In the world of business, we are all measured according to our output: how much we can accomplish in the time we have. If you want to maximise productivity, we have techniques that can help. Read on to discover eight tips to make the most of your workday.
Why you need to maximise productivity
Haven’t we all wished, amid a busy day, that we were able to get more done? Whether at work or home, the quest for productivity and efficiency seems to be a constant, especially in this modern, demanding age. In this quest, time is our most precious currency. We want to do more and we want to do it better.
Unproductive time is a common occurrence at every level of an organisation. According to one American survey of 2,000 employees across industries, the average amount of time wasted per department is three or more hours every day. Even higher-level staff are susceptible: time loss happens to as many as 8.8% of middle management and 7.5% of upper management. From interruptions to workflow, unproductive meetings and various distractions, the losses can add up to a significant amount.
With that in mind, there are several methods you can employ to get the most out of your time. Many are quite straightforward and can be implemented immediately for you and your team. Let’s jump into it.
1. Create a to-do list to maximise productivity
A list helps to give clarity, and focus and keeps you organised. Rather than a jumble of tasks running through your mind, you can free up brain space and reduce stress when you have a visual reminder of what you need to do. Checking off a task on your list is a satisfying feeling and will keep you motivated. You can create lists for the day, week or month, and break down bigger tasks or projects into smaller, less intimidating sub-goals. You can also organise the tasks according to importance or urgency. Which brings us to…
2. Prioritize your tasks
Some tasks on your list will have tight deadlines, some may require a large chunk of focused, uninterrupted time to complete. Prioritize by deadline, importance or time. It may be a good idea to work on your biggest, most time-consuming tasks first, or schedule them when you have a good chunk of time in your calendar. You may want to work on the big tasks when you’re fresh and alert so that you can give it the attention it needs. Leave the more mundane jobs, like checking emails, when there are small pockets of time.
3. Multitasking hinders productivity
It may seem tempting to multitask when you have so much on your plate. However, research has shown that it just isn’t possible for humans to focus on more than one thing at a time. Multitasking can actually hinder your performance, decrease the quality of your work and yes, even reduce your productivity. When performing a complex task, multitasking will make you more prone to errors. (No driving and checking your phone at the same time, right?) So concentrate on one task at a time until it’s complete. You will find that you do better and faster.
4. Minimize interruptions
The urge to check your phone, chatty colleagues, slamming doors, team members popping up with questions… interruptions and distractions are not just annoying when you’re trying to get something done; they can break your focus and eat into your time. If your phone is the problem, put it on silent and in a drawer. Set your status to “busy” on all messaging platforms. Ask your teammates to give you space. Put on a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. Having headphones on is also a convenient way to send a message that you don’t wish to be disturbed.
5. Productive meetings to maximise productivity
Surveys have found that meetings can be a major time sink. Here are a few interesting statistics: 47% of employees consider meetings to be the biggest waste of time at work, 50% of meetings were deemed unnecessary, 50% of meeting time is spent on irrelevant topics, and only 28% felt most meetings were productive. Here’s one that’s somewhat amusing: 47% of workers attended meetings that were so long it made them fall asleep. Meetings are a necessary part of business, but we can certainly make them less of a time-waster. Try to keep meetings to no more than 30 minutes. Even better, make it an email instead. Consider having standing meetings, which will automatically compel attendees to keep it quick and stay alert. Prepare for meetings beforehand: set objectives, ensure everyone gets notes and come ready to discuss.
6. Have a hybrid work arrangement
Does working from home (WFH) improve or decrease productivity? A quick search on the internet will reveal data supporting both sides of the argument. Employers and managers report declines in productivity while employees say the opposite. It’s been a few years since the global WFH experiment forced by the pandemic and organisations are still trying to find the best way forward. And currently, the answer seems to be a combination of both, i.e., a hybrid arrangement.
Studies have found that if an organisation provides the right tools, managers are taught how to take care of team members who are not in the office, and clear policies are put in place, hybrid and flexible work arrangements can bring productivity gains. In surveys, employees have shared that the time saved on their daily commute is turned into time for productive work. They took shorter lunch breaks and avoided time-wasting office chitchat. They reported less stress. The days when employees are required to come to the office are when meetings, brainstorms and check-ins with managers can occur. This way, workers and employers get the best of both worlds while productivity is increased.
7. Taking breaks to maximise productivity
Stepping away from work momentarily is important if you want to boost productivity. The human body isn’t designed to be sedentary for hours on end, neither can our eyes stare at a screen all day. Research has linked sitting for long periods to numerous health concerns. It will slow your metabolism, make you put on weight faster, reduce muscle mass and raise inflammation, to name just a few. So if you want a healthy, productive, long-term career, you need to take care of your mind and body.
One easy solution is to set a timer on your phone or computer for 30 minutes to remind you to take a break. Get up and have a stretch, take a walk, and make yourself a drink. Breaks are also helpful when you’re stuck in a rut or can’t seem to come up with a solution. Doing something different or refreshing your mind may give you a “eureka” moment.
8. Fight procrastination
If you tend to procrastinate, you are not alone. Studies have found that around 20-25% of adults are chronic procrastinators. The reasons for procrastination are complex; and linked to underlying psychological reasons such as motivation, gratification, confidence and so on. There is no doubt that procrastination affects productivity. It also affects the quality of work, especially when procrastinators rush to complete their tasks as deadlines loom.
Procrastination is a self-defeating behaviour and causes unnecessary stress to the procrastinator and those around them. There is no easy, single solution to this. You can set your deadlines, break work into smaller chunks and celebrate your milestones. Another effective strategy is to make yourself accountable. Find a trusted colleague, coach or mental health professional to help you stay on track. Schedule regular chats or discussions and consistently work at the root of the problem. With counsel and support, this is a battle that can be won.
Start improving productivity today
As you can see, there are various techniques and methods to help you maximize productivity. The key is to be consistent and practice them regularly. You will see your productivity and efficiency improve as you make better use of your time. If you would like guidance from a qualified executive coach who’s also a psychologist, we are happy to be of assistance. Get in touch with us.
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