Do you ever feel overwhelmed by your endless list of tasks? Would you like to be more productive at work?
We’ve got several tips on how to improve productivity at work and never miss a deadline without going insane.
The goal of this article is to help you find ways for you and your team to increase productivity whether you’re working from home (WFH) or in an office setting.
1) The Ivy Lee Method
In the evening, write a list of 3-6 tasks you need to accomplish the next day.
Everyone has need-to-do and want-to-do tasks. These are your need-to-do, crucial tasks.
Limit it to six. And prioritize the list from the most important to the least important.
Tomorrow, try to finish each task on the list. If you miss one, it becomes the first one on your list the next day.
Jeff Bezos has a productivity hack where he strives to make 3 good decisions each day.
It doesn’t sound like much, but that’s over 1,000 good decisions a year.
Those add up to a lot over time.
2) The 2-minute rule
If an action takes less than two minutes, it should be done at the moment.
Whether that’s sending a text, sending an email, scheduling a meeting, cleaning your desk… a lot of these basic tasks could fall into this category.
Take care of them now instead of putting them into your memory bank and remembering later. That takes mental energy and can decrease your focus.
Just being aware of this rule will help you complete the 2-3 small tasks you keep saying you don’t have time to do.
At the same time, make sure it doesn’t permanently derail you from your big to-dos. Getting back on track right away is important and not going down the rabbit hole of wandering off somewhere else.
3) The 5-minute rule – aka just get started
Is there something you have been avoiding for too long? This rule will stop it.
Set the timer at 5 minutes, take a breath, and just do it. Ideally, target a big project.
What will happen is you’ll exceed the 5 minutes, kick-start your momentum, and end up completing the task.
Momentum is the antidote to procrastination.
4) Be the boss – Delegate
For many, if you added up how many hours were necessary to do all your weekly tasks, you’d add up to more than the hours you’re physically capable of working.
There are probably many tasks that you can outsource. Things like formatting, data entry, errands, and other things eat up the time you have to get things done. All these things can take hours to complete.
Fortunately, you can get things done in a cost-effective way, so you can focus your time on more important things.
This includes services like Fiverr, Upwork, TaskRabbit, Elance, and others.
You might have to pay someone $30 per hour, but if you make $80 per hour, that’s a good investment.
5) Exercise & Diet
Exercise is important for mental well-being. You’ll stay sharper throughout the day getting your blood circulating. It’s also important for your all-around health.
The most important thing is to stay consistent. The biggest thing about exercise is that it takes time. But you’ll get a great ROI from the productivity effects from the mental boost and improved overall health.
Diet is also important. The food we eat has a big effect on how productive we are at work. Foods with lots of processed carbs and high in saturated fat content are not only bad for your health but also bad for focus.
6) Automate as much as possible
Technology is a big driving force of productivity.
There are lots of automation tools and project management apps on the market, from Monday.com, Favro, Otter, Nifty, Focuster, Hive, and many many industry-specific ones.
7) Batch your tasks
Tim Ferris, in The 4-Hour Work Week, has various tips for increasing productivity and your overall efficiency.
Task batching is a big way to improve work productivity.
How can you use Ferris’ tips to learn how to improve productivity at work?
- Use the “2-Minute Rule” to knock out the small tasks and avoid procrastinating on them.
- Work in 90-minute increments. Use a timer to keep track.
- Craft a checklist for practically everything that occurs over and over again (e.g., employee onboarding, employee training) so that future work can be done easier and more efficiently.
- Use social media software or a collaboration tool to automate. Send scheduled messages or posts out easily and avoid repetition.
- Instead of spreading out data entry and other reporting tasks throughout the week, set a block of time to do them all at once.
- Set meetings in chunks. Try to do back-to-back meetings in the late morning or afternoon.
- Do the same for texts and many types of emails. Do them during a specific part of the day. If you do them as they come in your brain has to readjust. This expends energy and you’ll be less productive working.
Why batch tasks?
Batching tasks is helpful because it takes time for you to get into a rhythm with whatever you’re working on.
If you’re starting and stopping all the time, it takes time to get back in a rhythm and the “zone,” as some call it. You also have to rehash instead of just diving back in.
Naturally, this hampers productivity at work.
8) Get in sync with co-workers for about 15 minutes each day
Spend about 15 minutes each day to get in sync with colleagues.
If you’re supervising employees, have them spend a few minutes each day to describe what type of tasks and problems they’re dealing with each day.
It helps everyone get on the same page and understand where assistance is needed.
Set short-term goals and plan time to revisit these tasks. This will help you better manage and measure your productivity at the end of each week.
9) Use Grammarly with your writing
Grammarly is one of the most common productivity apps out there.
