How to boost your productivity

Because humans are not robots – yet – every work day is different, and each day’s productivity can vary.

That’s normal, but if low productivity becomes your new everyday norm, then there’s probably something you need to address.

Whether it’s that you’re being pulled in too many directions at work so nothing gets done, letting yourself become too distracted by the social media rabbit hole, feel overwhelmed, or you’re just plain bored, there are ways to boost your productivity back to a level where you, and your employer, feel like you’re achieving again. 

Work smarter, not longer

Working 15-hour days is not necessarily productive if the long hours are actually eroding your productivity. The key to a happy work and home life is to fit as much as you can at work, and then leave it behind without the feeling of being unfinished, to enjoy the rest of your day. So how do you address your work flows to ensure optimum productivity?

  • Deadlines are one of life’s great motivators, particularly if you’re answering to someone else. If self-imposed deadlines are still not driving up your productivity at your desk, then ask a colleague or even your boss to set them for you, and report to them.

  • Is it not your motivation, but the way you work that’s slowing down your productivity? Taking a few hours or a day out of your week or month to improve your systems could make a huge difference to the end result.

  • Establish a good filing system. Whether it’s paper or your computer files, creating a system that makes everything quick and easy to find will naturally save you time, and increase your productivity (if only because your frustration levels are lowered).

  • Take a good hard look at your daily schedule. Is there a way you could shake the day up to create a more productive way of working? Is it better to get certain challenging tasks out of the way early, before the phone starts ringing and people start asking questions?

  • Identify the bottlenecks in your day, or within the project you’re working on. Is there a better, more efficient software that you could be using? Are you using your team as effectively as you could be, and planning your day to best suit you? Once you know where the hold-ups are, you can work on reducing and eliminating them.

Mix it up a bit

Is your lack of productivity due to good old-fashioned boredom? To alleviate the curse of unproductivity because your bored brain just won’t play ball, try these tips:

  • Mixing boring tasks with stimulating ones means you’re still getting work done, while running less risk of just procrastinating all day.

  • On the other hand, if multi-tasking is a less efficient way of working for you, then vow to get the less stimulating tasks out of the way in the first few hours of your work day, so you’re not trying to force that productivity right during your 2pm slump.

  • Plan a reward for yourself if you achieve a certain amount of work, such as a walk in the sunshine, lunch with colleagues or a coffee. These things alone may create more productivity in the afternoon.

  • Try a standing/sitting desk so you can change from one to the other throughout the day, depending on how you’re feeling. Standing after lunch can help reduce food coma type effects and get the blood flowing. 

  • Work somewhere else for the day. If you can’t work off-site, then book a meeting room and lock distractions out, or head for a shared work space – even a cafe – and see if the peripheral buzz of a public setting actually helps you to focus.

Reduce the distraction factor

While distractions can be as annoying as they are welcome and even fun, they are definitely counter-productive. To smash your way through a big piece of work, or even just your daily tasks, plan in a block of time where distractions can’t find their way to you. How?

  • Put your phone on silent, or if you still need to receive calls, just turn off your social media alerts. Already, the main lure of distraction has been silenced.

  • Grab your headphones and plug yourself into some music. This may help you focus, and it has the added bonus of blocking out the distracting chatter around you.

  • Tidy up your desk. Coming in to a space that’s overflowing with paper, coffee cups and random muesli bar wrappers is not going to encourage productivity for anyone. If you don’t already have them, drawers, a small rubbish bin and a decent filing system are useful, and replace the clutter with a peace lily, a clear mind and a huge productivity boost.

Don’t try to move mountains

Starting a huge project, where the tasks seem insurmountable can be so overwhelming that it becomes paralysing and productivity reaches rock bottom.

Rather than panicking silently at your desk while the job hangs over you, untouched, try to make it more manageable.

  • Break the project or task down into bite-size chunks and vow to take one mouthful a day. Instantly, it will seem more doable.

  • Make a list of those chunks so you can tick off each one as you go. The satisfaction of ticking a task off is in itself very motivating.

  • Ask for help. A problem shared is a problem halved, or even quartered. Whether you just need to talk over the process with a colleague or have a real need to delegate some elements of the project, asking is better than not achieving anything at all.

Ask the internet

In today’s digital world, there are many options for increasing productivity by handing over some of the responsibility to the internet. 

  • Team communication doesn’t have to mean long, drawn-out meetings that leave you incapable of producing any work for hours afterwards. Instead, sign up to an online collaboration and chat programme for quick easy messaging and to see what others are up to at the click of a button. 

  • Use video conference software to reduce travel time to meetings.

  • Create an online to-do list which allows you to tick off your tasks without losing that pesky scrap of paper you wrote it on.

  • Hand your diary over to the internet too. Setting alerts for each task, meeting or other responsibility takes a load off your brain.

  • Do you perform well under pressure, or need to constantly be meeting goals to keep you going? Ask the internet to hold you accountable by downloading a time tracking programme, which monitors your productivity.