Productivity at work is not about just showing up. Presenteeism is not ideal—just floating by, not really doing meaningful work. You might have looked for ways to improve productivity or the best tips to boost productivity at work.
The reality is that there are so many factors to consider. From sleeping to preparing clothes ahead of work, many aspects affect how we handle work productively. Some have a more significant impact, others a smaller one. Yet, all of them add up to form our work persona.
I won’t cover all of them in this article, but I’ll share the most important productivity tips for success at work. So, here are some ways in which you can become more productive at work (in order of importance):
Click any of these links to jump to each category and find out how to become more productive at work:
- Taking breaks
- To-do lists
- Avoiding multitasking
- Tracking time
- What the productivity experts recommend
Make sure you’re sleeping well and going to bed early
According to the National Institutes of Health, 50 to 70 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep disorders and problems. These can significantly impact their health, alertness, safety, and productivity rate. Sleep disorders left untreated have been associated with hypertension, hormonal imbalances, weight gain, heart disease, depression, and other chronic diseases. In addition to the serious health problems they cause, the amount and quality of your sleep can affect your productivity at work and stop you from actually getting things done.
Researchers from Cambridge University and Rand Europe conducted a study on over 21,000 employees in the UK. Those who sleep for 6 hours or less are significantly less productive than those who get 7 or 8 hours of sleep. Check this great video to understand better what’s happening with your body if you don’t sleep:
Even though this data has been around for a while, we find it hard to accept it. We seem never to be able to squeeze in an extra hour of sleep in our busy schedules.
With so many things to do, how can we afford to sleep for 8 hours a night?
If you think about it logically, isn’t it better to have 5 hours of maximum efficiency instead of 8 hours in which you’re walking around like a zombie from lack of sleep and functioning at 50% or less of your ability? Isn’t this the reason why some companies are starting to introduce napping policies?
Smart employers realize how much more productive employees can be when they’re given a chance to take a 20 or 30-minute nap. Two units of work will not necessarily produce twice the output. When it comes to working, we need to think in terms of output. It shouldn’t matter how many hours your team puts in if you’re satisfied with the quality and quantity of the work.
But although naps are a good solution if you’re sleep-deprived, getting a good night’s sleep is still the best if you’re looking to become more productive.
There are several ways to improve your sleep, but one of them is going to bed early. Ideally, that would be somewhere between 8 and 10:30 PM, depending on your natural circadian rhythm.
Notice when you’re initially getting sleepy at night. Try to make it a goal to go to bed at that time. Don’t force yourself to stay up longer to watch a TV show or whatever keeps you up. It will be hard at first, especially if you’ve turned into a night owl over the years. But, you can do it gradually by decreasing your bedtime by 10-15 minutes every week.
Just think how great it will be to wake up before everyone else. Instead of rushing out the door every morning—if you’re not working remotely—you’ll have the opportunity to exercise, have a healthy breakfast, or even read. You’ll be peaceful, and you won’t have the feeling you’re jumping straight into work.
It helps with your productivity goals and is a great deterrent to burnout. Statistics of 2021 show that workers all around the world had to take care of their rest and sleep routines due to the changing work environment brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Watch your diet
You’ve probably heard the saying, “You are what you eat.” Do you believe it?
I do. I believe that what we eat has a powerful effect on all aspects of life. And that includes work productivity. We can’t expect to eat a donut and be as efficient as after eating oatmeal.
Sure, you’ll get an energy boost from both. But, the blood sugar crash from the donut will be just as fast as the rush. Meanwhile, the oatmeal will guarantee a slow release of glucose that will fuel you for hours.
There is a lot of controversy around proper nutrition. We can all agree that food plays a vital role in our brain development.
When it comes to food affecting our productivity at work, there are a few simple tricks that have a major impact:
Start your day with a power-punch breakfast
Another way in which you can boost productivity is by not skipping breakfast. This meal is decisive for the start of your day. Don’t start your day with coffee if you need a lot of energy to wake up. Have green juice instead or some lemon ginger water. It will give you the boost you need. Also, you won’t feel drained a few hours afterward and be more productive at work.
Have your drink, and then follow it with a healthy breakfast such as a fruit platter, oatmeal with berries, or a fruit smoothie. If you prefer something more savory, try some guacamole or hummus with veggies on the side.
