I work with a lot of entrepreneurs and supervisors who are looking to increase productivity, whether in their own work or the work of their employees, and their focus is always on how to find more time. However, more time isn’t necessarily the key; it’s more about how exactly you’re utilizing your time. Everyone has 24 hours in a day, so what is it that makes some people so much more productive than others? These are the seven tips I share with clients who are looking for ways to boost productivity.
- Set your own deadlines.
If you’re having trouble getting motivated to finish a project — or even to start it — consider setting yourself a deadline. Science shows that setting meaningful deadlines can quell procrastination and assist with completing a project or assignment. Especially if you have a larger project to tackle, breaking it down into smaller segments and assigning a deadline to each one can make the project much more manageable.
- Connect with your co-workers.
Ask a co-worker you don’t know well to go to lunch with you. Offer to pick up the slack for a colleague who has become overwhelmed. Research shows that employees who are friends with their co-workers are not only more content with their jobs and more engaged with their work, they’re also more productive. So reach out and make that connection. You don’t have to be besties with everyone in the office, but being amicable and friendly with the people you work with every day has major benefits.
- Take regular breaks.
So many of us think that we would be more productive and get more things done if only we had more time. However, that’s not necessarily the case, and, actually, investing less time but more focus seems to be the key. Experts in a wide range of fields reported spending only about five to six hours a day working on their particular skill, with most reporting that they spent 1-2 hours at the very start of the day when their focus was sharpest. This makes sense, given that the human brain can stay focused for only about 45 minutes at a time before that focus starts to decrease.
So what does this mean for those of us working 8 hour workdays? Taking regular breaks is imperative. Schedule them in your calendar if you have to. If you’re not giving your brain and body a chance to regroup throughout your 8-hour work day, your productivity will be suffering for sure.
- Get more sleep.
The negative effects of not getting enough sleep are no joke: mental distress, trouble focusing, reduced cognitive function, not to mention greater risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Bottom line is, if you’re not getting enough sleep, your job performance is suffering. If that’s not enough to motivate you to get some more shut-eye, maybe this is: science has proven that people who get sufficient sleep actually make more money. So put yourself to bed at a decent hour, leave your iPhone in the other room, and turn off the TV. It’ll pay off. Literally!
- Prioritize your tasks.
The most productive people out there are able to identify the most important task on their plate, and they spend the first one to two hours of each day completely focused on that task. Every day, ask yourself what is the most important thing that you need to get done that day, and dive into that task first while your focus is at its highest level.
- Minimize distractions.
There are a myriad of negative consequences from workplace distractions: poor quality of work, missed deadlines, decreased employee morale, and lost revenue, to name a few. The advances in technology that our society has witnessed over the past couple decades have also created tons of new distractors, including cell phones and other devices, the internet, social media, and email.
Minimizing these distractions can give your daily productivity a boost. Leave your cell phone in your purse, or stick it in your desk drawer, and only check it on your lunch break or every couple hours, instead of hovering over it all day. Work in break times during the day to check in on your social media, instead of stalking your accounts constantly in eager anticipation of new notifications. Schedule particular times of the day to check and respond to emails—nothing breaks your concentration like that pop-up notification from Outlook that comes across the screen when a new email comes through. Being strategic about managing these distractors will give you more time to focus on more meaningful work without keeping you completely out of the loop.
- Adjust your mindset.
Research indicates that most people, especially members of the younger generations in the workforce, want to do work that has a sense of purpose or meaning to them. So if you’re not doing work that you’re totally passionate about, you might be struggling a bit in your day-to-day work life. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to leave the company to get the fulfillment that you need. Changing your outlook can make a world of difference. Remind yourself of the big picture of what your company does, the end goal of how you help clients or customers, instead of focusing on all the paper you’re pushing day-to-day or the massive spreadsheets you have your nose buried in. Take time each day to think about the importance of your work to the company and how your role contributes to the greater good. And if that’s not enough, check out these uplifting TED Talks to get into a more positive mindset.
Regular exercise not only has substantial physical benefits — weight control, release of endorphins, increased energy, prevention of stroke, depression, diabetes, and certain types of cancer — it can also help improve your mood, improve cognitive function, and boost your memory and thinking skills. Daily physical activity is a must if you want to truly optimize the hours you’re putting into your work each day. And it’s not as hard as you might think to incorporate into your daily schedule — try starting out with 3 ten-minute walks per day and build on that to start reaping the benefits.
The most successful people out there know how to delegate. Trying to do it all and be in complete control of everything is a surefire path to burnout. Learn how to let go of the things that aren’t really that important. Stop striving for perfection. Identifying which tasks can easily be outsourced and assigning them to the right individuals will free up your time to focus on the truly most important tasks — the ones that can legitimately can only be done by you — and will maximize your productivity.
Being strategic and using your time wisely is the key to increase productivity. Changing your habits to incorporate these simple steps can bring you a huge boost, freeing you up to focus on what’s most important to you. And what’s better than that?