, part of improving wellbeing. So, is the lighting full spectrum? Do you keep blinds and windows open to ensure there’s natural light and air circulating? Plants are another well-researched way to improve air quality and mood – they kill two birds with one stone.”
With only so many hours in a day we must learn to work more effectively and efficiently if we want to succeed. Now take some of these tips and implement them in your working life.
What other tips do you have to increase productivity at work? Let us know in the comments below.