Avoid large, heavy lunches
When you eat a heavy lunch, your body will direct a lot of its energy toward the digestive process, leaving you fatigued and sleepy and unable to get much work done. Try to have something light for lunch, such as a big salad or brown rice with steamed veggies, or at least keep your portion small if you’re having something heavier.
For some nutrition ideas, check out the American Heart Association’s guide to eating healthy at work.
Have some pick-me-up snacks
If you need an energy boost mid-morning or in the afternoon, don’t automatically go for coffee or some sweet junk food. Coffee and sugar are great stimulants and will make you feel more alert and focused, but only for a short while. The energy crash that comes after the boost will be inevitable.
Have tea or some lemon ginger water instead of the coffee. Snack on some fresh fruit, dates, a handful of nuts, or even some carrots. Check out this great article for other efficient, healthy and brain-boosting snack ideas.
Make exercise a priority
I must mention something many of us like to pretend it’s unimportant: exercise. We all know that exercise plays a massive role in preventing major diseases and improving our general well-being. Yet, we still tend to postpone it. We don’t have enough motivation to find the time for it.
Would it help if I told you exercising also plays an essential role in improving our productivity? Just think about it. Exercise increases the blood flow to our brains and level of alertness. Naturally, you’d be able to focus better, so you’ll do your work more easily, faster, and efficiently. Then, you’d have more time set apart to exercise. It’s just a cycle. Stay long enough in it to see the results. You’ll no longer want to get out when you see how good you feel.
Now I know what you’ll say, that you just don’t have the energy to do it early in the morning or after a long and tiring day of work. Believe me, nobody understands lack of energy better than I do. But as counterintuitive as it sounds, exercising will increase your energy levels and make you feel more alive. Maybe not in the beginning, when you feel exhausted, but you’ll start feeling better within a few weeks or days.
It doesn’t have to be intense or complicated, especially if you suffer from fatigue. It can be as easy as taking walks, doing some light yoga or low-intensity aerobics, and generally increasing your activity levels by getting up more from your computer, standing when talking on the phone, and even getting a stand-up desk.
A study was conducted by University of Georgia researchers on people suffering from fatigue—not including those with serious medical conditions. The results showed a 20% increase in energy levels in both control groups who were asked to perform low and moderate-intensity aerobic exercise three times a week for six weeks.
The low-intensity group had better results, reporting a 65% drop in feelings of fatigue, compared to a 49% drop in the group doing moderate-intensity exercise. You don’t have to force yourself to go to the gym if you don’t like it. Find an activity that you really love, as simple as it is, and just stick with it. It will be a lot easier to motivate yourself if it’s something you enjoy.
If you’re looking for ways to motivate yourself to exercise, check out this article to see different tips and tricks or learn how to motivate yourself into an exercise routine. Both articles offer valid points and are good sources that can get you started with improving your overall productivity levels.
Take regular breaks
While we’re on the subject of moving your body, let’s talk about taking regular breaks. If your job implies sitting in front of a computer all day long, taking regular breaks to stretch your muscles, rest your eyes, and refresh your mind is crucial. Nature did not create us to sit for prolonged periods. We were meant to be active. The fact that we constantly go against the grain can adversely affect our bodies.
Being sedentary is our new disease that can lead to diabetes, IBS and other digestive issues, and heart disease. Then there’s back pain and other aches and pains and eye strain. Don’t think that you’re off the hook if you exercise daily. Being active throughout the day is just as important and maybe even more important than regular exercise.
Now I’m not saying regular exercise won’t help, of course, it will, but it doesn’t prevent you from taking regular breaks. It doesn’t mean that you can get away with sitting for 8 hours straight if you exercise an hour daily. That’s all.
Take a 10-minute break every hour or how often you can, and you will return to your work with a fresh mind and eyes, ready to take on the next challenge. Walk or stretch a little. See how the increased blood flow to your brain allows you to focus better and develop fresh ideas.
You don’t monitor productivity at work in how many hours you spend at your desk. It is measured in results, and your results will be better if you take regular breaks and you won’t sacrifice your health in the middle. You don’t have to feel guilty about it. Any reasonable employer should understand the necessity of taking breaks and appreciate output over input, and if he doesn’t, just think if it’s worth sacrificing your health for your job.
