Knowing how to be more productive can help you to supercharge your career
Career success is not something that just happens for most people. Rather, it's usually the end result of a lot of hard work, dedication, and careful planning. Moreover, the most successful people are often among the most productive. They know how to effectively manage their talents and time to optimize their productivity and get more done. Of course, that's easier said than done for most of us. And you may find yourself wondering whether there's some secret that can help you to learn how to be more productive.
In this post, we'll examine why it's so important to figure out how to be more productive and how increased productivity can benefit your career. We'll also provide ten key productivity tips that you can use to help you to improve your own productivity.
Why productivity matters
At every level of business, productivity plays a vital role in success. An increase in productivity can directly impact a company or sector's growth in a positive way. Declines in productivity can create stagnation or other negative consequences. As a result, productivity is a key factor in determining not only personal success, but also the success of companies, industries, and national or global economies.
But what does it mean to be productive? The easiest way to explain the concept of productivity is to consider two primary components: work input and output. Input can include things like labor or capital, while output includes goods, services, and other achievements that result from those inputs. For example, if your labor produces more goods or services, then your productivity has been increased.
At its core, productivity is a reliable measure of efficiency for companies, individuals, and economies. Ideally, everyone would be at maximum efficiency throughout each workday. Some studies, however, have indicated that most people are actually only productive for about three hours in an eight-hour day. Much of the rest of each day is wasted on diversions like social media, snacks, texting, or idle chatting with colleagues.
Obviously, if you can figure out how to be more productive at work, you can set yourself apart from other workers at the company. You can gain a reputation as a valuable asset. That can lead to promotions, increased compensation, and even better jobs later in your career.
How to be more productive at work: 10 tips
To help you to learn how to be more productive, we've compiled ten great tips that you can use each day. Incorporate these strategies into your own work habits and you should see your productivity begin to rise in no time at all.
1. Start each day with defined goals
One of the biggest obstacles to developing productivity habits is a failure to plan. If you're one of those people who struggles to get through their workload each day, then there's a good chance that you could benefit from a solid daily plan. Before you start your day, make sure that you have a well-defined strategy with viable goals that you want to achieve before the workday is complete. Write down a simple list of the tasks and goals that you plan to complete and prioritize those that you consider to be high-value objectives.
Obviously you may need to adjust that plan as the day progresses, but just having a structured strategy in place can help to keep you more focused and motivated to get things done. Just as important, you'll be able to see your progress and productivity as it happens and avoid the type of disorganization that may leave you feeling overwhelmed.
2. Take on each task one at a time
If you're like many people, you may believe that you're more than capable of multitasking at work and in your personal life. Unfortunately, that's rarely true. Research suggests that most human beings are only capable of performing one task at a time. When we attempt to multitask, our brains actually shift attention from one task to another and back again. That switch in attention might occur so rapidly that it seems as though you're performing multiple tasks at once, but that's not the case.
To do your best work, perform one task at a time. Give it your full and undivided attention and focus on getting every detail correct. Once that task is done, move on to the next. Once you get into the habit of focusing on one task at a time, you'll quickly see improvements in the quality of your work and your overall productivity.
3. Start with the hardest tasks
If you're one of those people who likes to eat dessert before you tackle your vegetables, you might want to consider a different approach at work. Instead of starting your day with the simplest and most mindless tasks, try getting the more difficult chores out of the way first. Most people are at their best when the workday begins and tend to slow down and tire as the day wears on. If your energy and focus are at their peak in the early hours of the day, that's the perfect time to complete those challenging tasks.
Of course, the most effective way to achieve this goal is to make sure that your day begins with no distractions. Develop a routine that enables you to jump right into those challenging duties and get them out of the way. Alternatively, you can focus on completing your least enjoyable task when you arrive at work. That will leave the rest of the day for you to work on simpler or more pleasant duties.
4. Use time blocks to schedule your work
Do you set aside blocks of time each day to help manage your workflow? If not, then you should give that strategy a try. Time blocks can be one of the most effective ways to increase your productivity, since they can improve your ability to manage your duties and time. By using a simple daily calendar that allows you to organize your tasks into set periods of time, you can add more structure to your day and boost your overall productivity.
To use this technique, divide your daily routine into blocks of thirty or sixty minutes, and schedule different tasks from your to-do list for those periods of time. For shorter tasks like checking your email or phone messages, you can break those blocks down into even smaller segments. The goal is to create a scheduled workflow that can help you to manage your daily activities in the most organized manner possible.
There are time management apps that you can use to implement this strategy. Or, if you're familiar with programs like Excel, you can create your own. You can even use a printed calendar if that suits your needs. The point is to create a formal structure for your day so that you always know exactly what you're supposed to be doing at any given point in time. That structure can be key to boosting productivity, by ensuring that you're consistently producing results throughout each day.
5. Focus on priorities
One thing to understand about productivity is that being productive is all about priorities. When you know how to prioritize the important tasks at work, you'll be more likely to always get those duties done in the time allotted. Why are most people only productive for several hours each workday? It's simple: they're making choices about their work priorities. Instead of prioritizing key work tasks, they are choosing to prioritize a whole host of distractions that prevent them from being truly productive.
