It’s easy to trick yourself into feeling productive. You might sit there refreshing your email, or scrolling through the same tweets 10 times in a row. Staring at analytic numbers is an especially great way of feeling productive without actually doing anything.
Many of us do things like this from time to time, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. You simply have to recognize when you fall into a pattern like this, so you can get back to being productive with minimal time lost. To help, here are 5 ways you can maximize your productivity at work.
1. Identify and address non-productive behaviors
While more of a preventative measure than anything else, identifying exactly what you’re doing instead of being productive is the first step to minimizing those behaviors. Most of these behaviors follow a pattern of seeming productive, and are technically things that you do need to accomplish at some point throughout the day. But there’s a big difference between checking your email 2-3x a day, and sitting in your inbox hitting the F5 key repeatedly.
To start, take a day or two and really measure where you’re spending your time. If you can’t resist immediately checking email, social media, and other notifications, try turning all notifications off. Then, designate a few 5-minute blocks of time to check them throughout the day.
If social media is your problem, you can look into one of the hundreds of apps and extensions out there that will temporarily block access to a website, or at least limit how much time you can spend on it. There is a solution out there for all of these pseudo-productive behaviors – you just need to be honest with yourself in the first place when it comes to identifying exactly where you’re wasting time. If you don’t trust yourself to objectively judge your own time management, there are software solutions like Rescue Time that will automatically track where and how you’re spending your time.
2. Take breaks
You’ve probably heard this one before, and that’s because it works. It may seem counterproductive, but taking breaks is one of the best ways to refocus and continue working with renewed productivity and efficiency. The jury still seems to be out on the optimal ratio of work:breaks, which means you may have to experiment a bit to see what works best for you.
Some people are good at gauging when they need a break, while others benefit from a structured approach to break-taking such as the Pomodoro Technique. Taking breaks also allows a brief reprieve from that desk chair you’ve likely been sitting in all day. This is a plus because extended periods of time spent sitting are associated with a whole slew of chronic conditions.
Do your health and your productivity a favor, and start taking breaks throughout the work day!
3. Try using a to-do list
This advice has been around a long time as well, and people occasionally get up-in-arms about whether or not it’s universally helpful. No matter your opinion on keeping to-do lists, it’s a good technique to try if you haven’t already done so. There are several different ways of organizing your to-do list.
The most basic method is to write down everything you need to get done for the day. This works for some people, but can quickly get out of hand and overwhelming if certain items take more than one day to finish. A better approach that I personally like is the three-item to-do list.
It works because it forces you to prioritize. If you get done with your top three and have time to spare, you can then obviously move on to other, lower-priority tasks. It’s easy to come in to work every morning and feel instantly overwhelmed by a full inbox and no clear starting point.
A three-item to-do list will center you mentally so you can hit the ground running, instead of wasting your first hour at work stressing over how much you have to do. If you’re looking for an electronic solution to to-do lists, everyone at WebFX uses Basecamp to organize our day-to-day priorities. It’s essentially a team-wide to-do list that keeps everyone on the same page.
4. Find a meeting structure that works for you and your team
There’s no “magic format” to meetings that instantly makes them more productive. However, the fact is that $37,000,000,000 is lost every year due to unproductive meetings. In order to avoid this, it’s important to tackle meetings in a way that works for your whole team.
This could mean having less meetings overall, changing the structure of meetings, or limiting the number of people who attend them. The point is to make sure that all meetings 1) have a clear, urgent purpose, and 2) are run efficiently. This can be difficult to do, because there are many potential mistakes when it comes to running a meeting.
Some of the most common are:
- Having a meeting for no reason
- Being unprepared at a meeting
- Inviting too many people to a meeting
- Not having a clearly defined agenda during the meeting
If you’re looking for ideas on how to run effective, productive meetings, check out how these well-known CEOs run their meetings.
5. Keep an eye out for process improvements
In many ways, process improvements are at the core of highly productive environments. If you can find a way to streamline the functions that must be performed over and over again, you’re essentially building productivity into everyone’s workflow. Process improvements can relate to anything, as long as they improve productivity.
Some common processes that can be improved are inter-team communication, report formatting, and even personal scheduling and organization. Always keep an ear to the ground for these opportunities. Many times, team members won’t even realize their methodology for a certain task is more efficient or productive than how it’s historically been handled.
Inviting suggestions for process improvements is a sure-fire way of keeping productivity at the front of everyone’s minds.
How does your company maximize work productivity?
If you or your team has any tips and tricks for staying as productive as possible, let me know in the comments below!