In this article, you’ll see more scientific reasons for why it is crucial and beneficial to take breaks, and also learn some tips on how to spend your breaks and be more productive at the same time.
Learn to prioritize
How can you prioritize when everything is a priority? With so many things to do at work, everything seems important, and you just don’t know where to start as our work-life balance seems non-existent. Learning to discern between tasks and spot out what is truly important is a necessity. You must learn to differentiate between what’s urgent and important and always focus on the important first.
Prioritization is an important skill to hone as a project manager. If you’re wondering how to become a project manager—even if you have little experience or without a degree—read this comprehensive guide with examples.
Seth Godin says in this blog post, “If you focus on the important stuff, the urgent will take care of itself.” The truth is few things are truly urgent. If you take on every little thing labeled as “urgent” as soon as it comes up, you’ll never get to the important stuff. You might end up doing it in a hurry and do a sloppy job.
Make a list of your priorities at the beginning of each day, and then mark each task/priority as urgent or important. Put all the important and challenging stuff to do at the beginning of the list and everything urgent or new that comes up during the day at the end of the list. Don’t worry. You’ll get to the urgent stuff if it’s really urgent, but this way, you’ll also finish the important stuff without any interruptions.
Don’t interrupt your work every time you get an email. It’s not that important. If it were something that required your immediate attention, you’d probably get a call. Hey, if you know one of those people who always calls or emails you with something urgent to do, just ignore them.
Not everything can be urgent, can it? You have to learn to say no to people who always take moments of your time with no benefit. Cut out distractions and take responsibility for how you spend time. Don’t let other people do that for you! If you feel like you have too much on your plate, delegate.
Don’t be that person who has to do everything because they don’t trust others can do the job as well as they can. Let go of your perfectionism. Keep focusing on what’s important, otherwise you will experience mental overload. You CAN delegate the minor stuff. Don’t be afraid to trust others and teach them. Read more about task delegation in our article about the Eisenhower Decision Matrix.
Another work productivity strategy and method you can use to prioritize your task list is the Pareto Principle.
Also known as the 80/20 rule, it’s essentially a technique that helps projects become more effective when 20% of the inputs and tasks that go into a project will create 80% of its results.
But how can this rule be applied to task lists?
It’s not just for task lists. The Pareto Principle can be used to increase your overall productivity levels.
Here are three quick tips for using this method productively:
- Start by completing the more important tasks first. These project activities are usually the ones that will generate larger or more profitable outcomes. Leave the smaller tasks—the remaining 80%—for later but don’t forget to complete them.
- Evaluate your project’s risks and focus on preventing and handling the more serious ones. The risks you should manage first are the ones that could postpone your project or end it abruptly. However, don’t forget to manage all risks, regardless of their importance, at the start of the project. A small risk that shows no possible damaging consequences at first glance could evolve into a more serious type of risk and become harder to handle.
- Focus on your biggest goals. Some of us tend to leave the goals we truly want to achieve for the end because we believe they’ll be harder to reach. The truth is that by the time we’ve obtained our smallest objectives, we will be too tired to focus on our real goals. So start by giving it all to achieve your biggest goals but save some of your energy for the smaller targets too.
Examples of the Pareto Principle in use: 20% of salespeople are responsible for 80% of the product’s total sales, 20% of customers bring in 80% of the revenue, 20% of affiliate links bring 80% of the blog’s traffic, etc.
All these solutions I tried helped me procrastiwork less. But what worked for me might not work for you, so check out other great strategies for overcoming procrastination.
Work Prioritization Tip
You can also use task management software to help you organize and prioritize your activities according to your needs.
Declutter and organize your work environment
What better way of being productive at work than through work environment organization?
Having a lot of clutter on your desk frequently distracts you, lowers your capacity to be productive, and makes you lose focus, especially if you’re a woman. Men can focus better. Women have a better peripheral view. Therefore, the eye gets drawn to the things around, making clutter a real problem.
An old saying goes, “A cluttered desk is a symptom of a cluttered mind.” Or maybe it’s the cause of a cluttered mind. Either way, a cluttered desk is unproductive for most of us. Of course, some people function better in chaos, but most of us need organization to stay productive. As Steven Pressfield says in his book “The War of Art,” a professional seeks order.
