8 Easy Steps to Increase Your Productivity at Work PDF Print E-mail
Univetica Staff

Most workplace productivity problems stem from procrastination or disorganization, both of which may have any number of sources. These sources can include lack of motivation, an unmanageable to-do list, or simply a lack of clarity in one’s goals.

If you are like most of us, you have probably had to come face-to-face with one or more of these issues from time to time. But, here’s the good news. Poor productivity is often attributable to causes that can be relatively minor and easily resolvable. Here are 8 simple steps you can use to identify where your productivity suffers and how you can make improvements.

1. Set boundaries
The extent to which you separate your work life from your home life is a matter of personal choice, but clear separation between the two can encourage productivity on both fronts. Try drawing an imaginary line between the two sides of your life, and treat that line as sacred. To whatever degree practicable, refrain from checking work email or phone messages at home and make it clear to your coworkers that you’re unavailable during certain hours. This allows you to strive for personal, non-work-related satisfaction, which in turn can energize you for your next work session.

2. Get organized
Simple tasks such as decluttering your desk and filing documents in their proper places may seem relatively trivial, especially when you’re in a rush. However, having a neat and organized workspace where it’s easy to find various items helps you stay on task. In addition, physical and organizational clutter can contribute to mental clutter, making it more difficult to think and stay focused.

3. Make a manageable to-do list
Having a to-do list is essential for organizing your work day and prioritizing tasks, but putting too many items on your list can elevate your stress level and prevent you from feeling satisfied at the end of the day. If it helps, keep a separate to-do list for weekly or more long-term tasks, and maintain a short, manageable daily list so that you don’t feel overwhelmed throughout the day.

4. Avoid multitasking
Some people may be better at multitasking than others and a few may even thrive when they have many tasks on their plates. However, as a general rule, the best way to get things done seems to be focusing on one task at a time. New research2 suggests that “multitaskers are terrible at every aspect of multitasking. They're terrible at ignoring irrelevant information; they're terrible at keeping information in their head nicely and neatly organized; and they're terrible at switching from one task to another.” Making a to-do list can help you organize your thoughts and create a way for you to focus on one task at a time. After making your to-do list, start with the most important item, focus on it until you get it done, and then move on to the next item. In contrast, when you keep dividing your tasks and moving between different things, you may end up wasting time, not to mention mental energy in the transitions.

5. Take breaks
No matter what field you’re in, going three or more hours without a break can cause a drop in morale, and when morale declines, so does productivity. Taking a few minutes off to have lunch or get some fresh air refocuses the mind and can serve to energize the body. Try to avoid taking your breaks at your desk, as this may only create a feeling of confinement.

6. Turn off your email
Keeping an email program running in the background may allow you to read and respond to messages quickly, but the constant distraction can hurt productivity,3 especially if you receive scores of messages throughout the day. Enhance your focus by closing your email program while you’re focused on completing a certain task. Then, either schedule times throughout the day for email, or simply check your messages whenever you finish a major item on your to-do list.

7. Finish things
Leaving something partially finished translates into expending valuable mental energy re-focusing on that same task when returning to it later. In addition, seeing a task through to its completion gives you a sense of accomplishment that can help provide momentum as you move to the next item on your to-do list. 8. Use technology smartly Technology should improve productivity without getting in the way. Try to identify problem devices or programs that waste more of your time than they save. If you have a setup that works, try to ignore the hype surrounding new tech products. It’s good to be in line with the standards in your industry, but there’s no reason to waste money on products that are only incrementally better than what you already have.

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