Have you ever wondered how some people get to do so much within a typical 8-hour work day, while you spend the same amount of time at work but you’re not being as productive as you’re supposed to be?
If you even have to do that kind of wondering, then you probably aren’t using your time effectively. Then again, you’re not the only one who gets caught up in tasks that don’t really matter or distractions that take up a lot of your time. It’s the story of the lives of many people who work for a living, that’s for sure.
Of course, we still would want to increase productivity at work. We want our work habits to become more streamlined and purposeful. To help us get there, here are eight productivity hacks used by successful people on a daily basis.
1. Always plan your day
When you go to work armed with a plan to finish that report in one hour or that Powerpoint presentation in two, you have a better chance of being focused on your work. With a plan up your sleeve, you aren’t likely to allow yourself to be distracted and let those distractions dictate how your day goes. This doesn’t mean you have to ignore the people around you or any situation or crisis that may come up, but finishing certain tasks within a target time frame gives you more time to deal with people and situations at work. At best, this productivity hack can save you anywhere between one to two hours per day.
2. Keep your social media usage in check
C’mon, admit it. Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites are eating up a lot of your time at work. This is the reason why many workplaces actually block social media sites. However, if you can freely access FB and Twitter in your place of work, you should work out a plan to build time to check, monitor and respond to whatever shows up on your social media newsfeed. There are online time-tracking tools that you can use to monitor the time you spent on other tasks. Hopefully, the results you see there will help you control your social media usage.
3. Check emails on a schedule
Personally, this is one problem that I’ve had before. I’m working on one task, then everything changes when I check my email as soon as it comes in. I had this tendency to immediately act on that email and forgetting about the task I was working one before. Then another email comes in, and I eventually end up getting overwhelmed and finishing nothing at the same time.
The best way to deal with emails is to set specific times to check your email. This, of course, will largely depend on your capacity to ignore every ping or notification alert that comes out of your gadgets until that predetermined time arrives. Better yet, let your customers, colleagues and clients know about your email-checking schedule. That way, you will be training them to communicate with you on your own terms.
4. Keep meetings to a minimum
One day, while I was in the wash room of some restaurant, I noticed a picture frame bearing words that say something about meetings preventing mankind from realizing its full potential. It seemed funny, and in so many ways, so true. Instead of doing actual productive work, we find ourselves trapped in meetings that, on average, take nearly half our work days. Unless a traditional, in-person meeting is unavoidable, we should set up more group emails or quick conference calls instead, because really, almost everything that’s being discussed in a meeting can actually be discussed remotely, what with the technology we have these days.
If a face to face meeting is really necessary, make sure that it has a set starting and ending time, and that everyone knows about it. Stick to this productivity hack, and you can save up to three hours of your work day.
5. Only urgent phone calls should be answered immediately
Unless you’re working as a receptionist/secretary or as a 911 operator, never ever feel like it’s your duty to pick up the phone every single time it rings. You can increase productivity at work if you just take a quick peek at the caller ID and pick up the phone only if you know it must be answered immediately. Let the rest go to voice mail. At the end of the day, only then should you return those calls, after you’re done with all your other tasks. Clients and colleagues will certainly appreciate that more because the time you’ll be spending talking to them will be uninterrupted and ultimately, more productive.
6. Set aside small, insignificant tasks
Is organising the contents of your drawer really that important? Do you really have to colour-code your files? Make no mistake, these tasks are important in their own right, but they should always take a backseat when you have so much more actual work that needs to be done. There is a time and a place for such tasks. Again, having a plan will help you avoid spending so much time on tasks that don’t really matter at the moment.
7. Do the tough tasks first
If you’re in the habit of putting off the really hard tasks, chances are you will take forever to actually get them done. In your daily work plan, always set aside time for those tough tasks, and work on them first. You don’t really have to finish them within the day (unless your immediate asks for it pronto). By focusing on working on that tough task on a regular basis, you sometimes just won’t realise that you’re already done with it.
8. Use tools that maximise efficiency
DropBox. Roboform. Boomerang for Gmail. These are software that speed up common tasks. Get to know and use these tools that maximise efficiency, and many of your tasks that otherwise just take up bandwidth will be done in no time at all.
Hopefully, every single productivity hack on this list can help you increase productivity at work. Here’s to a more streamlined and productive 2014!