Professionals cannot tolerate chaos and disorder. They must eliminate it from their world to banish it from their mind and stay productive. You can’t invite creativity in when your mind constantly gets bombarded by clutter or when you have to dig under mounds of paperwork and garbage to find what you’re looking for. Think about how much time and energy you would save if your desk was in order. You can use all that energy lost on things grabbing your attention to focus, stay productive, and finish your work faster.
But how do you stay organized and productive?
Like most things in life, no single way works best for staying productive and keeping your workspace free of clutter. There are several methods and techniques, but one thing is clear: after you find a suitable method, you must be persistent if you want to work productively. Don’t let a day go by without following your rules because chaos can set back in really quickly and comfortably. Clear your desk of clutter at the end of each day, and you’ll be glad you did that in the morning.
There’s almost nothing better than coming to a clutter-free desk in the morning. OK, maybe just waking up to a clean kitchen. Yep—that definitely beats it.
But still, taking that extra minute or two to clean your desk at the end of the day will be so important to set a good start for the next day. You’ll feel like patting yourself on the back every morning you come into the office.
If you’re having trouble organizing your virtual space, try a tool like Pocket or Evernote. These will help you sort all of your notes, articles, bookmarks, and other content you find online. All while keeping you more productive at work too. If you come across a great article but don’t have the time to read it yet, you can just save it and get back to it once you get the chance.
An alternative would be to use a Gantt chart tool and create a sequence diagram of everything you need to complete and in which order.
Create to-do lists
Some people love making lists. If you’re one of them, that’s awesome, and I’m sure you see a lot of benefits from it.
If you’re not, I’m here to tell you to-do lists can change your life. That might sound exaggerated but just think about having your mind free from the burden of constantly thinking of everything you have to do. I think that’s the most significant advantage of to-do lists.
Once you write them down, you free your mind from a lot of clutter, and you won’t have to constantly think about what’s next on your list or fear that you might forget to do something. Just write them down and take them on one by one. And this can also keep you productive at work.
Having the satisfaction of marking the tasks as complete or deleting them from your list is free fun. It keeps you productive by making you finish your tasks more efficiently. Most people feel accomplished knowing they’ve tackled everything on their list. When you accomplish things without having a to-do list written down, you lose part of that joy. You’ll always have the question “Did I forget to do something?” in the back of your mind. And this won’t help your work productivity at all.
As a piece of advice: try to keep your lists short and remember to constantly prioritize and put what’s important at the top of the list. If it’s not important, don’t put it on your list. We are expected to do all sorts of things, but time is limited regardless of how productive we are.
Before putting a task on your list, think if it’s worthwhile. It might sound harsh, but it’s something you need to do if you want to finish what matters to you. However, if you’re busy, divide your list into several categories and keep a separate category with important things that always get prioritized above others.
Be in charge of your time, and don’t let anyone tell you what to prioritize. This is one of the key steps you must take to create your productivity strategy.
But as great as they are, remember that to-do lists don’t work in every context. If you have a business, a to-do list won’t be enough. It will be something you can use with success on a personal level, but one common reason why you need to switch to a project management tool or cloud-based work management software is to keep your team connected and under control.
For example, you’ll need a digital solution to track hourly work online so that you’re efficient and successful in your project or business, which is why you should try out timesheet software to automatically keep track of that time spent on work lest you waste time on pen and paper methods.
Plus, it’s a great platform to aggregate other tools you need, such as time-tracking or invoicing ones. For a detailed comparison, read this article about the best six online invoicing software you can use in 2022. They’re the best alternative to using an online invoicing generator if your work arrangement is on an hourly basis.
Or read up if you’re unfamiliar with invoice terms or need an invoicing 101 on how generating invoices saves you time and money.
But are you the kind of person who likes visual organization?
No problem. Just try Kanban boards.
A Kanban board is a tool that allows you to manage your tasks simply and visually and helps you with your work productivity at the same time. All you have to do is drag each task (card) from one column to another until you’ve completed it.
As a bonus, Kanban boards will also help you get an overall look at your activities, identify potential problems, and speed up your work.
A Kanban board used by a digital marketing team
But Kanban doesn’t always have to be used for business purposes. Here’s how you can use a Kanban board as an individual:
An example of an individual using a Kanban board
For more inspiration on how you can use Kanban to stay productive, check out these Kanban board examples.
