Tip Tuesday - Productivity
Updated: Sep 14, 2020
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As a follow up to last Tuesday's post on working from home I wanted to take a minute to talk about productivity. A change in your work environment can definitely have an impact on your overall productivity, but it doesn't have to be a negative one. I mentioned to you in my post last week that I am actually much more productive working from home than I am from the office. I think that is because, in my particular case, I have far fewer distractions around. I don't have co-workers around to sit and chat with or people to interrupt with me throughout the day with questions. Sure I could distract myself with my own projects around the house, but I think I discussed how to avoid that last week.
Regardless of your work environment, I wanted to share with you my top 10 tips for maximizing your productivity throughout the day:
Top Ten Tips for Maximizing Productivity
Keep a to-do list. Whether electronically or on paper, you must track the items you need to get done. I am a very forgetful person and without a running to-do list, I would probably lose my job! I have to write things down and keep track of what I need to do. But a bonus is that I find nothing more satisfying than crossing something off my list when I've completed it. Figure out a system that works for you and then stick to it. There are hundreds of methods out there and if one doesn't work try something else until you find something that fits. Microsoft OneNote is a great tool to get familiar with; any smartphone will have a Notes app that makes it easy to take notes on the fly, MS Outlook can also be a good way to track tasks and schedule due dates for yourself. I am old fashioned and find that a good old pen and paper work best for me. I found these Cheer Up Spiral Notebooks on Amazon and I love them. They have dividers so I can assign each section to a project and keep my notes and to-do lists organized. And they're small enough to fit in my purse.
Prioritize. A to-do list is great, but prioritizing it is the next step to better productivity. Identify the tasks that are most critical to complete that day and focus on those first. If you have a hard task looming over your head all day it will just make your day hard. Get that hard stuff done and out of the way, especially if you are more focused and productive first thing in the morning.
Keep a Calendar. In addition to a to-do list, make sure you are taking advantage of some kind of calendar system. If you have a smartphone you have a calendar, and they are so simple to use. It takes just a minute to jot down appointments in your smartphone so there is really no excuse for forgetting appointments or meetings anymore. You should also be able to set notifications and reminders 10, 15, 20 minutes (your preference) prior to that meeting. Some people also find it helpful to have a written calendar so they have a constant visual reminder. Whiteboard or glass calendar systems are great. The Quartet Magnetic Glass Calendar or Audio-Visual Direct Black Calendar White glass boards from Amazon are awesome because they are easy to keep updated. I love the planners from 1canoe2.com, they have lots of options and they are so pretty! Your options are endless, just like with a to-do list try some different systems and see what works for you. Just do something!
Don't put off for tomorrow what you can do today. Spend a few minutes each day looking at your calendar and tasks for the upcoming day. If you can, put your to-do list together then. Make sure you know what appointments and meetings you have coming up the next day. That way you already have a jump start on your day and can be sure to schedule your day properly. I also like to help myself out by preparing things ahead of time for the next day. Whatever you can do to make the next day a little easier for yourself. Get your clothes set out and ironed or steamed if needed; pack your lunch; plan out what you'll be making for dinner, etc. Spend a little time planning and taking care of those little things so your day will run a little more smoothly.
Multi-tasking. I believe that multitasking can help you be more productive when done in the right way. There are times when you should and should not multi-task. If you are working on something very important, needs to be done very accurately, cannot have mistakes, must be done by a pending deadline, etc. then don't multitask while doing it. You need to dedicate all of your attention and focus on that one task. You remember those critical items you noted on your to-do list? Those are most likely items that you should not be multitasking while doing - stay focused! Now, there are plenty of other times to multi-task, and to be honest with you I am almost always doing two or three things at the same time. Here is an example - Let's say a large file is downloading on my computer that may take 5 or 10 minutes, while that downloads I am reading and answering emails, making a phone call, or working on a report. I will never just sit there waiting. It's the same principle as when I am cooking dinner - I'm waiting for a pot of water to boil, at the same time chopping vegetables for a salad and unloading the dishwasher. Look for opportunities throughout your day to knock out two or three tasks at once. Even little things will add up.
Turn off distractions. If you have a project or task you really need to focus on (we keep coming back to this - it must be important), turn off distractions like email alerts, phone ringers, maybe even your music if that is too distracting. I find myself instantly looking at my email notifications when they come in, so turning them off allows me to stay more focused on the task at hand.
Keep your work area tidy & organized. Don't waste time in your day looking for things or being frustrated with clutter. No matter your work situation, whether working from home or in an office, keep your workspace tidy. If you are able to, personalize your workspace organization how it works for you best. There are thousands of organizational products on the market at all price points. If you don't want to buy something, chances are you have something around the house that would do the job - mason jars and old soup cans make great pen & pencil holders; Tupperware containers and even sandwich baggies can be used to organize drawers or hold office supplies. It doesn't have to be fancy, just keep it organized.
Take regular breaks. Stand up from your desk at least once every two hours and for at least five minutes to stretch your legs, go to the restroom, and get a drink. Turn your attention away from your computer and let your eyes and rear end take a break. Also, be sure to take a lunch break away from your workspace and avoid eating lunch at your desk as much as possible. Also, if you're feeling stuck and can't focus, get up and take a break and do something completely different for a while. I work from home so I am very fortunate that this is very easy for me. I like to go for a walk, vacuum the floors, work in the garden, or go to the grocery store. When I was still working out of the corporate office I would go for a walk outside, our office was across the street from a mall so I could do some window shopping, or go get a coffee or smoothie. Whatever it is, take a break and get your mind off what it is your stuck on. Then come back to it and most likely you will feel refreshed and refocused. Sitting around spinning your wheels usually gets you nowhere so take a break and let your mind refresh.
Drink plenty of water. You will feel better overall and keeping your body hydrated will help with overall focus and energy. I like to fill up a large water bottle first thing in the morning and keep it with me all day. I love this Hydro Bear bottle because it helps keep me motivated to drink water throughout the day. This Hydro Flask is great because it keeps water cold all day long. I also love to mix flavors into my water and use these Tumblers from Amazon. If I have to leave for meetings throughout the day, this is always my go-to.
Sleep. Not while you're working, but it is so important that you get enough sleep at night. If you have a bad night's sleep, you're going to drag all day long and all the productivity tips in the world aren't going to help you out very much. Make sure that you are making good quality sleep a priority in your life. Try to stick to a routine by going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at the same time each morning.
I hope some of these tips are helpful and maybe spurred on some new ideas for you to try. Do you have a system or a particular tool that you love to keep you productive and organized? Comment and let me know - I'd love to learn more about it.