Starting the day already exhausted can make working an uphill battle. To make things even harder, when we do finally buckle down to get some work done, we’re surrounded by countless distractions, thanks to our phones, emails and meetings. While there’s no magic fix to suddenly turn us into hyper-focused, task-crushing machines, there are countless small changes that will help you towards this goal. Here are five tips that will help you to become more productive during your workday.
- Bring your best self to work
Becoming more productive at work begins before you even walk in the door. At a recent GovUp event, Mika Cross, a federal workplace expert and vice president of employer engagement and strategic initiatives at FlexJobs, spoke about the important role that self-care plays in our professional lives. Cross asked attendees to reflect on advice shared in pre-flight safety demonstrations and recommended the following: “Put your oxygen mask on first. You have to save yourself in order to save someone else.”
To accomplish this in the professional world, start prioritizing your own physical and mental wellness. First, use your leave! Also, make sure that you are using your off-time for its intended purpose: to take a break from work. This goes for day-to-day time off as well. Don’t feel guilty about leaving your work at work. Instead of spending your commute responding to emails, use it as a time to motivate yourself with some music, or unwind with a good book or podcast. By giving your mind time to rejuvenate, you’ll feel more rested and able to meet your day head-on.
- Work smarter, not harder
If you are struggling with staying focused on your work, a good first step is to be honest about the obstacles you’re facing. If you are easily distracted, it’s okay to admit it! While you could try to combat this by eliminating distractions around you, this might not always be an option (for example, if you rely on your cellphone for work). Instead of fighting these distractions, try incorporating them into your schedule as short breaks between longer periods of focused, uninterrupted work. For instance, for every 55 minutes of work, give yourself five to check social media. By allowing yourself some guilt-free you-time during the day, you’ll improve your morale and avoid burning out, which will ultimately boost your productivity.
- Make your workstation a pleasant place to be
Who wants to get work done in a dreary place? If you’re finding it hard to get motivated at your job, try making your workstation look like a place where you’d want to work. Take some time to periodically declutter your desk. Sitting in front of a literal pile of work papers can be overwhelming and make it difficult to find a place to start.
Also, try livening things up with a few desk plants! In addition to just looking nice, research has shown that having plants in the workplace can have an array of additional benefits. A study by the University of Exeter found a 15% increase in productivity when plants were introduced into an office. Another study by the University of Technology, Sydney found a 37% decrease in reported tension and anxiety, and a 38% reduction in fatigue.
- Remember that your career is a marathon, not a sprint
Sometimes, the drive to maximize productivity can be its own worst enemy. We’ve all had times before where we’ve bitten off more than we can chew and tried to juggle too many plates. Although it gets a lot of praise as an idea, multitasking is often much less successful when put into practice. When you split your concentration and try to handle too many projects at once, none of them get the full attention they need. The extra energy that is spent on rushing through them only burns you out faster. Instead of tackling several big projects head-on, try carving them into smaller, bite-sized tasks and milestones. This will make it easier to track your progress and allow you to give each bit the attention it deserves. These smaller hurdles will be easier to handle, which will save you energy and let you keep at it for the long haul.
- Don’t be afraid to make changes
When it comes to improving productivity, the best piece of advice is to analyze your work habits, even the ones you think are beneficial, and determine if they are ultimately helping you to accomplish more, or if they are draining more of your energy than they are replenishing. No matter where you are in your career, it’s always a good time to make a change to your practices if it will make you happier, healthier and better at what you do. In the same vein, Cross closed her talk with the following proverb: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.”