Multitasking seems to be pretty popular. It kind of sounds like something you would brag about doing. However, trying to accomplish more than one thing at a time is not productive. Studies show that people who try to do more than one activity at once get easily distracted, and the quality of their work and productivity rate suffers.
I like how this article says that focusing on a single task is a lost art. I think it is. You can’t do a great job if you focus on more than one thing at a time. And you can’t stay productive at work either. All your tasks will be accomplished. Yet, most likely, all of them will be mediocre or slightly above average, and none of them excellent. What’s more, you won’t even finish them sooner.
When you’re working on more than one task at once, you probably feel like you’re accomplishing more. The truth is you won’t have fruitful results to show for a long time, and it won’t make you more productive in the workplace either.
Instead of completing a task in two days and then moving on to the next project, you’ll have five tasks extended over ten days or more. Not having anything finished in those ten days will probably make you feel frustrated or like you’re not getting anything done. Your boss or client might feel the same, even if they insist all those tasks are important and need to be done.
Next time your boss comes in with a new task, let them know what you’re working on and that you’ll get to it after you finish your current project. That is unless the new thing is something really important. Don’t be afraid to ask if the new project is more important. You’ll probably see that they’ll agree the new project can wait most of the time.
Read as much as possible
In addition to enhancing intelligence, vocabulary and memory, and a host of other benefits, reading can increase employee productivity at work. Reading broadens horizons. It helps you see things from different perspectives. This allows you to be more creative and come up with new ideas.
A study conducted by researchers from Emory University in Atlanta showed that reading a novel causes changes in the ‘resting-state connectivity’ of the brain even after a few days.
The study was conducted on 12 students over 19 days. It had them reading the same novel, Pompeii by Robert Harris. They were given a 30-day section to read every evening. Also, they were asked to come in the following day to undergo an fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) scan. After they completed all nine sections of the novel, the participants underwent scans for five mornings in a resting state. The results showed connectivity in the left temporal cortex (associated with language receptivity) and the central sulcus (the primary sensory-motor of the brain).
The study’s lead author, professor Gregory Berns, said: “The neural changes that we found, associated with physical sensation and movement systems, suggest that reading a novel can transport you into the body of the protagonist. We already knew that good stories could put you in someone else’s shoes in a figurative sense. Now we’re seeing that something may also be happening biologically.”
There is no question that reading is very powerful. It has a strong impact on our brains and our personalities as well. Read if you want to become a better person or improve a specific part of your professional arsenal.
This is also a great work productivity tip: read as much as possible. Read anything you can get your hands on, not just personal or professional improvement books.
Don’t waste your time on books you can’t click with. There are so many amazing books out there that it’s not worth wasting precious time on books you find mediocre. If you don’t like a book within 15 to 30 minutes, move to the next one.
If you don’t know where to start, check out these book suggestions on how to be productive at work and in your personal life:
The Power of Productivity, by William W. Lewis
The Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy, by Chris Bailey
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, by Stephen R. Covey
Do the Work, by Steven Pressfield
Track the time you’re spending on tasks to stay productive
If you don’t know how much time you spend on a task, you won’t know how much time to allocate. That’s what time tracking is for.
Manual or automatic time tracking will help you be more productive at work and home. It will guide you towards allocating your time efficiently and spotting potential problems. For instance, you might notice you’re spending too much time checking your email or working on non-important tasks.
Sometimes we have habits we don’t acknowledge. It’s imperative to spot them so we can work on them and become our most productive selves. As I like to say, if you know you have a problem, you can fix it. It will probably still be there a year from now if you don’t. Knowledge is the first step towards healing.
As a business owner, you want to know how your employees spend their time. Through this, you’ll be able to help them become more productive in the workplace. If you notice an employee slacking, you can step in and see what the problem is. Maybe they find it too difficult, or someone else would be better at that task. Whatever it is, you can fix it if you can get a handle on what’s going on. Also, if you’re a contractor, a web-based employee time tracking software has the advantage of letting your client have an eye on time and expense tracking.
Also, knowing that someone is tracking their time will increase employee productivity. There’s something about working under the assumption that every little bit of your time is worth money. It helps you prioritize a small number of hours in your workday and focus on one task at a time. Thus, you’ll avoid the dreaded, unproductive multitasking.
