Productivity is a huge buzzword in our society, but the world of work has dramatically shifted and so must our ideas around how to be the most productive when it comes to our businesses and work. Working from home, or in a more flexible work environment changes the ways people are able to work as well as the quality of their outputs.
During the lockdown period, businesses and individuals realised that a lot of the time that was spent working at the office was unproductive in terms of outputs. Recognising that the same quality of work can be produced in different circumstances has meant that many people have adapted and found new ways to be productive in the world we now find ourselves in.
But there’s also been a shift in the conversations around mental health and burn out, especially from a work-from-home perspective, where the lines are blurred between work and home life… So finding productivity techniques that will create efficiency in your work flow and allow you to balance your personal life more effectively is now more important than ever.
Whether you’re returning to the office or still working from home, your workflow and time management skills have surely changed as a result of the pandemic. Here are a few tips that will help you become the most productive version of yourself in whatever situation you find yourself in.
1. Organise and simplify your physical workspace .
Whether you’re working from home or from the office, your immediate surroundings have a signifcant impact on your productivity and focus levels. If things are cluttered or disorganized, you’re likely to feel overwhelmed. Being scattered and trying to work in that space leads to inefficiency and often, you might forget about tasks or lose your focus easily. If you’re working from home it’s also important to create boundaries between work and home, and often a physical space that is well-organised and dedicated to work can help you set boundaries and maintain a healthy balance.
A clean and simple workspace will also lift your mood and help you get into a productive mindset.
2. Cut down notifications and distractions
This might sound obvious, but deliberately turning off phone notifications or closing your email app for an allotted amount of time can drastically improve your productivity. If you’re not being distracted by emails flooding your inbox, or social media pings every five minutes, you’re far more likely to get work done efficiently. This links to the next tip.
3. Avoid multitasking.
A common myth is that being able to multitask is a great skill to have, but in fact there is research that suggests that when you’re multitasking you’re not accomplishing tasks in the most efficient or effective way, nor are you doing the tasks to the best of your ability. Instead block out times that you will use to tackle an individual task, and avoid distractions while you are doing said task, and you will find yourself far more productive in that time frame.
4. Use tools to optimize your workflow.
Do you find yourself struggling to keep up with tasks or getting lost in a sea of updates, scattered information and team communication? It’s probably because your tools for communication, organisation, project and task management are not being utilised correctly.
You and your team would be much more efficient if the right processes were in place for you to manage your work.
There are project management tools. Communication apps. Task management platforms. They all do different things and if you use them correctly you won’t find yourself getting lost looking for the information you need to do your job.
Asana is a great tool to keep track of tasks and staying in touch with your team. It can create folders for different projects, clients and team members. You can optimise your workflow by avoiding scattered communication, missing to-do lists and unclear task guidelines.
Google Chat, Slack or similar chat room apps can help organise work communication rather than overloading your Whatsapp or messages. Build chat rooms for specific communications and avoid losing track of team decisions, updates and information.
5. Simplify meetings.
As much as you should be using specific tools to optimise your workflow, you should also consider how unproductive meetings can be.
Meetings should only exist if an email, a task assignment or a quick phone call cannot help you achieve the goals you want to achieve. If it’s not entirely necessary, an in-person meeting is a waste of time.
6. Take breaks.
Productivity is not working consistently for 10 hours. Taking a break, remembering to eat and drink water and breathe is essential to both your mental health and to how productive you will be in the time that you are concentrating on work.
There are different techniques for taking breaks while you work. One technique is the Pomodoro method. It cuts your work flow into 30 minute, manageable intervals. You work, focused, for 25 minutes and then take a 5 minute break. Whether you physically get up to stretch, use the bathroom, check your phone or make a coffee, your 5 minute break acts as a re-focussing moment. Come back to your work after 5 minutes with a refreshed outlook and increased productivity. Then after four rounds of 30 minute intervals, take a longer 20-30 minute break.
7. Learn how to say no.
When we fail to make boundaries, and then find ourselves overloaded with work, approaching your work can be overwhelming at the very least. It can be difficult to know where to begin. A key part of being productive is knowing when to say no, when to delegate a task to someone else and to know when to stop.
We can’t do everything ourselves, no matter how much we might convince ourselves we can. So practice saying no. You will save yourself anxiety, and you won’t be as overworked – which in turn allows you to give your full attention to tasks you have to do. Much more productive!
Not every task is urgent or immediate. Learn how to prioritise tasks. Figure out what is essential and complete those tasks first.
Using a tool like Asana can help you to visual tasks and their due dates in a calendar. Then you can easily see what needs to be done by when.
Furthermore, my advice to prioritise also refers to your personal life. Our lives are not only about our work. So prioritise your health, your sleep, your family. When you are sleeping properly and spending quality time with your loved ones, you will find your work automatically improves anyway.
9. Practice positive affirmations and reinforcements.
So often we’re reminded of where we’ve fallen short, or when a task is not satisfactory and that really can affect your motivation and bring productivity down. Instead, remind yourself when you’ve done a good job.
Leaders should make sure that they are encouraging their co-workers and employees. Positive encouragements and affirmations are so important for both our mental health and the quality of the work we produce. If you feel encouraged and confident about the work you’re doing, you are far more likely to be productive and effective.
10. Finally, follow the “two-minute rule”.
Entrepreneur Steve Olenski recommends implementing the “two-minute rule” to make the most of small windows of time that you have at work. The idea is this: If you see a task or action that you know can be done in two minutes or less, do it immediately. According to Olenski, completing the task right away actually takes less time than having to get back to it later. Implementing this has made him one of the most influential content strategists online.
Every other task can fall under your list of priorities, but if there’s a quick task you can complete, do it now. Because accomplishing a task will make you feel more productive, which will in turn lead to more productivity in the long run.
If you’re able to implement some of these tips in your work day, not only will you be more productive in your work, but you will feel less stressed and overwhelmed. Instead you’ll feel capable and in control, with time to spare to be with your loved ones and relaxing.
Amy Codrington is a writer and storyteller with a background in multimedia production, filmmaking and gender studies, which gives her unique insight in her field. All of these facets influence Amy’s writing and experience as a storyteller, creative thinker and strategist and inform how she writes about different topics.
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