How to Be More Productive at Work – Part One
If you do any of your work on a computer you know how easy it is to get distracted. Email, news articles, helpful how-to posts, ongoing Twitter conversations, and persistent phone notifications are all out to sabotage your workday. Sure, you spend eight hours at work, but what do you really accomplish when you’re distracted every three minutes? This is an issue compounded now by the increased number of the workforce who are now working from home on a semi-permanent basis since the advent of COVID-19. So how can we be more productive at work?
Let’s address home-workers first – how can you be more productive working in physical isolation? Firstly, identify what needs to get done every day and make sure to do it. As long as you have a plan on how to complete the list of daily tasks on your personal to-do list, it doesn’t matter if or how you may be interrupted, as long as you get things done by the end of the day. Allowing yourself as many breaks or distractions as you wish, as long as you don’t leave your desk until everything on that list is done can be a great way to both work and allow for natural interruptions. Also, post these priorities up where you can see them. Vagueness is not motivating, but a consistent reminder about your priorities creates focus, momentum, and vision. If these are not at the top of your mind when you begin your day, you’re much more likely to waste time, be less productive, and deliver mediocre results. Have them where you can see them, and physically cross them out when you’ve completed them. It may sound self-indulgent, but the sense of achievement will be profound, trust us.
Working from home doesn’t mean you should avoid breaks. If you were in an office, you’d take a coffee break, have a brief chat with colleagues, go to lunch, etc. Just because you’re at home doesn’t mean you need to be chained to your desk for eight hours. You know that ache that fills your brain when you’ve been powering through tasks for several hours? This is due to your brain using up glucose. Too many people mistake this for a good feeling, rather than a signal to take a break. Go take a walk, grab something to eat, work out, or meditate – give your brain some resting time. You’ll invariably achieve more productivity during your workday by making a point to regularly clear your head. You’ll come back recharged and ready to achieve greater efficiency.
Take on harder tasks earlier in the day. Knock out your most challenging work when your brain is most fresh. Save your busy work – if you have any – for when your afternoon slump rolls in. My personal experience has proven unequivocally that my most productive hours are before 9 am. Previously, I thought that was just me, but the more people I talk to about this, the more it seems to be true of many people. Maybe it’s that there’s less distraction – or none at all if it’s 5 am! It seems that people are most dynamic and creative in the early hours. Try to be half an hour earlier than you normally would by getting up earlier, and see if it works for you.
Working from home can be highly rewarding, but if you live in a busy household, family or housemate distractions can be highly disruptive to your productivity. You don’t want to be rude to people, and you may feel you need the human interface (and in truth you do – in moderation), but if it happens incessantly it can become highly detrimental to your effectiveness. Here’s an idea we heard about that’s actually fun to try and seems to work pretty well. Hang or tape coloured ribbons on your office door. Tape the red ribbon up when you cannot be disturbed and the green ribbon when it’s OK to come in. Yellow ribbon means to check first. Kids, no matter what age, understand the message clearly, and enjoy playing along. Try it; you’ve nothing to lose and everything to gain!
In our next blog, we’ll look at how office-based workers can also be more productive.