Stop checking emails, answering calls, or jumping from one task to another. Time tracking will encourage you to focus on one activity and work with your team one project at a time. This way, you can be as productive as possible.
If classic methods are too outdated for you, you can also do time tracking using virtual tools. For instance, Paymo is a project management software with time tracking functionalities. It allows you to track your time on a task and create time reports based on that data.
Time tracking in Paymo
For more time tracking options to improve employee productivity levels, check out our list of time tracking tools. Or our top Pomodoro timer, for working and studying in intervals of 25 minutes alternated by 5 minutes breaks.
Start tracking your own time to increase your productivity at work with Paymo.
What the productivity experts recommend on how to be productive at work
We reached out to some of the best productivity experts and asked them to offer you their best pieces of advice on how you can become more productive. Here are their tips on how you can be productive at work:
“The most important factor in being (and staying) productive at work is based around highly focused blocks of time where you have successfully eradicated every possible distraction. It’s easier said than done, but the results are like nothing else you can imagine.
Whether you work in a busy office with dozens of co-workers, or remotely at home, distractions exist everywhere. Focusing on your single next most important task is the key to consistent productivity all day long.
Identify your distractions, make an intentional plan to eliminate or minimize them, and then get to work on what matters most. That’s all it takes for you to become more productive.” – Jeff Sanders, Author of The Free-Time Formula and Podcaster of The 5 AM Miracle
“Self Awareness is job #1 in everything we do, including work productivity. What are your strengths? What are your gifts? What’s your purpose, vision, or value? You can’t be truly productive until you know who you are, why you’re here, and what you’re going after.
Know the purpose of what you’re doing. Why is your action/business/activity important? What contribution is it making to your life, business, and the world?
Get up early. Research shows that most elite performers in all fields start their day at least 3 hours before needing to be at work. The way you start says a lot about how you will finish.
Put first things first. Your mind and your energy are your greatest assets. I teach my clients a practice called “Prime Objective.” Which is basically taking care of you first. When you schedule time for your mind, energy, and body each day, you’ll instantly become more productive. The 90-120 minutes a day I invest in working out, meditating, yoga, Tai Chi, and anything else I do for me makes me more productive. I have much more clarity of mind and energy to get more accomplished in much less time. Getting up early is immensely helpful here.
Plan your day and work your plan. I teach my high-level coaching clients something I call “The Master Protocol.” A very detailed plan for each time block of every single day. If you don’t plan your day, other people and other things will. The tyranny of the urgent will steal your life and dreams.
Plan your next day before going to bed. Hit the ground running first thing. A vast majority of individuals get up with no clue what they need to accomplish on a specific day and therefore waste hours wandering around, wondering, and getting ready to get ready.
Simplify your life. Move all low leverage activities to outside high-leveraged hours. Delegate them. Or at minimum habituate them, so you don’t waste willpower thinking about them. Decision fatigue is rampant in today’s world. Most have too much to do and too little real progress. Progress equals fulfillment.” – James Ray, Leadership and Performance Advisor
“Here are three productivity hacks:
- Today started last night. Before you end your workday, prepare a detailed list of what exactly needs to be done tomorrow and go even as far as creating a time-blocked schedule identifying when you will tackle these to-dos. Doing so helps you execute your tasks without procrastination or debating with yourself as to how you feel about getting these items accomplished.
- Tackle the toughest, least desirable tasks first. Typically, we have more energy and motivation in the mornings and as Brian Tracy advocates in his renowned book, “Eat that Frog!”, once these are dealt with and completed, we feel a greater sense of accomplishment earlier in the day. By having reduced the mental stress of the “ugly frog,” we’re more energized to get on with our day to accomplish even more.
- Stay mindful of the 80/20 principle. The Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto, determined that 80% of our results or outcomes are achieved by only 20% of our activities. There are usually only a handful of these activities and, of course, they vary depending on one’s profession. Identify your 20% and focus your attention first and foremost on these “vital few” activities. What to do about the rest, the 80%, the “trivial many”? Delegate to others, as these tasks most likely represent the 20% in their job description.
