15 Little Tips to Increase Your Productivity at Work

With only so many hours in the day, working smart is critical.  Efficiency at work isn’t rocket science, but it certainly does require re-thinking and re-prioritizing how you manage your time. This post will give you 15 simple and effective suggestions for minimizing your distractions and increasing your productivity at the office.

  1. Track & time your tasks

You may think you’re pretty good at measuring how much time you’re spending on various tasks; however, research shows only around 17% of people are able to accurately estimate the passage of time.  A tool like Rescue Time is an effective tool that runs on your PC and tells you how much time you spend on daily tasks and goes as far as social media, email, word processing, and apps.

  1. Take regular breaks

While it sounds counter-intuitive and totally contradictory to this subject, taking scheduled breaks will actually help improve concentration. Some research has shown that taking breaks during heavier tasks helps you maintain a constant level of performance; while executing a task without breaks eventually leads to a steady decline in performance.

  1. Set self-imposed deadlines & watch the clock

While most think of a stress as a negative thing, a manageable level of “self-imposed stress” can actually help you by giving focus and helping meet your goals. For open-ended tasks or projects, try giving yourself a deadline and then stick to it. You may be surprised to discover just how focused and productive you can be when you’re watching the clock.

  1. Follow the “two-minute rule”

Entrepreneur Steve Olenski recommends using the “two-minute rule” to take advantage of small windows of time that you have at work. The idea is this: If you see a task or action item that you know can be knocked out in two minutes or less, then do it immediately. According to Olenski, completing the task immediately takes less time than having to go back to it later. Implementing this has made him one of the most influential content strategists online.

  1. Decline unproductive meetings

Meetings are one of the biggest time-suckers around, yet somehow we continually lets ourselves get sucked into them and, inevitably, complain about them.  According to Atlassian, the average employee spends just over 31 hours per month in unproductive meetings. Before accepting your next meeting invite, ask yourself whether or not you can accomplish the same goals or tasks via email, phone, or Web-based meeting (which may be slightly more productive).

  1. Change up your meeting styles

For those absolutely must-have meetings, incorporating a level of creativity can help generate good ideas.  Discuss different ways to do simple processes that you never thought of that may be more efficient (like times of day you hold meetings, the leadership style of meetings and where you actually hold them) as shifting these simple elements may generate a behavioral change in those who attend.

  1. Stop multitasking

While we tend to think of the ability to multitask as an impressive skill for increasing efficiency, the opposite may in fact be true. Psychologists have found that attempting to multi-task can actually result in lost time and productivity.  Instead, make a habit of committing to a single task before moving on to your next project, and enjoy the simple pleasure of crossing that task off the list.

  1. Take advantage of your commute

For those driving, get your hands on some audio books that you can listen to on your commute.  Self-help books related to your industry can be quite enlightening.  For those taking other means of transportation that do not involve driving, use that time to pound out some emails, create your daily to-do list, or do some brainstorming.

  1. Give up the pipe-dream of perfection

It’s common for people to get hung up on attempting to perfect a task–the reality is nothing is ever perfect.  Rather than wasting time chasing after this illusion, bang out your task to the best of your ability and move on.  Trust yourself!  After all, you have come this far in life haven’t you?  Give yourself some credit and try not to second-guess yourself on anything outside of proof-reading.  It’s better to complete a task and move it off your plate; if need be, you can always come back and adjust or improve it later.

  1. Take a fitness break

Using office time to exercise may actually help improve productivity, according to a study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. If your company allows it, build in set times during your work days for taking a walk or going to the gym. Getting your blood pumping could be just what’s needed to clear your head and get your focus back.

  1. Focus on proactive, not reactive.

Becoming a slave to incoming phone calls and emails to dictate how you spend your day will mean you do a great job of putting out fires–but that may be all you get accomplished.  Set aside time for responding to emails, but don’t let them determine what your day is going to look like.  Make sure you don’t try to be the jack of all trades and “punt” tasks to others on your team when you can.  Have a plan of attack at the start of each day, and then do your best to stick to it.

  1. Remove notifications!

This one little item that is thought to be so brilliant can be the death of most of us, especially those with ADD.  No one can resist the allure of an incoming email, voicemail, or text notification.  By human nature, all of us have the desire to be wanted, and these little notifications subconsciously trigger the “Squirrel” distraction.  During work hours, turn off your notifications, and instead build in time to check email and messages. This is all part of being proactive rather than reactive.

  1. Try power-working in 90 minute blocks

Researchers at Florida State University have found elite performers (athletes, chess players, musicians, etc.) who work in intervals of no more than 90 minutes are more productive than those who work 90 minutes-plus. They also found that top performing subjects tend to work no more than 4.5 hours per day. Sounds good to me!

  1. Give yourself a view

It may sound unlikely, but some research shows outfitting an office with aesthetically pleasing elements–like plants—or a poster with a scenic view can increase productivity by up to 15 percent. Jazz up your office space with pictures, candles, flowers, or anything else that puts a smile on your face. For other ideas check out these office décor tips.

  1. Eliminate interruptions (to the best of your ability)

Having colleagues pop in just to say hi may seem innocuous, but even brief interruptions can shift your work pattern and a create a corresponding drop in productivity. Minimizing interruptions may mean setting office hours, keeping your door closed, or working from home for time-sensitive projects.

If you feel the need to increase your productivity at work, resist the temptation put in longer hours or pack more into your already-full calendar. Instead, take a step back, and think about ways you can work smarter, not harder.