How to be more productive at work by working smarter, not harder
Cultivating productive habits in your work environment will help you do your best work consistently.
August 29, 2018

There are only so many hours in a day to get work done, and maximizing your productivity is one of the easiest ways to get more work done faster. However, it's easier said than done. Many professionals say they have a hard time being as productive as they'd like to at work due to frequent interruptions and distractions.

Constant meetings, social media and a steady flow of emails can make it hard to generate a productive day. Cultivating productive habits in your work environment will help you do your best work consistently.

To be more productive, you have two choices. You can take your work home with you and work longer hours. Alternatively, you can work smarter by increasing efficiency without compromising quality. Read on to learn the best productivity hacks that top business owners and leaders practice on a regular basis.

Evaluate Your Work Methods

In general, people are adverse to change. We get set in our ways at work, even if they aren't conducive to maximum productivity. Take a look at your processes for accomplishing important tasks to determine if there is a better way to get them done.

For example, if the standard process for approving travel expense reports is to create a spreadsheet, add individual line items, attach paper receipts and send it to your manager to approve it, then send it to the accounting department for processing.

Instead, try using a program like Expensify. You can link your corporate credit card and it will capture receipts for you and create simple reports that you can turn in automatically. Of course, you may have to get changes like these approved depending on your work environment and leadership team, but you just might end up with bonus points for taking initiative and streamlining the process.

Take a look at your to-do list and assess if all the items make sense. Is a quick phone call to resolve a conflict more practical than sending a long email that might get lost in the shuffle? Do you have any large tasks that could be streamlined or organized with an existing business template?

Doing an internal audit of your work practices can shed light into areas for productivity improvement.

Structure Your Workday

Track how much time you spend on your regular work tasks. You may think you have a good idea of how you spend your work time, but research shows that only about 17 percent of individuals can accurately estimate how they spend their time.

Try out a program like Toggl or Rescue Time. Simple time management software tools like these can give you a lot of insight regarding how much time you spend on certain tasks and can even rate your productivity.

Once you have a clear picture of how you spend your time, map out your day and put specific time blocks on your calendar to help you stay on track. Schedule at least two to three blocks of 90-minute work intervals and regular breaks to increase your productivity. Employees often have the tendency to only put meetings on their calendar, but if you plan your entire day you're more likely to stick to your agenda.

For example, a productive day could look like:

8:00–8:30 a.m.: Arrive at the office and check email

8:30–10:00 a.m.: Focused work time for working on a project

10:00–10:15 a.m.: Break. Incorporate regular breaks into your day for whatever helps you feel refreshed and ready to tackle the next challenge. Go for a quick walk, read a book you're interested in or meditate. Get away from your computer screen.

10:15–11:45 a.m.: Focused work time to research industry trends or attend a webinar

11:45 a.m.–12:45 p.m.: Lunch break

12:45–1:45 p.m.: Meeting time

1:45–2:00 p.m.: Break

2:00–3:30 p.m.: Focused work time

3:30–4:00 p.m.: Meeting time

4:00–4:30 p.m.: Check and answer emails

4:30–5:00 p.m.: Review agenda for the next day and complete any critical follow-up action items

Whether you're a morning person or a night owl, planning and creating a schedule and sticking to it will boost your productivity a great deal.

Conquer Distractions to Increase Focus

If there's one strategy you implement today to improve your work productivity, stop multitasking. It's so easy to get distracted at work with social media, text messages and overlapping priorities. We convince ourselves we can multi-task and do it all.

We simply cannot do more than one thing at a time and do it well. Multitasking doesn't increase efficiency, but it does increase errors and decrease the quality of your work. If you're trying to check your Instagram, have a phone conversation and write an email at the same time, you're not being productive.

Research shows that people who think they are adept multitaskers and it increased their productivity are actually the least productive when multitasking. In fact, they are worse at multitasking than those who favor focusing on one task at a time.

Do yourself a favor and turn off your notifications, put your phone on 'Do Not Disturb' and don't check your email during your 90-minute intervals of focused work time. You'll get things done faster and increased focus will boost your overall work performance.

Some organisations block certain distracting websites like social media in an effort to increase productivity, and some don't. There are specific tools you can use to block or limit the websites of your choice for certain periods of time, helping you decrease the amount of time you spend on them.

Use Technology to Streamline Your Workflow

We've mentioned using time tracking software to evaluate how you spend your time at work and creating a productive, meaningful schedule. Similarly, performance and task management software can also facilitate a productive work environment.

There's a wide range of technology software task management programs that can streamline processes and improve productivity. The best programs aid companies by helping teams collaborate on projects and targets in a public space, increasing transparency and accountability while boosting productivity.

Samewave is social performance management software that helps organisations use social technology to foster a collaborative, productive work setting. This software gives teams the ability to document, analyse, measure and talk about commitments while taking individual productivity to new levels.

Samewave is free, so introduce it to your team and sign up today to improve productivity, reach goals faster and review your progress in one place.

Be Proactive About Your Productivity Goals

Create an intentional, thoughtful plan for being more productive at work and commit to it. Introduce one of these productivity tips into your workday on a regular basis.

Before you know it, you will have created a host of habits that make your work-life balance stronger. Everyone is different, so explore and discover what works for you to start working smarter, not harder.

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