Despite numerous technological advances in the workplace, productivity has only increased by one to two percent per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Even worse, 51 percent of the workforce is not engaged, and disengaged employees cost organizations between $450 and $550 billion annually.
Workplace productivity can be a major struggle for both organizations and employees. Yet productivity has numerous benefits—minimizing your time in the office, being more focused at work, and reducing stress throughout the day.
Here are several ways that you can take action and improve your productivity at work.
Develop a Morning Routine
To jumpstart your productivity, create a morning routine that gives you a sense of calm. This could include meditating, exercising, or writing a brief gratitude list to reinvigorate your mind. In fact, individuals whose performance peaks in the morning are more likely to achieve career success than those who perform optimal work in the evening, because they’re more proactive.
Prioritize Your Calendar
Even if you create a detailed calendar in advance, last-minute changes can still disrupt your well-made plans. Instead, reserve blocks of time on your calendar for abrupt changes and last-minute responsibilities one month in advance. The average employee wastes 31 hours, or four business days, in unproductive meetings every month—taking valuable time away from work. If possible, minimize meetings and allocate time to work on long-term goals and projects.
Arrange Your Tasks in Order of Importance
Creating a list using a project management tool, such as Asana, Trello, or Basecamp, can help organize your tasks. If you prefer an old-fashioned to-do list, look at Todoist, Wunderlist, or Evernote for digital apps that look like your favorite legal pad. Each day, arrange your responsibilities in order of importance and focus on three or four essential tasks that require the most effort—and will make the greatest impact on your workload.
Finish these crucial tasks in the morning to limit procrastination and ensure you still have the energy to focus on other responsibilities. Also, zero in on the present and avoid anything too far-off. If you don’t need to think of it for several weeks, put it on your calendar and worry about it when the deadline is closer.
Poorly written emails and other communication can cost companies between $2,100 and $4,100 annually per employee. Make sure to consider whether reaching out to a person is best done through email and, if so, be specific in terms of what you need from them. Keep in mind that there are team-messaging apps, like Slack and HipChat, to cut down on email and increase productivity.
Consider the Pomodoro Method
The Pomodoro Method increases productivity by arranging how you work to increase efficiency. The format builds on 25-minute work sessions, optimizing your time within a hectic workplace. It works the following way:
- Set a timer for 25 minutes and work uninterrupted for the scheduled period.
- Take a five-minute break to grab coffee, check emails, or do something else.
- Once you’ve completed four work sessions, treat yourself with a longer, 15-minute break.
These short formats give you uninterrupted time to focus. If someone distracts you, the best course of action is to:
- Inform the person that you’re working on something right now.
- Negotiate a time when you can get back to your colleague about his or her issue in a timely manner.
- Schedule that follow-up immediately.
- Call back the person when your Pomodoro is complete and you’re ready to focus on his or her needs.
Download a Website Blocker
If you’re grappling with procrastination, choose a website blocker for your Pomodoro sessions. Freedom, KeepMeOut, and Switcheroo limit online browsing and let you follow through on your responsibilities. With these tools, you can block all websites or redirect your favorite sites to your company’s homepage.
Take Control of Your Inbox
The average employee spends 13 hours—28 percent of the workweek—on emails alone. Emails can be agitating, and responding to constant interruptions is one of the fastest ways to lose time. Schedule blocks of time to check email, and blocks of time to focus on other tasks.
Define What Work-Life Balance Means to You
Figure out how many hours you plan on spending at work—and outside the workday. If you leave more than 40 hours to work, you will fill it.
Spending extra hours at work not only takes a toll on your wellbeing, but it fails to make a positive impact on your performance. Prepare for a productive workday by creating a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Take breaks throughout the day, have hobbies outside of work, and get extra sleep to stay vitalized.
Having a strong work-life balance doesn’t have to be difficult. Start small, incorporate some basic productivity tips, and you will notice a positive impact on your work performance.
For more productivity tips, check out the blog post written by Associate Teaching Professor Joe Griffin about why you should avoid multi-tasking.