Productivity is described by Oxford Languages as ‘the effectiveness of productive effort, especially in industry, as measured in terms of the rate of output per unit of input’ and is vital to ensuring success in the workplace. Learning to improve your productivity can increase your overall performance and reputation, as well as setting you up for higher career progression and increase earning potential.
When it comes to productivity there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution, and everybody works in different ways and finds various approaches to problems beneficial. However, there are some tried and tested tactics that you can implement to help you get the most out of your day. In this blog I cover 8 ways you can help to increase your productivity and efficiency including looking at the common productivity barriers that you may face:
1. TAKE THE TIME TO DECLUTTER
When you get into the office or sit down at your desk if you’re working from home, take the time to declutter your workspace and create a calm and tidy working environment. Trying to focus on individual tasks when you have to rummage through paperwork on your desk to find what you are looking for will negatively impact your productivity. Organise and file your paperwork, throw away any rubbish and put away any clutter on your desk before you get started on the rest of your day. You can also look into creating a more aesthetically pleasing work space – adding elements such as plants or pictures can increase productivity by up to 15%. Have a look into what you can add to your office space to improve your working environment and state of mind.
Your morning routine can also have a huge effect on how the rest of your workday goes. Starting the day off in a hectic headspace can negatively impact the rest of your day, take the time to tidy your home in the evenings so you can find everything you need easily and help your morning run smoothly.
2. SET SMALL GOALS
Seeing large tasks in your diary can be daunting and overwhelming, along with increasing your likelihood to procrastinate. Breaking up big projects into smaller, more achievable goals will help you to get started and stay motivated as you tick things off. This tactic is also known as the ‘Salami Method’, which follows the idea that slicing big projects into more manageable sections can help it feel less intimidating and therefore improve your time management.
3. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF YOUR COMMUTE
Make the most of your commute and use this time to do something productive. Start working through your emails, write a to do list or develop your knowledge by reading into a new topic or skill. Taking advantage of your commute can be more difficult if you drive into work, however there are still things you can get done on your journey, for example, planning out your workday in your head or listening to an educational podcast. Audible and Blinkest are great platforms to find podcasts that may be beneficial to help expand your knowledge.
If you work from home, use the time you would be commuting to do something productive. Rolling out of bed 10 minutes before you are supposed to start work will never set you up for a productive, energised day, instead make the most of the available time and go for a brisk morning walk or make yourself a healthy breakfast.
4. FOLLOW THE ‘2-MINUTE RULE’
The 2 Minute Rule is the idea that if you are faced with a task that you know will take you 2 minutes or less, do it right away, rather than adding it to your to do list. According to David Allen in his bestselling book ‘Getting Things Done’, completing small tasks immediately will take you less time than if you went back to it at a later date. He explains that leaving a large amount of short tasks leads them to build up and group together to become overwhelming, getting these small tasks done right away prevents you from feeling overloaded and procrastinating.
5. ELIMINATE PERSONAL TIME STEALERS
Personal time stealers can negatively impact both your productivity and the quality of work you produce. These include, excessive email checking, procrastination, distractions, lack of planning, and perfectionism. Look for ways that you can reduce these personal time stealers and the affect they may have on your work. Below are some common personal time stealers and ways you can aim to reduce them –
Excessive email checking – Checking your emails too often throughout the day can lead to ‘pick up put down’ behaviour which distracts you from the task you are supposed to be working on. Schedule specific email viewing times such as once and hour or twice a day and set up out of office replies if you are working on an important task and need to avoid distractions.
Lack of planning – Failing to plan your day properly or realistically is one of the biggest personal time stealers. Carefully plan out your day and block out time in your diary for urgent or pressing tasks to avoid ‘running out of time’ to get things done. Also don’t forget to add contingency time into your daily/weekly plans to ensure you allow a bit of breathing room for any unforeseen events or overrunning projects or meetings.
Perfectionism – Focusing too much on completing a task perfectly can lead to you spending too much time on things and then running out of hours in the day. On the days when you’re overwhelmed and have a large amount to do, concentrate on getting things done and don’t waste time on making everything ‘perfect’.
6. TAKE REGULAR BREAKS
Working on a long task without breaks is likely to lead to a steady decline in performance and work quality. Making sure you take regular breaks can help improve concentration and maintain a constant level of performance. Schedule short breaks often throughout your day to step outside and get some fresh air, get a drink of water or a healthy snack to protect your productivity from declining.
One useful strategy to follow is the ‘Pomodoro Technique’ which suggests breaking your time up into 30-minute intervals, with 25-minutes of working time and 5-minute breaks. Experts believe this will allow you to maintain peak level productivity and eliminates the risk of a burnout or decline in efficiency.
7. PRIORITISE TASKS
In order to prioritise effectively, you will need to understand the difference between ‘urgent’ and ‘important’. Many people believe they are working on tasks which are important when they are actually working on tasks that feel urgent but are not actually contributing to their productiveness. The Eisenhower Matrix, refined by Stephen Covey is one of the most popular ways to understand the importance and urgency of tasks. It consists of four quadrants based on a range of reactiveness and responsiveness scales; you will need to understand where tasks fit in this matrix in order to prioritise effectively. For example, an important presentation that is due to be reviewed tomorrow will fit in ‘Quadrant One’ and should be prioritised over other tasks. However, a phone call interruption from a colleague when you are halfway through your important presentation will appear urgent but it is not important in meeting the demands of your day, therefore it will fit into ‘Quadrant Three’ – an urgent but not important task). This is something you need to be aware of when prioritising your workday as many people will work on tasks in ‘Quadrant Three’ thinking that they are working on tasks in quadrant one, therefore they are not maximising their productivity. Make sure you distinguish the difference between urgent and important tasks using the Eisenhower Matrix to objectively filter and prioritise your tasks.
8. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
Give yourself the best chance of achieving your full potential by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Get a good night sleep every night (The National Sleep Foundation guidelines advise that healthy adults should aim to get 7-9 hours per night), exercise regularly, even if it’s just a short walk in your lunch break, and keep up a healthy diet. British entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson swears by exercise as the secret to maximum productivity throughout the day. In a recent interview with CNBC, Richard Branson shared - "The only reason I'm able to do all the things I do and to keep on top of a busy schedule without getting too stressed is because I stay fit".
Not looking after yourself properly will negatively affect your concentration and productivity, along with increasing your chances of facing a burn out. Always ensure to block time for self-care and help reduce the impact work may have on both your mental and physical health.
Times are changing, especially with the impact of the pandemic, so adjusting to the new world of work is vital. If you find yourself running out of hours in the day and working overtime just to get things done, take a step back and distinguish ways in which you can work smarter not harder. Developing your productivity and implementing some of these tactics into your workday will help you to own each day and reach your goals quicker.
At Henderson Scott, we are committed to supporting the growth and personal development of our employees. If you are looking to get into the recruitment industry, head to our ‘Join Us’ page or get in contact today for more information on how we can help you develop your career.