Increase Your Productivity at Work: 6 Top Tips
Time is money! It’s a cliche, sure. But the thing about cliches is that they could never become cliches if they didn’t contain a universal element of truth! Whether employed or self-employed, one way or another, your livelihood is intrinsically linked to your productivity.
But in the 21st century workplace, it can be harder than ever to stay focused and on-task. With a world of distraction just a click or two away and endless designs on your time, even the best of us can struggle with productivity.
Here are some tips to help you get more done…
1. Remove all distractions
We live in the digital era, and while this presents us with a multitude of wonderful opportunities, it can also be the cause of great distraction. There’s always something going on in the news or your social media feed. There’s always some ad or app screaming for your attention. The minutes or even seconds you take to register all of these distractions really add up.
This is especially challenging if you’re working from home and don’t have a boss to hold you to account. Eliminate distractions wherever they may present themselves.
Obvious things like turning off your notifications on your phone or leaving your personal email unattended during working hours can make a world of difference. Indeed, the average smartphone is a maelstrom of distraction. As unnatural as it may feel, try keeping your phone in a desk drawer while you’re working. Very rarely is there anything on it that can’t wait until your next break.
Your tabs and apps
Your internet browser can also be both a distraction and an eyesore when you have multiple browsers, tabs or windows open on your desktop. This can not only bring a multitude of distractions, it can make your computer harder to navigate or even slow down your laptop or desktop client.
Close down any apps not in use and try and keep open windows and tabs to a minimum. If you’re working from home, you might even want to install some distraction blocking software which inhibits your ability to access non-work related websites or applications.
We all have that one friend at work who we love working with, but who always tries to engage you in conversation when you’re working on important tasks. Make sure the people around you aren’t going to be a distraction and if they are, try and find a quiet space for yourself.
2. Don’t multi-task
Sorry folks, but multi-tasking just doesn’t work. As confident as we are that we can spin many plates all at once, the research points quite starkly in the opposite direction. Studies show that multitasking reduces efficiency and performance and even lowers your IQ. As professor of neuroscience, Earl K. Miller, told Forbes magazine last year, “multitasking is not humanly possible”. So, we’re kidding ourselves if we even try.
To paraphrase an old saying: you’re not multi-tasking, you’re just doing multiple things badly.
Break projects down into discrete tasks and give them your undivided attention. It’s the best way to get your work done faster and to a higher standard.
3. Block out time in your calendar
The key to productivity is good time management. You simply can’t have one without the other. While you have to be able to respond to little fires that need to be put out throughout the day, you also need to block out the time you need to get the most important tasks done on time.
It’s much harder to manage your time on the fly, making forward planning an absolute must for productive working days, especially if you know you have a task that requires your undivided attention. Block time out in your calendar. Make sure you won’t have any meetings and that nobody will be able to bother you. If there are any other tasks that arise throughout the day that aren’t urgent, defer them to the “laterbase”.
Your time is precious. It’s the one thing in the world you can never buy back. So why wouldn’t you protect it?
4. Get tasks done in batches
Do you ever have a task or project that seems so intimidating in its enormity that you just don’t know how to approach it? What do you do when you’re faced with pressing and important yet slightly terrifying workloads?
Setting time aside to dedicate to it is one thing, but it’s human nature to want to flee from things that frighten us. Here’s the best way to tackle it head-on…
Break tasks down into 90-minute chunks
Our brains are natural sprinters, not marathon runners. Peak productivity can only be sustained for so long. Try and break big tasks down into smaller increments which can be accomplished in (more or less) 90 minutes. This will allow you to find a rhythm and give your brain time to rest when it’s needed.
Use the “2 minute rule” to eliminate smaller tasks
A commonly used tip from the procrastinator’s handbook is to revert to smaller tasks when the big things seem too daunting. These little tasks can, therefore, wind up taking disproportionately longer. Take a couple of minutes at the start of every day to map out how you’ll spend your time. If there’s a task you can get out of the way within two minutes, get it done nice and early to get you in the right mindset for the main event.
A mind free of clutter is a more productive and relaxed mind.
5. Take regular breaks
Taking breaks not only improves your concentration. It also boosts your mood and could potentially improve your health. But in today’s fast-paced working environment, we can perceive breaks as a luxury rather than a necessity.
Nobody’s doubting your work ethic. Nobody’s going to judge you if you step away from your desk for a quarter of an hour. In fact, you should be getting out of your desk for at least 5 minutes every day anyway. Sitting for long periods of time really isn’t good for you.
Your brain is just like any other part of your body. It can only go for so long before getting tired. And it’s much, much harder to do your best work with a tired and overworked mind.
6. Use dictation and transcription to save time
An important part of harnessing your productivity is leaning on applications and services that can make your life easier, and embracing new ways of working.
There are a number of ways in which transcription services can help you to save time, better manage your work hours and unlock your productivity.
Do it with dictation
Use a voice recorder app on your phone, or get hold of a dictaphone to dictate your thoughts, ideas, to-do lists and general notes. This can save time as most of us find it faster, easier and more convenient to talk rather than type or write. This can also allow you to document thoughts and ideas as and when they occur to you.
Transcribe your voice notes quickly and easily
There will often be times when you want to access your voice notes or dictated audio recordings in a way that’s easier to parse and mine for key information. Transcription services will allow you to do exactly this. With certain services, you can even record and upload notes to be transcribed using the same app.
Trim away the fluff
If you have a lengthy transcription, this can be somewhat tough on the eyes and make it harder to parse for the raw data you need. For this reason, some transcription services offer a ‘detailed notes’ transcript. This removes any unnecessary and/or irrelevant content from your recordings, giving you a leaner and more streamlined transcript with only the important stuff and helping you save time!
A little goes a long way
It can be hard to change habits — even if you know you’ll benefit from it in the long run. Try integrating these tips into your working days over the next few weeks. Figure out what works for you and what’s helping you to get more done.
Some might seem jarring at first, but they’ll soon become second nature. Before long you’ll be enjoying happier, less stressful and more productive working days.