Squeezing a few more drops of productivity out of each hour at work can amount to oceans crossed at the year’s end. However, as our work days continuously place heavy demands upon us we tend to overlook the ways we can make ourselves more efficient. Making time to be productive is the key to increasing your work efficiency. But how?
Consider for a second the time you spent yesterday at work, and the day before. Are there noticeable gaps? Often not. That’s because sometimes the most easily missed solutions are right in front of you. That said, I offer the following “obvious” productivity tips that you can implement into your workflow today:
1) Close Outlook: Outlook is a valuable business productivity tool, but it can also be the black hole of work efficiency. You’re glancing at a new message notification one second, and before you know it an hour of responding and forwarding has passed. While you can’t totally cut yourself off you can discipline yourself. Instead, choose to read email in blocks of time at the end of every hour, or every three hours – practical limits differ from workplace to workplace. Your main goal is to stop yourself from being side-tracked.
2) Close your door: As simple as this seems, it’s amazing how effective this is. Co-workers sense approachability in an open door, often striking up conversations just in passing. Make sure you communicate to your team that you are still available during your closed door sessions. You will soon discover that they choose to approach you with more urgent matters.
3) Manage your meetings: Two great tips for making meetings more productive both involve preparation. First, distribute meeting agendas in advance with each agenda topic given a time limit to which you intend to comply. Second, whenever possible task topics to individual staff members in advance so that meetings are informed and conclusive. Use meeting time for decisions, not discussions.
4) Make voicemail work for you: Regardless of your project, being “on task” is your time to work undisturbed. Whenever possible, let your voicemail pick up the calls. You can maximize your effectiveness by updating your message daily. In your greeting tell the caller when you’ll be checking your voicemail and offer an alternative, on-demand means of contacting you such as email. Phone calls are often unnecessary and can be typically summarized in a brief message.
5) Arrive 15 minutes early: Every day is a big event in your work life, so treat it as such. Prepare yourself. I know work time is a sticky subject for some, but we’re talking about the time equivalent to waiting in line at Starbucks. Arrive 15 minutes early and use that time to set yourself up for success. Hang up your coat, get your tools together, review your schedule, and burst out of the gate when the bell rings.
6) Snacks and water: It’s no secret that productivity dips dramatically when you don’t keep yourself fueled. Each Sunday, make a work meal plan that includes healthy snacks for the 10 am / 3 pm slump. Save yourself from the snack machine by stocking up with fruit, nuts and granola bars. Buy a water bottle that you can refill throughout the day. It’s environmentally responsible and keeps you motivated to drink more water, which we all should be doing.
7) Take notes everywhere: Keeping a portable day planner or notepad with you constantly allows you to jot down ideas while keeping focused on the current task at hand. You will find you work more efficiently with an uncluttered brain.
8) Avoid the internet: This one’s a no brainer but I’ll mention it with a twist. Twitter, Facebook, eBay, even Google News all create a time suck. Browse at home. If you have to do research, keep a daily log in the back tabs of your day planner listing each site you visit, and the time spent. It will keep you accountable for your online time, as well as create a footpath for your next research session.
9) Make lunch work: If you are truly committed to increasing your productivity, you must find ways to be effective during lunch. This doesn’t mean you must work through lunch. Close the spreadsheet and start something fresh. Watch a webinar, read a whitepaper, host an informal brainstorming meeting with co-workers. Use this time to add a new dimension to your career path.
10) Track your minutes: Keep a running log of how you’re spending your blocks of time. It will provide valuable feedback and allow you to course-correct an imbalanced day. A great tool for this is Day-Timer’s 2 Page per Day refill, which offers a handy Diary and Work record. Simply locate the corresponding time and create work entries by category, such as “budget proposal” or “sales calls.” It provides an invaluable resource for contractors, as well as those looking to justify career advancement.
11) Read and act, don’t save: We all have our daily inundations of memos, briefs, messages, papers, presentations, and more. Unfortunately our typical behavior is to pile them in our inbox for later when we have more time. But, that time never comes and the pile grows. Whether online or paper, learn to scan documents for key information, and take action. Your decision may be to schedule a meeting, do follow-up tasks, or to simply make a note for your own records but the next step is vital. Recycle, archive, or trash the document. The mere decision to act will free up your future self.
12) Close the day: Never leave the office until you’ve put your day to rest. A hasty exit can leave loose ends dangling, thoughts unrecorded, and a general lack of closure to the day’s hard work. Take a few minutes to file your projects, make notes, and schedule tomorrow. Clean off your desk while you’re at it — you’ll love yourself tomorrow.
Tell Us Your Tips for Increasing Work Productivity
These are just a dozen ways you can increase your work productivity on many different fronts. In each aspect of your work life, you likely have dozens more you can utilize to increase your effectiveness and pursue your dreams of success. What are your tips? We’d love to hear your comments.