In theory, all of us want to be more productive—but that’s often much easier said than done. Between juggling tasks, exchanging emails with co-workers, and avoiding sidetracks, maintaining your focus and getting things done can be challenging.
But increasing your daily productivity doesn’t mean you have to completely overhaul the way you do work. Often, it just means making minor changes to increase your efficiency, or simply altering your own attitude. Here are 7 simple things you can do to be more productive at work.
1. Create a Realistic to-do List
Chances are that you at least make a mental checklist of the things you need to do each day. Creating a to-do list and writing it down can help you stay on track—but if that list is excessively long, it might just intimidate you into not getting much done at all. Try to be realistic about what you can actually get done each day, and set goals for yourself. If any of the projects on your list are particularly time-intensive, consider breaking them down into smaller, more manageable tasks. If you prefer to reduce paperwork, try using an app like Todoist and keep your list in digital form.
2. Eliminate Distractions
Distractions are particularly troublesome for people who work remotely; it’s easy for any number of things to pull you away from the task at hand. Try limiting these as much as you can. Consider turning off email and social notifications (unless these are vital for your job, of course). If you do normally work from home, try moving to a quiet café; sometimes a slight change of environment is all you need to put yourself in “work mode.”
3. Learn How to Communicate More Effectively
When people don’t communicate clearly, they often have to backtrack and clarify to ensure that things get done—and that can be a major waste of time. Try to find better ways of communicating. If the written work is a weak point, for instance, you may want to opt for phone calls or Skype conversations instead. Whenever possible, include vital details about what you expect from your co-workers; if you require assignments from them, be clear about their deadlines.
4. Organize Your Office
Even if you’re an anti-neat freak and work better in a messy room, a disorganized workspace can be a productivity killer if you can’t find the materials you need. Remove unnecessary clutter wherever you can. If you have loose documents, try sorting them into 3-ring binders so that you can locate them more easily when you need them. When choosing a binder, make sure you properly understand how binder capacity is measured; you don’t want something that lacks room for all the documents you need to store.
5. Avoid Multitasking
When we have multiple things to do, sometimes we try to do them all at once. It might feel more efficient, but in truth, the human brain doesn’t really multitask at all. Trying to do two or three things at a time often leads to mistakes, and that only makes you less productive in the long run. Instead, focus on just one project at a time; don’t start on the next task until you’ve completed the first.
6. Take Regular Breaks
Of course, working on just one task at a time might feel tiresome after a while, especially if the task is especially monotonous. This is where taking breaks comes in handy; it gives your brain a recharge so that you can maintain a more constant level of productivity. Try using the Pomodoro Technique, also known as the “tomato timer” method; this means working for about 25 minutes at a time, with periodic breaks in between.
7. Learn How to Delegate
For those of us with control freak tendencies, it’s always tempting to try to do everything yourself. But to be truly productive, you have to learn how to step out of the way. Learn how to delegate tasks to co-workers you trust, and don’t micromanage them. Allow them to take ownership (or at least a degree of ownership) of the project; they’ll be happier and you’ll be able to focus on tasks you’re more suited for.
There’s no magical fix that will transform you into a work dynamo, but by making smarter choices, increasing your productivity and efficiency is an entirely achievable goal.