How can I be more productive at work?

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We all have a friend or workmate who seems to always be completing work either on time or ahead of schedule, much to the admiration, bafflement and  — let’s face it — envy of the rest of us. I’d love to be able to say I’m an absolute wizard who’s always getting things done with plenty of time to spare. Alas, I’m not.

I’ve been taking steps towards improving my own efficiency though.  The secret seems to be to try to improve yourself little by little. Don’t take on too much at once.  With that in mind, I thought I’d share some cool tips I’ve found to help you get more done in less time. Then you can start becoming more productive than you ever thought possible.

Further on in this post, I’m going to take you through how prioritising important tasks over less important ones can boost your productivity. First though, let’s answer the question in simple terms.

To become more productive, lessen the chance that you will become distracted or be tempted to procrastinate. Learn what your work habits are and try to schedule work so that you are always doing the hardest work when you have the most energy. Taking exercise, regular breaks and maintaining good sleeping and eating habits can also make you more efficient.

What are productive people able to do?

Most truly productive people are able to do five main things.

  • Minimise procrastination on both big and small tasks.
  • Get run-of-the-mill tasks out of the way.
  • Keep themselves upbeat and motivated through the day.
  • Manage email and messages while doing their work.
  • Focus on completing the most important tasks first.

Later on, I’ll talk about ways you can stay focussed on while working on difficult tasks and avoid becoming distracted.

For now though, let’s take a look at how focusing on doing important tasks first can make you more productive.

How can prioritising important tasks make you more efficient?

On a given to-do list there are inevitably some tasks that are more important than others. By checking off tasks one by one with no prioritising involved, you make yourself more likely to procrastinate. The reason for this is that you’ll inevitably finish up with a mixture of important and not-so important tasks done. Because you can spend the entire day completing less important jobs whilst putting off tackling the really hard stuff.  I know I’ve don that!

The most productive people develop a set of skills.

  • The ability to identify the most high-value or important tasks.
  • Being able to make sure they carry out those high-value tasks in the best possible way.
  • The ability to accept that they are unable to finish everything on their own and ask for help from colleagues.  

To develop these abilities yourself, spend a few minutes at the start or every day jotting down two or three things you must get done by the end of the day, come hell or high water. That way you can make a more useful, valuable checklist.

Why do we procrastinate?

Before we go on, we should address the issue of why people procrastinate in the first place. People put things off for various reasons. Here are a few of them.

  • Tasks can seem too overwhelming, complex or daunting.
  • You’re goals are too abstract or nebulas.
  • You’re afraid of failure.
  • You’re putting off doing something you dislike.
  • Simple indecisiveness.

There are many more reasons people procrastinate, but the above list should give you a good idea of why it’s so easy to find yourself procrastinating.  Now let’s look at how to stay focused when doing hard, energy-zapping tasks.

How to stay focussed when working on difficult tasks?

We all have to do everyday tasks that are so boring and easy we need music or an audiobook to help us power through them. We put these tasks off because of very mundanity.

But how can you stay focused on important tasks when a random thought pops into your head? These thoughts can range from what you should cook for dinner to thinking that you need to remember to pick up some dog food on the way home.

Note them down so that you can attend to them later. That way, you won’t forget anything and can carry on with your work without getting distracted and wasting time. You’ll soon find you’ll get what needs doing, done sooner.

You can also minimise the distractions of social media, email and the like by making yourself harder to contact when you are engaged in difficult tasks. One way you can do this is by writing more detailed, informative emails so there are not as many emails in any given thread asking for clarification of information.  

How can you motivate yourself to work? I hear you ask.  We’ll explore that question in a bit.

For now, let’s highlight a great technique you can use to work out how to achieve your long-term goals.

How can I be more productive in the long run?

Try to separate tasks that are important but not urgent from those which are both important and urgent.  Attend to the urgent important things first, then move on to important non-urgent tasks. Those tasks which you identify as both non-urgent and unimportant can be ignored. This method of organising tasks to help you be more productive over a long period is called The Eisenhower Matrix. Eisenhower used the same technique to help him make decisions when he was a general in the US army during World War II. 

Do you often find yourself spending a huge part of you day doing important but non-urgent work? Work out how you can eliminate, automate and delegate tasks. Soon, you’ll be working more efficiently than ever before.

How do I motivate myself to work?

Here, I’ll give you gives tips on what you should and shouldn’t do when you’re involved in tasks you need to focus on to finish.

Do:

  • Create a schedule. Plan to do hard work at more or less the same time everyday so that you can form the habit.
  • Work out how you work best. Do you work best when in a quiet room alone? Have you got to work around a busy schedule? Do you work better if you take breaks every so often? 
  • Get more used to doing nothing. Being bored can actually push you to get going and get unpleasant, tedious or difficult tasks out of the way.
  • Break big tasks up into smaller more manageable ones. You can do this by being very specific about what you need to do.
  • Dedicate more time and to completing higher-value tasks.
  • Find easily repeatable shortcuts to automate everyday tasks that you have to do over and over again. 
  • Learn from your mistakes and your successes.
  • Be proactive.   

Don’t:

  • Be too easy to contact. Ask people to do a bit of research before shooting off an email to you so that there is less time wasted asking for details and clarifications.
  • Forget to eat healthy, take breaks and get enough exercise so that you can replenish your energy ready for the next working day.
  • Try to accomplish everything yourself without the help of your colleagues.
  • Waste too much time agonising over ultimately unimportant choices.
  • Say yes to every opportunity that comes your way. This is often just a way of seeming to become more efficient. Actually, you are having to use up more energy doing lower-value tasks.
  • Wait to be motivated before you get to work.
  • Try to multitask.
  • Always react to things as they happen.

Summary

Today then, we’ve discovered a few of the secrets of how to be more productive at work. It all boils down to four main things.

  • Planning and being proactive where possible.
  • Taking good care of yourself.
  • Exercising stellar time management.
  • Being willing and able to ask for help when you need it to save yourself time and unnecessary aggravation.

I hope you’ve found this article helpful and I wish you luck as you work toward becoming more productive at work. Apply some of the tips given above. I have no doubt you’ll be the object of admiration and envy in the office in no time at all!

   

Published by Lizzie

Lizzie here. I'm a freelance copywriter and editor based in the UK. I'm also passionate about volunteering and hold a MA in History from the University of Warwick. I've written for a multitude of fantastic websites and companies, including a legal automation software company, a dog training site and more. Check out my reviews on Fiverr and Upwork for more info!

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