Improving your output at work
Let’s face it, modern offices can be less than optimal when it comes to providing serene environments where you can be at your best. With more offices adopting the open office plan, there are distractions all around, from that colleague who plays loud music, to that other one who always has interesting stories about their escapades over the weekend, and not to mention social media. For those people who work from home, there is the unique problem of an alluring bed and the desire to catch up on the latest episode of Prison Break. Staying focused and productive can be an uphill task.
Distractions and lowered productivity usually come with tough consequences such as missed deadlines, demotion, missed raises, and even missed opportunities. Staying productive at work simply means getting the most done, within the shortest period and by using the least amount of resources. While this may sound quite easy, it is hard to achieve in the modern working environment so here are tips on how to stay razor-sharp focused.
Multi-tasking will not always work in your favour
You may feel like a ninja, having several open tabs on your computer or bobbing your head to the music and managing to move the needle for your expectations for the day. While it is important to multi-task at times, doing so all the time will mean that one task may suffer while one shines. In the worst case scenario, you will experience burn out or you will keep making silly mistakes.
If you are keen on stay productive, you need to focus on one task at a time. Close browsers that you do not need. Put your phone aside and switch off the data. This way, you will solely devote your time to one task at a time and this will increase your productivity.
Plan your schedule
Oftentimes, you will hear people saying that every job is urgent but the truth is, you are only one person and you can only focus on one thing at a time. As pointed out above, multitasking does not make you efficient so quit trying to do all the work at a go.
If you want to be more productive despite having a mountain of work on your desk, you need to manage your tasks and jobs well. Prioritise your work and allocate an approximate amount of time on each task. The result will be more focus on each task and an ability to do more with the limited amount of time in your hands.
Moreover, you can pace yourself and take a 10-minute break between each task so as to recharge. During this time, you can go for a water break, walk over to Aisha’s desk to see her baby’s latest photos, log onto WhatsApp to see what message is doing the rounds and basically just relax. This time off helps you recharge before you dive into the next task.
Have a checklist for your duties and break down big tasks into small ones
You just arrived at work and you know the day’s duties are nothing short of tasking. You are sure of where you need to start and where you need to finish off, but how to go about it is just not clear. The best approach to conquering this mountain is to have checklists which breakdown huge tasks into small manageable ones which you will focus on at a time. As you finish each, tick it off. The result is a psychological effect which helps you realise your duties are ending and keeps you motivated. This way you will be psyched up to keep going as there are ‘rewards’ in the form of ticked boxes. Additionally, you are unlikely to have oops moments about forgotten tasks.
Pop-up notifications are not your friend
If you need to stay focused, you need to kill those apps which do not involve your job. If you have WhatsApp on your computer and other chat apps, which keep distracting you, you will need to manage them. It is easy to argue that you can ignore them but the truth is, that can be hard. Unless it is absolutely necessary for the communication with the rest of your team, mute it until you are ready to take that 10-minute break.
Social media can wait
In an increasingly connected world and with trending topics being so fickle, it can be tempting to want to always keep up. The result is using so much time on your social media pages keeping up with the latest political hashtag. The downside is, your job will suffer, deadlines will be missed and you could just find yourself being reprimanded for this. Avoid logging into social media unless you are taking a break. It may sound cliche but it is for your own good. Some offices even limit social media time just so that their employees do not get distracted but of course, that does not stop you from using your phone. Maintain strict discipline and you will soon be taking on more work per day than you can possibly imagine, which could translate to a promotion.
Email is not the solution to every discussion
Back and forths via emails can feel like a waste of time and what could have been cleared up in 5 short minutes could end up being dragged on for hours. If you need to seek clarification on something or you need to have a short discussion on an issue, walk down to that colleague you need to discuss it with or give them a call. You can even use chat apps like Skype to quickly get it out of your way. If you are working in geographically diverse areas, chat apps are great and what’s more, some of them allow you to make calls. This way, you save on time and you get what you want to know within a short period of time. If you feel it is important to have the communication trails for future reference, you can later send an email detailing the conversation and what was agreed on.
Meetings, meetings, meetings
Meetings can take up a very big chunk of your day if you do not plan them well. By the end of the day, you could find that you have had endless meetings and had nothing done. The result is more time spent discussing and strategising as opposed to actually implementing what you discuss.
The best way around this is to stick to the agenda of the meeting. This way, you spend less time in banter and more time in actually getting things done.
Believe or not, 8 hours in a day is sufficient time to get a lot done if you plan the day properly and limit the number of distractions. Staying productive at work requires strict discipline, especially in the world of social media and open office plans. These guidelines can easily keep you grounded and you find yourself clocking out by 5 pm on the dot, having cleared all your duties for the day.
What are some of the strategies you use to stay productive?