Practice these few key steps and you experience a more satisfying and less stressful work environment.” – Susan Rose, Productivity Coach
“While email is an extremely useful tool, I find that it’s often an interruption (even a distraction) from the more meaningful and impactful parts of my work. It’s easy to be sucked into replying to every single email the moment it comes in and, by the end of your workday, realize you didn’t accomplish anything else. To help combat this pitfall in my own workflow, I use a Chrome extension for Gmail called Inbox When Ready that hides your email inbox from view while still allowing you to draft new emails and search for existing conversations.
Aside from using this to keep my day on track, I also schedule 2 x blocks of 30 minutes each on my calendar for when I’m “allowed” to open my inbox and work on replying to emails. While I don’t always 100% adhere to this ideal schedule based on the kind of day/week I’m having and what’s going on with my blog, it’s a good target to aim for and keeps top of mind the fact that my most important work is rarely replying to emails.” – Ryan Robinson, Writer, Part-Time Entrepreneur, and Content Marketing Consultant
“There are two things that I think are crucial for optimal productivity in the workplace. The first is emotionally resilient leadership. Leaders who are emotionally resilient and agile are able to forge deep connections with their people, and enroll, engage, and align them, which leads to collaboration and results. They’re able to help their teams successfully navigate change, even change that happens at a chaotic pace. To influence anyone, you must influence emotionally, and leaders who embrace that will outperform those that don’t.
The second is a culture that allows employees to feel the three things we all crave: safety, belonging and mattering. Any culture where employees don’t feel that they’re safe, that their contributions matter or that they don’t belong in the tribe will not only not reach optimal work productivity, it will lose good talent. I always say “Safety + Belonging + Mattering = Trust” and trust is the foundation of a strong company culture.” – Christine Comaford, Leadership and Culture Coach at SmartTribes Institute
“It feels like it should be easy but it is literally physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting. Make use of all the tools at your disposal so you show up ready to be productive. What do I mean? Eat a good meal, drink lots of water and have healthy snacks on hand. Your brain is being taxed so keep it stoked. Sugar, preservatives and too much caffeine will make you fail or make a task so difficult you’ll never want to organize anything again. Know what your goals are and see the completed product in your mind’s eye. Every decision is moving you closer to that goal. A few minutes of a simple breathing exercise or meditation practice will help you stay calm, focused, and beat stress.” – Regina Leeds, Author of One Year to an Organized Life
“Our ability to pay attention to what matters at work will accelerate our productivity at work and strengthen our workplace and home relationships alike. There are three main ways in which we pay attention: personally, professionally, and globally. It’s about WHO deserves our attention. So be thoughtful. It’s also about WHAT deserves our attention. Be productive. Finally, it’s about HOW we pay attention in the world. Stay responsible.
Let’s pay intentional attention to get more done and prioritize what matters today!” – Neen James, Attention Expert and Author of Attention Pays and Folding Time
“It’s fine to have goals, but to be truly productive without anxiety. I focus on systems every day, rather than goals. For example, instead of obsessing over a goal of “getting 50 new signups for my course,” I simply stay faithful to taking the step-by-step actions based on a credible strategy. Then, occasionally celebrating and/or learning from the results.
To be *joyfully* productive, I focus on the largest “system” of all: my life’s purpose. I reflect for a minute about my top values before I start work every day.”
– George Kao, Author of Joyful Productivity: A Solopreneur’s Guide To Creativity & Well-Being
“I believe it really all comes down to knowing the expectations that are on you from within and from outside.
Clear communication of deadlines, quality of work, the content of work need to be defined from those requesting their work.
Internally, you need to know how to prioritize, create and maintain the correct amount of momentum, and create the proper pacing when it comes to energy and focus.” – Erik Fisher, Productivity Podcaster
“Achieving world-class productivity involves optimizing your mind, body, and business toolkit. If you want to be productive, you first need a strong sense of purpose as this will drive you forward and keep you on track. Be clear on what you want to achieve and how this is going to help you reach your longer-term goals. Then take consistent, intentional steps to get there.
As a fitness fanatic and qualified personal trainer, I cannot talk highly enough about exercise. Starting the day with a good workout gets the blood pumping. This sets you up for the day, helps focus, and builds discipline. Some top performers incorporate exercise into their days as a non-negotiable. If you exercise first thing in the morning, you can shower, be at your desk, and feel good that you’ve accomplished something before the day has even started. If you’re short on time, alternate between upper and lower body exercises to really break out in a sweat.
