How To Boost Your Productivity at Work
Are you looking for ways to improve your productivity at work? If you are, it’s an indicator that you care about quality and are time sensitive. Both of these qualities are found in good leaders, and can help you get on the path for a promotion.
Our 10-step guide helps you transform your day from reactivity (where you simply react to everything that happens in your day) to proactivity (where you take control of the things that you can and plan extra time to manage the things in your day that you cannot control). Being proactive is the key to increasing your productivity.
Proactive leaders are less overwhelmed, more emotionally stable, and clear-headed. They inspire their subordinates and earn confidence from their superiors. These kinds of leaders go on to executive-level positions and can launch multi-million dollar businesses. While not everyone can become CEO, each person can learn the steps to be proactive instead of reactive.
A 10-Step Guide To Improve Productivity at Work
Here is a quick rundown of the 10 steps. Feel free to skip to specific steps for more information.
- Think of Your Time as Money
- Batch When Appropriate
- Think About Process for Tasks that Shouldn’t be Batched
- Build Lists (Prioritizing)
- Budget Your Time
- Take Mini Breaks
- Take Big Breaks
- Learn New Technology
- Get to Know Your Team, Then Delegate
- Do Hard Things First
1. Think of Your Time as Money
Time is a treadmill that never stops. Before you know it, hours have passed without reaping the reward you desired. Spending money only occurs when we use it. Time occurs whether you are using it or not.
When it comes to productivity, the main difference between proactive and reactive people is how they view time. You need time to reach project milestones, just as you need time for sleep, organization, relationships, and more. Those that think of time as money being spent are far ahead of those that don’t.
2. Batch When Appropriate
One of the biggest time wasters in our day is the isolated, annoying things like checking email, voicemail, or paper filing. These tasks are not essential to any key process in your job, but they are important and need to be done.
It is tempting to jump on these tasks immediately as they occur (reacting). Instead, look at these tasks as something you’ve set aside time to tackle at a certain time of the day. For example, some people make it a point to check and organize their email inbox twice a day: once at 10am and once at 3pm.
Batching is perfect for two reasons:
- It allows you to “get in a groove” and move through these tasks faster, since you’ve batched them together.
- It allows you to not worry about these tasks until their appointed time. In other words, you’ve proactively eliminated distractions throughout your work day.
3. Think About Process for Tasks that Shouldn’t be Batched
There are some things at work that you should never try to batch. These are tasks that have or are contingencies. What are contingencies?
- A contingency simply means that a certain task must be done before another task can be done. Managing a process is much different than batches of redundant, isolated tasks. If you get too far ahead or too far behind on a set of tasks within a process, your productivity takes a nosedive.
If an assignment hits your desk and you are waiting for a contingency (that is, you are waiting on someone else to complete their task before you do yours), then think about whether or not doing that task now makes sense. After the contingency is met (the person behind you finishes their work), will you have to redo your part because you put “the cart before the horse?”
Additionally, if an assignment hits your desk, and you are the contingency for the next person in the process, don’t delay. Others are waiting on you, and you don’t want to slow them down.
These ideas of contingency and process are important concepts for project managers. However, if you are not a project manager and would like to be one, you can start learning these principles now. Understand what the big picture is and where you are in the process. Take your role seriously and offer support to those that handle your contingencies and to those for whom you are the contingency.
For more in-depth study on process and contingencies, consider reading the book The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement by Eliyahu Goldratt.
4. Build Lists
List building is one of the best tools available, because it teaches you how to prioritize:
- Before you settle in to begin your work for the day, make a list of the most important things that you need to accomplish that day. This list of tasks will get done should all else fail.
- Second, make a list of things that would be ideal to complete today but are not as vital as the tasks in your first list.
- Finally, make a list of things that you would love to get ahead on for the next day, if your schedule permits you to do so.
5. Budget Your Time
Most people “jump the gun” and make time budgeting step 1 or 2. That is unrealistic unless you have already established habits of batching, thinking about process, and prioritization. You shouldn’t ever build a budget that you do not feel confident you can abide by.
Instead, as you get better at handling steps 2-4, begin taking note of how long your work actually takes and what patterns emerge in your daily routine. Once you can identify a healthy routine, enforce it by creating a schedule.
This daily schedule is you learning how to budget your time. Some parts about your day may look different from one day to the next, and other days will look much the same. Either way, having a schedule wherein you’ve budgeted your time will allow you to pick your ideal times of the day for certain tasks. It will help you eliminate distractions and ensure your ability to check off your priority tasks on your list, while also making time to get ahead on future milestones.
6. Take Mini Breaks
How long does your optimal focus last? Can you go 30 minutes or an hour before your brain begins to hopelessly wander? Often, this is your brain trying to tell you to take a break. And if you ignore your brain’s pleas for rest, then your work will only get more sluggish and sloppy throughout the day.
Instead, plan to take mini breaks throughout your day. Your break can be as simple as taking a 2-minute walk, going to the water cooler, grabbing a cup of coffee, or doing anything else that gives your brain a break for a few minutes. If you take these breaks, you’ll do more in shorter periods of high focus adding another proactive step to your work day.
7. Take Big Breaks
After so many hours, mini breaks will no longer work for you. Instead, plan to take 15 to 30-minute breaks after a couple of hours of focused work. For many people, their employers limit how and when they take breaks. If this is true for you, make sure to collaborate with your employer about what you need.
If you plan to do something you enjoy during those longer breaks, it will help you look forward to them. Don’t be tempted to work through these breaks, especially if your employer encourages you to take them.
8. Learn New Technology
So much of what you do is very likely being done faster and better through productivity software and apps. The catch, of course, is learning how to use these new technological tools. For a lot of people, getting the hang of new software feels cumbersome at first. But with determination and practice, what used to take 15 minutes can now be completed with a simple click, and entire projects that used to take months now take a few days.
Consider these lists of productivity apps and productivity tools for work to see which programs would work best for improving your workflow. Then, set aside a few hours of personal time each week to learn some new tools. Afterwards, your supervisor will be amazed at your performance and may ask you to lead new projects.
9. Get to Know Your Team, Then Delegate
You can’t do everything yourself. But even if you think that you can, you shouldn’t try to do everything yourself. If you work as part of a team, it may be that you don’t know your team members as well as you thought you did. Taking a little bit of time to get to know them will do a great deal to improve your skills, as well as delegate tasks for which they are the actual experts.
Don’t assume by a resume or job title that each member can handle easy handle every task. Some will need your mentorship and others simply need to be told what to do. So take your team members out for lunch, have one-on-one coffee breaks, and start tasking your team the right way.
10. Do Hard Things First
As human beings, we tend to procrastinate on tasks that make us nervous. We will go through our entire day dreading the task that must be done. So do that task first.
Get the hardest stuff done first (as much as possible). Doing so will give you more personal satisfaction, as well as improve your mood for the whole day.
Boost Your Productivity
If you take these steps seriously, you’ll be able to accomplish more in less time. Most importantly, this guide will help you be more proactive instead of reactive, giving you more personal satisfaction at work and improving your work-life balance.
For more tips, take a look at some of the ways you can use your skills to work more productively.