I am constantly looking for ways to improve my productivity. Time is money, at least that’s what they tell me. There are countless ways to improve your productivity at work, but here are a few of my favorites — which are not so coincidentally easy to incorporate.
I hate to break it to you, but you probably can’t multitask. Very few people have the actual ability to multitask, so for most of us, multitasking just makes things take longer. This means you shouldn’t be listening to that conference call, designing the magazine cover and writing an email at the same time. It also means that trying to text while working is no good. If you want to be productive, you need to concentrate, shut down the YouTube video running in the background with cute puppies doing adorable things (have you seen the one where the dog skateboards?) and focus on the task at hand. To clarify, the one task at hand.
Take Short Breaks (and Exercise)
When I used to work in a corporate office, I would schedule myself brief breaks — most of which I spent taking a brisk walk around the building. I typically took one break mid-morning, a shorter break at lunch (where I also walked) and a break about half-way through the afternoon. When it came to particularly challenging meetings (you know the one), I might have taken an extra few minutes afterward.
These brief breaks allowed me to (literally) get a breath of fresh air and help my thinking juices flow better, hence the increased productivity. A lot of people I know can accomplish this same task by doing a few jumping jacks or stretches in their office, but for me, I need the physical distance. And this is a habit I’ve taken with me. I still take a walk when I’m feeling stuck, frustrated or simply in need of a refresh. Now, my boss was in on this plan. So if you are going to try throwing a little exercise into your routine, I highly suggest making your boss or supervisor aware, so they don’t think you’re walking out of the office!
Work When You Work Best
This advice is most meaningful for people who have flexible work arrangements (or work for themselves) and can structure their workday according to their needs. For example, I typically work at night because that’s when I’m feeling my most focused and thus have increased productivity. I’ll work throughout the day, take phone calls and respond to meetings, but I do most of my work after 7 pm.
That said, this advice can be helpful for working a traditional schedule as well. For example, back in my corporate days, I found my email reading and responding time to be best-kept to first thing in the morning, the period before lunch and right before I left. I received alerts for certain emails from certain people throughout the day, but for the most part, I responded when I knew I needed that break. Similarly, I found myself to be less creative in the morning, so I kept my administrative and more logically-orientated tasks for the morning and left campaign creation, creative meetings, brainstorming and design to the afternoons where possible.
Pre-Plan Your Meetings and Phone Calls
By pre-plan your meetings and phone calls to increase your productivity, I don’t mean throw them in your calendar a few days before and call it pre-planned, I mean actually walk through what you’re going to say, jot down some notes and practice. This doesn’t mean you have to have full on debates with yourself in your cubicle (that might be a bit weird…) it simply means that you do a little pre-thinking before the meeting or call comes around. That way when it comes down to the meeting, you know where you’re heading, and you can steer the conversation if it gets off track.
Knowing what you want to articulate (and practicing it) can come in real handy. Especially in cases where you’re nervous, unsure or are discussing a complex topic. For the record, I rehearse every meeting and phone call I have before I have it. Often in my rehearsal I find flaws in my logic or other points I want to articulate but hadn’t yet thought of. Much like you should never go on stage without a speech (seriously, you really shouldn’t) I would say you probably shouldn’t go into a meeting or phone call without thinking about it first.
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How have you been able to improve your productivity at work? Share your tips and tricks with me in the comments below!
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Tae started out as a journalist before following the money into the corporate world. But it turns out that the grass isn’t always greener and now you can find her spending most of her time writing about all the things she loves. Namely, money, travel and business with a hefty dose of self-deprecating humor. She is a podcast fanatic, blogging aficionado and loves to find new ways to turn passions into cold hard cash!