It helps you easily locate writing errors to help you communicate more clearly and accurately.
It comes in the form of a Chrome extension, so you can use it in your web browser.
Read more: 9 Top Chrome Productivity Extensions
Productive work involves prioritizing.
You can’t do everything, but you can focus your efforts on where you get the best results.
This goes back to need-to-do versus want-to-do.
Think in terms of the 80/20 rule as it pertains to increasing productivity. Somewhere around 20 percent of your efforts create about 80 percent of the results.
11) Be an imperfectionist
There are diminishing returns after a point. To increase your productive output, learn to be an imperfectionist.
Perfectionists are too concerned about things at the margins at the expense of more important things.
When making a decision, there are generally 5-10 important factors to consider. Understand these as well as possible. However, the marginal gains of studying important things past a point are also limited.
12) Keep people’s credibility in mind
If you’re a decision-maker, a big productivity killer is bad information.
Bad information, bad data, and bad processing of info and data will inevitably lead to bad decisions.
Know who you can trust for what tasks. Understand people’s skills and abilities.
People who are believable have:
- a track record of success in what they’re being asked to do
- have a great understanding of underlying mechanics leading them to their conclusions
If people have both, they’re the most likely to be believable.
If they have only one, they might be somewhat believable.
If they don’t have either, then their opinion probably isn’t worth that much.
13) Get rid of unnecessary meetings
As humorist Dave Barry once wrote:
“If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings’.”
Everybody knows how much time a meeting can waste.
If you see a meeting on your calendar from 11am-noon, your first thought is that an hour of your life is about to disappear where you talk about work without actually doing work.
If there’s no agenda or goal, then it probably doesn’t make sense to have a meeting.
A one-hour meeting should also take… one hour. Not 70 minutes, 80 minutes, 90 minutes…
Everyone has those types of meetings where the presenter goes over. People are put into an uncomfortable situation where they risk not getting all the information, missing another meeting scheduled right after, simply losing time out of their day, and so on.
You can help to avoid problems and maintain productivity by taking clear steps to plan and execute the goal of a team meeting. Come prepared, be on-time, and it’s okay to end early.
Here’s a simple flow chart to determine if you’re ready to schedule a meeting or just wasting time:
14) Work remotely
Working from home can help you increase productivity by getting more done in less time.
Get rid of the commute that costs 1-3 hours per day. The average person spends 4-5 years inside a car during their life. Just imagine what you could do having 4-5 years of your life back.
The office can aid collective energy and resources, it can also hurt your productivity in other ways.
Like with a lot of things there are pros and cons. WFH can make organizations a lot more productive in some ways and a lot less productive in others.
That said, the Harvard Business Review found that employees who worked remotely were more productive on average. Moreover, the extra freedom they had made them less likely to quit their jobs.
15) Organize your desk and overall work environment
Having too much stuff can increase stress and anxiety and decrease your overall productivity.
Having less clutter will help you think more clearly and waste less time searching for something. Clear desk = clear mind.
Get rid of dishes, food cartoons, old papers, and other things around your desk. You’ll be more productive and less distracted.
16) Use Notes (iOS) or Evernote
Notes (for iOS users) or Evernote helps you make, organize, search, and share your notes.
Use them to keep to-do lists and keep information readily available and easy to find. This helps you knock out your entire list of priorities and enjoy uninterrupted work.
Moreover, Notes and Evernote sync across your desktop or laptop and mobile device. Much easier than trying to dig out a piece of paper.
You can even update your notes on each app offline and sync back to the cloud once you’re back online again.
17) The 2-Hour Solution
The “2-Hour Solution” was made popular by Roger Seip, author of Train Your Brain for Success.
The basic idea was to spend two hours each work to mentally think through the next week ahead.
Being mentally prepared enables you to execute rather than do things on the fly.
According to Seip:
- You schedule your green time (the work that gets you paid)
- Red time (the time that supports your green time)
- Flex time (unblocked time to prevent the unplanned from unraveling your plans), and
- Recreation time (taking care of yourself, hobbies, exercise, relaxing, etc)
A lot of the time you’ll realize that you don’t even need the full two hours to carry out this process, especially as weeks go by and you become natural at it.
Regardless of how much time it takes, “game planning” in some way is effective. Schedule your calendar, reconnect with your goals, look at what’s been working and what hasn’t been, and draw out your next week.
18) Wake up early
Pretty typical, even banal, productivity advice.
But there’s a lot of truth to it and it’s why many CEOs, corporate executives, and other business leaders will wake up at 6am or earlier.
The simple reason is that it gives you time to prepare. Instead of being rushed or frazzled, you’ll have some time to yourself to do things that are difficult to do at other times of the day.
It gives you time to go through email, read, have a good breakfast, or exercise before starting the rest of your day.