Once you understand just how important this mindset actually is, you can learn how to be more productive by better managing your priorities. You will understand that the barrier to productivity isn't that there aren't enough hours in each day; it's that too many of us fail to prioritize the important things that need to be done. As you adopt this mindset of prioritization, you can more effectively control your workday, manage time, and increase your productivity.
6. Eliminate distractions
The world is a noisy and busy place, filled with sounds, sights, events, and a whole host of other things that can easily capture our attention at any given moment in time. That makes life interesting and helps to ensure that our minds are always stimulated in one way or another. Unfortunately, though, they can also be major distractions that can impact productivity. After all, it's almost impossible to focus on a task when your phone rings every few minutes or you're constantly checking your emails.
While minor distractions may not impact you that much during normal, routine tasks, they can present a real challenge when you're doing something that requires intense focus and attention. During scheduled periods when your duties demand your complete attention, try to completely eliminate distractions. Silence your phone, mute your computer, and take any other steps necessary to avoid interruptions. Read our post, What is Monk Mode and How Can it Boost Productivity?, for some great ideas that can help you learn to eliminate distractions and focus on important goals.
7. Create a strategy to manage email
When it comes to productivity, few things can be as distracting as email. While electronic messaging has become a vital component of modern business communication, it can also cause workers to waste a tremendous amount of time each day. Have you ever been at work and found yourself almost compulsively checking and rechecking your email every few minutes?
It's an easy habit to acquire, especially in professions where much of your communication occurs via email messaging. Fortunately, it's a habit that you can break, if you're able to force yourself to take these simple steps:
Establish set times to check email. You can add a message to your email signature line that lets people know just how often you check those messages.
Adopt the two-minute rule. When you check your email, respond only to messages that require no more than two minutes of typing. If messages require a longer response, wait until the end of the day.
Turn off email notifications. You can manually check your emails at the scheduled times.
Remove your email app from your phone. This can help you to stick to your email schedule.
8. Develop a routine
The most effective and productive people in the world develop routines that help them to stay organized and on-task. Try to create your own routine and let it become a daily habit that guides your activities. Sit down and create a list of everything that you do each day. Are there tasks that dominate a certain day? Is there a way to organize your duties so that you can assign certain ones to a specific day each week?
By creating a routine and sticking to it over time, you can establish boundaries for yourself that will help to keep you focused on your priorities. To maximize the effectiveness of your routine, make sure that you communicate those boundaries to other people. Let them know which time periods are set aside for certain tasks and when you're available for questions, collaboration, or meetings. That communication can help to ensure that you're able to stick to your routine with fewer distractions or competing demands for your time.
9. Do not skip lunch or breaks
If you routinely skip lunch or other breaks while you're at work, chances are that you're doing so to give yourself more time to finish your duties. Here's a bit of advice, though: that doesn't really work. Most experts now agree that every worker should take their designated lunch break, as well as additional scheduled breaks throughout each day. Why? Well, because those breaks can actually help you to be more productive.
The fact is that human beings can only focus on a given task for so long before they start to see diminishing returns. Over time, your attention wanes, the quality of your work drops, and your output starts to fall behind your input. Regular breaks can provide you with an opportunity to clear your mind, refresh your energy, and then return to your duties with renewed engagement and effectiveness.
And that includes lunch breaks, of course. You may not feel like you need lunch, but your body will probably disagree. Regular daily lunches can help to ensure that your body gets a renewed burst of energy as you consume vital nutrients. Even if you just eat a piece of fruit and an energy bar, your body will thank you as the day wears on.
10. Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness is all about focusing on the present moment and allowing yourself to be aware of your current environment and what you're doing. It's a state of mind that can help you to be more fully cognizant of your own thought processes, emotions, and surroundings. When used properly, mindfulness can help you to be more engaged and attentive at work. Naturally, that greater level of engagement and focus can lead to increased productivity. If you want to practice mindfulness at work or elsewhere in life, you could begin by focusing on your relationship with your smartphone, social media, or other technologies.
How to be more productive: it begins at home
We would be remiss if we failed to note that there are things outside of work that you need to do if you want to truly be at your productive best. For example:
Get the right amount of sleep each night. By getting seven or eight hours of rest each and every night, you can ensure that your mind and body are ready to operate at peak efficiency each day.
Exercise. Regular exercise can help to boost energy levels, improve physical health, and focus your mind.
Stay hydrated. Even minor dehydration can cause deterioration in your mental functions. Drink plenty of water and other fluids each day to keep your brain operating at its best.
Practice self-compassion. As you drive yourself to be more productive, don't forget to forgive yourself when you fall short of your own expectations. Productivity is not as much a destination as it is a journey. Be kind to yourself along the way, recognize that you have limitations, and give yourself permission to be imperfect. When you do, you can help to ensure that you remain motivated and inspired to continue pursuing your goals.
Learning how to be more productive can be vital for career success
When you take the time to learn how to be more productive, you will quickly see a dramatic improvement in your ability to get more done each day. That can increase your value as an employee and team member and make a powerful impact on your career advancement.
Learning how to be more productive is just the beginning of your search for career success. Get your free resume review today to ensure that you have the advantage you need to land your next job!