I swear by working in sprints every day by using the Pomodoro Technique. I set a timer, stay intently focused on one task until the alarm bell sounds, and then take a short (5 minutes) break away from the desk to clear my head before the next sprint. I do this continuously throughout the day, especially when my attention span is flagging. Short, sharp work sprints combined with rest periods are the best way to keep energy levels up all day.” – Abigail Ireland, High Performance and Productivity Consultant
“One of the most important tips I offer for productivity is to STOP believing in the myth of “multitasking.” This is more correctly termed “switchtasking,” as your brain is not wired to focus on one active task at a time. Switchtasking causes you to make more mistakes, makes work take longer, and increases your stress levels. For example, if you are trying to have a conversation with a fellow co-worker about a project deadline, and at the same time you are trying to respond to an email from a client, you will take TWICE as long —or longer— to complete each task than if you were to focus on each individually.
Another essential step to improving productivity is the art of saying “no!” Over-commitment leads to us being pulled away from what we do best. Whenever you say no to one thing, you are saying yes to something else. Begin by saying yes to what you do best, by more often saying no to lower-value tasks” – Dave Crenshaw, Productive Leadership Author and Speaker
“In practicing what is known as Mindfulness, one can increase their productivity at work. Mindfulness is simply ‘being present’ and relaxed while focusing only on this exact moment. A common mistake the majority of us make each and every day is believing that our daily work routines, the ones we have developed over months and years at a job, are adequate enough in terms of our ability to be highly productive. The key is to find a way to become more productive at work that doesn’t come with sacrificing health in order to do so.
Simply take 5 minutes out of your lunch break to obtain a ‘mental reset’ through mindfulness practice. A simple mindfulness exercise is – ‘Eating with Mindfulness.’ Grab what you brought for your snack break and instead of popping it into your mouth and eating it quickly, begin by feeling its shape and appreciating its flavor. Take a few minutes to do so. If your thoughts wander elsewhere, gently bring them back to the food. Now slowly chew it. How does it feel to bite into? Is it hard and crunchy? Is it chewy? Is it very soft? How does it feel when you swallow it? Take a moment to appreciate things like these. This ‘refreshes’ the mind and soul, allowing you to feel re-charged and able to be productive for the rest of day.
When we become an ‘expert’ at our job and know how to apply our skills successfully. You might often feel zero need to delegate tasks or feel confident enough to say ‘no’ to additional projects or tasks. People often believe they can ‘take on any challenge’ and ‘don’t need the help of anyone else’. This may work well for a period of time, but it won’t work in the long run, especially when it comes to being able to be ‘productive. Giving yourself the permission to begin saying ‘no’ more often, and knowing exactly when it’s OK to say ‘no,’ is definitely something that takes practice. It’s difficult because our pride and ego often ‘get in our way.’ When we’re able to put these aside, we often feel more confident and comfortable in delegating tasks at work.” – Jordon Iorio, Personal Development and Life Coach
“Instead of trying to tackle a long to-do list, focus your day by determining 1-3 most important tasks for the day. If you can get those done, you can feel good about letting the rest of your to-do list slide… for awhile.
Batch smaller admin tasks, like checking email, into set chunks throughout your day. For example, you could devote 30 minutes in the morning, after lunch, and before you leave to knocking out email and other small tasks. That will free up your brain to focus on the most important activities the rest of the time so you can get more important work done.
Clear your workspace of visual clutter that distracts from your work. Do you need 10 framed photos of your family or would just one do? Do you need all those pens on your desk or just a few favorites? Limiting physical distractions and keeping just what you need to accomplish your work will go a long way toward a more productive workday!” – Rose Lounsbury, Minimalism and Productivity Coach and Author of Less: Minimalism, For Real
Key takeaways on productivity at work
Becoming more productive at work doesn’t just happen overnight. It takes practice and a mindset change. Start by making small changes and then gradually eliminate bad habits such as staying up late, eating junk food, or not exercising. Productivity is, in fact, a combination of good habits.
Be patient. Take a few minutes each day to read some of the recommended books and find inspiration there. There are also many tools out there to help you on your journey. The truth is everyone can be productive. You just need to take a few small steps and turn them into a new lifestyle.