Work seems much more complicated than even five years ago, no? Job competition is high, whether you have one or are looking for one, and employers are always expecting more. We adapt, but there are limited hours in the day, and most of us are in an environment (virtual or real) that is filled with distractions. Increasing your own productivity has become one of the few clear ways to get ahead in the workplace.
Being more productive is obviously important, but actually doing it is another story. Without a clear plan for getting more done, old habits will take over, which makes it easy to get stressed out and overwhelmed. But that doesn’t mean you can’t change. Here are a few strategies to help you:
Retreat and Refocus
The clutter of the day-to-day can make it hard to feel like you’re making progress. To get over this, sometimes all you need is to take one step back and refocus. Think about what is most important for you to get done in the long run, and then write down a few clear goals that will help you get where you want to be.
Once you’ve done this, you’ll be able to forge a new way forward for yourself. Try to plan your workweek at the start, making sure to set time aside for the most important things. You can perform a cost-benefit analysis for everything you do at work. Decide what absolutely needs to be done by you, and then see if you can delegate or delete the rest.
Once you have a focus, you’ll be surprised at what you can do.
Take Detailed Notes of Your Habits
We usually don’t notice it immediately when we waste our time. But we all know how a quick email can turn into a 20-minute chore, or how a brief meeting can turn into one hour of mindless chatter. The possibilities are, sadly, limitless.
If we were to be conscious of these events, we’d likely take measures to stop them. At the very least we would be able to plan better, which also improves workplace productivity.
Therefore, you should take notes about how you spend your time at work. This will help you get a better idea as to where all your time is going. You don’t need to do this forever, but a few days or weeks can be enough to help you be more conscious about how you use your time.
I would recommend using a notebook and pen for this exercise. Doing it through a computer program might be more convenient, but it could turn this practice into another task. Writing down what you’re doing is more deliberate and forces you to be conscious of your time.
While I say this, by no means should you cast iron rules upon yourself and hold yourself to unreasonable standards. Sometimes complications show up in simple tasks. Your productivity will drop if you schedule every second of your life and don’t take regular breaks.
Train Yourself in the Tools You Use
It is commonly said that education is an investment, but this doesn’t apply just to a degree from the university. If you spend a few hours learning in detail about all of the features and functions of the programs you use, you’ll likely learn a few new tricks that will save you time in the long run.
Consider the following:
- Taking the time to use the lesser known functions of office programs can turn a two-hour reformatting task into a ten-minute breeze.
- Learning about cybersecurity, online privacy, and programs such as Virtual Private Networks will free you from the tasks and troubles a data breach providers down the line.
- If you learn how to use scheduling software, you can save a few hours of organization and planning each week.
- How are you utilizing any specialized programs at work? Have you looked beyond your original training? There might be some gems still to be discovered.
Depending on your workplace, these tips might differ. The fact remains that you should look at the tools and programs around you. They might surprise you!
There’s Always Another Option
There are, of course, many other ways to improve your productivity and reduce stress at work than those listed above. Yet, I hope that by starting with the above strategies you’ll start to look at your time differently and find ways to improve productivity that works for you.
How do you balance all your responsibilities at work? Are there any other ways you try to improve your productivity? Do you already use some of the methods above? Please leave a comment and tell us your thoughts.
Cassie is a nurse and working mother who frequently writes about making the most of her time. She understands the importance of a balanced work life and hopes this information will inspire other women to seize every workday.