Most people who get up early find that it increases their productivity at work in a big way.
Waking up early may not work for everyone. Some are naturally night owls. But if you can give it a shot for at least a couple months, it’s worth trying.
19) Say no
You don’t have to say yes to everything, particularly things that are minor and don’t produce leverage.
Protecting your time means protecting your productive capacity.
20) Complete your most challenging tasks first
Your mental energy is generally highest earlier rather than later.
Once you get started, you’ll find your zone and knock things out quickly.
And once you complete one thing, you’re probably going to feel motivated to keep going.
21) Focus & avoid multi-tasking
Multi-tasking is generally detrimental to productivity at work.
Doing too many things at once can lead to mediocre results since your energy and performance are split in many different directions. Sometimes if you’re doing a lot you’re doing nothing.
When you think of famous figures, they’re often known for 1-2 things. They were a great pilot, a great quarterback, a great investor, and so on.
This is because they were focused. They didn’t do everything because that’s impossible. Those who seem like they’re great at a lot are often either exaggerating and/or taking credit for others’ accomplishments.
Focus is key to increase your productivity in the workplace.
22) Simplify your wardrobe
A lot of well-known business personalities, such as Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs, wore more or less the same thing to work nearly every day.
It cuts down on the number of unimportant decisions they have to make each day.
Wearing something different each day is one thing most of us learned to do growing up, but is it really important?
Sometimes you have to dress the part. But in most cases, it’s irrelevant. A comfortable, simple, professional-looking outfit is all you need.
Regardless if it’s a suit and tie or jeans and t-shirt, keeping it basic can put another decision on autopilot and help you focus on more important things each day.
23) Make use of headphones
Wearing headphones is common in the gym, but it can also be common wherever you’re working to stay focused and productive – whether that’s the office, coffee shop, or other workplace.
If someone wants to disturb someone with headphones on, they have to at least think whether it’s worth doing so. It’s an easy deterrent.
24) White noise: Listen to soothing sounds
Background music can help enhance your focus. If anything, it reduces outside distractions and helps you focus to create better workplace productivity.
This can be things like listening to rainfall or music without lyrics. It’s especially good for more repetitive tasks.
25) The 5-Second Rule
Mel Robbins introduced the Five-Second Rule as a productivity hack.
This involves going on a literal countdown – 5-4-3-2-1 – and immediately immersing yourself in a task you’ve been dreading doing. Sometimes it’s called the blast-off method, as it’s similar to a rocket launch after counting down.
Robbins explains that this puts you in control and helps you erase bad habits.
Once you begin and finish a task, you’ll be inspired to keep going.
Increasing productivity at work is like a flywheel – once it gets going, it tends to keep going.
26) Protect your time
Warren Buffett famously has very little on his schedule and spends most of his day reading.
An easy way to increase your work productivity is to protect time in your schedule. This is extra time you get back to think, plan, create, and do.
Many plan meetings and tight schedules all day. Then all of a sudden it’s the end of the day and we feel like we just ran out of time and did little individually.
If you can, keep meetings out of the most productive times of your day.
Schedule meetings within a specific timeframe if you can so you aren’t just talking about work for large swaths of the day, but actually doing work that moves the needle forward.
27) Plan your repetitive tasks at the same time each day or week
Routines are great when they help us establish good habits and the same results (as long as they’re what we want).
It also enables you to avoid decision fatigue, become efficient, and complete tasks in a timely and efficient manner.
28) Find your real motivation
Productivity and motivation go hand-in-hand.
And there are different reasons for why we work. For some, it’s just a paycheck and a possible stepping stone to something else. For others, it’s a way to live out their values.
Think about how what you’re doing right now is tied to your larger goals and ambitions and think about what you’re really after.
Once you’re motivated by the true why behind you do something, then productivity becomes much easier.
29) Prep the night before
Before going to bed, prepare everything you’ll need for the following day.
This will probably take you 15 minutes at most. This means your mornings can be even more productive.
Working out the next day? Pack up your gym clothes, shoes, socks, and so on.
For your checklist and task list so you remember everything and have a plan of action. You can also prep your food into containers and have everything ready for the next day.
FAQ: Increasing Productivity At Work
When is the best time to be productive in the day?
It depends on the individual, but for many it’s in the morning, right around 10am.
This is a great time to get our most challenging tasks completed free from interruption.
Whatever task you’re not looking forward to but is a must-do is probably a good time to get out of the way first thing.
Why is productivity important at work?
It’s important to be productive at work because it has a direct correlation with how much you can earn.
The best way to increase your productivity at work starts with your individual decisions.
The various steps, tactics, and strategies to help you improve productivity at work form the various topics we covered in this article.