Here are 10 tips to increase your productivity at work, from an 18-year-old year old who is a) not a professional productivity guru, b) likes making lists, and c) has been dubbed ‘an organised individual’ by her mom and 7th grade teacher.
1. Declutter your workspace
Having an uncluttered work space leads to an uncluttered mind. Although trivial, a tidy (or, at least, tidier) space makes it easier to get work done – without the stress of not being able to locate your stapler or, get suckered by visual distractions.
2. Put your phone away
Unless your cell phone is absolutely necessary to have on your desk, put in your bag/out of reach/in a drawer. Notifications, personal emails and the cute picture of a cat your grandmother just sent aren’t going to aid your productivity.
At work, I keep my phone in my drawer in case I do need that cat picture for some mid-day motivation (and so I can still hear if any calls come through).
3. Make use of routine
Following a routine limits decision fatigue and ensures you have realistic expectations about your day (you’ll know how many available hours you have if you decide up front when you get up, when you exercise, when you start work, when you take lunch, when you leave the office, etc.).
4. Don’t say yes to every request
Although saying yes will get you well liked at work, you’ll probably find yourself spread thin (and thus not very productive).
(It’s okay to say that you’ve got a lot on your plate. It’s okay to admit you can’t take on another project right now. And your honesty will probably be appreciated more than the disappointment of you not being capable of completing a task by the deadline.)
5. Get Lost
Don’t make yourself so available.
One of the most productive people I know isn’t reachable for 3 hours a day. (He comes in to the office, reads the paper and then disappears to a nearby coffee shop to work.) He says the key to his productivity is making himself unavailable for a few hours a day so that he isn’t distracted by interruptions and can focus completely.
6. Do your most dreaded task first
The best thing about dreaded tasks? They feel so great to complete.
Completing the tasks you dread first will make you feel accomplished (and even if they don’t: at least they’re done, right?) Afterwards, you can gleefully focus on the tasks you enjoy more.
7. Is it really necessary?
I ask myself this often. Surprisingly, the answer if often no. Unsurprisingly, you often don’t have to do things that are unnecessary.
8. Unsubscribe and Unfollow
As well as decluttering your work space, decluttering your mailbox and mind are important too. If you’re subscribed to a handful of newsletters (of any kind) consider how many of them you genuinely enjoy and how many are just taking up space.
Go through your subscriptions, your podcasts, your mobile apps, your social media accounts and be brutal: get rid of the accounts/things you don’t need or value.
9. Identify your time wasters at work
Make a list of things that steal your time at work (like mail, water-cooler chit-chat, meetings, online distractions, etc) and see what you can do to limit them. (Schedule 30 minutes for mail if that’s what it takes, write up agendas for meetings instead of going in with no purpose, silence social media notifications, wear a shirt that says ‘DO NOT DISTURB’, etc.)
10. Take breaks
You can’t be productive if you’re on the go for 8 hours a day.
You need time to decompress, to think, to get away from your screen and colleagues and boss and ever-growing to do list. Take breaks periodically to realign your focus and boost your energy. (Try schedule these breaks into your routine too.)