If you’re like us, then one New Year’s Resolution you make every year is finding new ways to be more productive. Being highly productive in an office environment is incredibly difficult. Because of this, office workers all over the world are constantly having to battle artificial distractions in order to get things done. Developing the skills and finding the tools you need to be productive is, in many ways, the key to success in our modern work environment.
Cluster your tasks
Don’t work off of a simple to-do list. Instead, organise all of your tasks into sensible clusters that are related or that should be done in a particular sequence. By doing this, you can organise a lot of individual tasks into a few larger projects. By tackling those projects one at a time you can ensure that you’re not forced to constantly switch between unrelated tasks.
Additionally, this helps you to prioritise finishing related tasks together, so that you don’t end up with a whole list of unfinished projects, instead of 4 completed ones and one unfinished.
Build a timetable
Schedule everything out in your calendar every day, and follow your schedule very closely. Include even relatively small tasks, and even non-work activities like coffee breaks or breaks to check social media and respond to text messages. By assigning everything its own time, you can dampen your own internal need to check your phone every time it chimes. Furthermore, your timetable will relentlessly keep you on task.
This is especially important if you, like many modern workers, are always fighting a never-ending email inbox. Your schedule will help to ensure that you spend the bulk of your time on your most important tasks, so you don’t accidentally lose an entire day trying to combat a swarm of minor issues that happened to be at the top of your list while critical tasks go unfinished.
Very few meetings actually require the full hour for which they’re usually scheduled. Meetings tend to be dull and long-winded in large part because of this excessively large amount of allotted time. There is no reason to spend an hour relaying information that can be summarised in 300 words worth of meeting minutes. Getting rid of these unnecessarily long meetings can save an enormous amount of valuable time.
Experiment with shrinking the length of your meetings as much as possible. Group communication should be relatively direct and concise, and making this happen has some important benefits. A meeting that only takes 10 or 15 minutes is short enough to hold the full attention of attendees for the entire duration. Moreover, the meeting will take up less of their available work hours, ensuring that they can take the time to think about, offer feedback on, and act on what was discussed.
Control interruptions as much as possible
Successfully eliminating interruptions at work is about more than just logging off of Facebook. Extraneous noise, colleagues with questions, phone calls, emails, and sudden coffee cravings can all strike at any time. The most important method for managing all kinds of interruptions is establishing a routine for not just when you do certain tasks, but when you’ll interact with other people and media.
Dedicate a portion of your day to uninterrupted work, and during that time don’t open your email, don’t respond to calls, don’t get up from your desk, and ask colleagues with other issues to come back later. This way you can redirect common interruptions to the times before or after that high-intensity work time. Being highly predictable is important because it makes it easier for other people to know when you’re going to be unavailable.
Clean your work environment
Your physical environment affects how you think. A cluttered and dirty workspace can make it more difficult to focus. Keeping surfaces clear and getting rid of fidgety gadgets on your desk helps to keep your attention to your work, and makes it easier to keep your thoughts organised.
This also applies to your computer’s desktop. Resist the urge to slowly clutter your desktop up with hundreds of random files and folders. Regularly purge old junk, and organise what’s left in a way that’s easy to navigate visually. You’ll notice the difference immediately.
Making yourself highly productive at work is all about very carefully managing your time and your focus. Doing this effectively means getting more work done in less time, without being forced to exhaust yourself fighting constant distractions. You’ll free up valuable time and energy that you can use to develop yourself professionally, or advance your career. Most importantly of all, it’ll make it that much easier to manage work stress, so you’ll be able to more easily stay on top of other distractions and inefficiencies in the future.