How to Be More Productive at Work: 10 Ground Rules

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With so many distractions these days, including social media, mobile games, videos and the Internet in general, as well as the global shift to work from home, completing our daily work tasks sometimes seems impossible. It’s very easy to fall prey to disruptions and distractions at work and end up having an unproductive day and a dozen tasks still waiting to be completed.

What can you do about it? Are there ways to be productive at work? The answer is yes. Although there are things you can absolutely do to give your productivity levels a boost, you should also keep in mind that unless you are willing to relocate to a cave, no tips and tricks on how to fully eliminate distractions and disturbances exist. With that being said, let’s see what you can do to become more productive and increase your performance at work.

What does it actually mean to be productive at work?

This is a question that all employees and employers have been asking since the dawn of time. Regardless of what you do or where you work, people seem to always be looking for new ways to be more efficient and effective. But what does being productive at work actually mean?

Productivity is tied to one’s ability to achieve effective results within the shortest amount of time possible. It involves working smarter and not harder. To do so, you have to be skilled at ignoring interruptions and constantly look for ways to refine the work process and speed up the workflow.

To achieve high levels of productivity at work, you have to take a closer look at your current style of working and identify flaws, drawbacks and hindrances, and then start experimenting with ways to improve.

It’s important to distinguish between being productive and being busy. Completing a long list of tasks or working till 9PM in the evening doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re being a productive team member. It just means that there are a lot of things to be taken care of.

How to measure productivity?

Every company has their own methods of measuring employee productivity. Employees can also measure it by themselves. Although there are so many different methods of measuring it, depending on the structure and focus of the company, there are several broad categories of productivity measuring ways which you can expect to come across during your professional career. Those include:

  • Time management
  • Profit concentrated measures
  • Is the job done
  • Feedback or peer assessment
  • Progress monitoring
  • Labor time to goods produced ratio
  • Customer satisfaction

Utilizing productivity measurements will significantly help you see the true value your company brings to the market or if you’re using them for self-measurement, you will have a clearer perspective of your talent and what you bring to the table.

The main reason for using work efficiency measures is to help employees understand how their work and if there are areas they should improve. If you know what your weaknesses are, you will know what to work on. No one is born perfect but we have to take ownership of our faults and learn how to be better.

A computer desktop that says “do more”
A computer desktop that says “do more”

10 Ground Rules that can boost your work productivity

  1. Don’t multitask

You should, at all times, avoid multitasking. You may think that by multitasking you can get more tasks done efficiently, however the exact opposite is true.

Many different researches throughout the years have concluded that attempting to do multiple tasks at once takes a huge toll on productivity levels. Your focus and concentration levels are hindered as you are switching from one task to another and you might end up causing more harm than good to yourself and to the company you’re working for.

If you have a lot of responsibilities to take care of, determine your priorities first. Allocate time for each task and make sure it’s completed before jumping over to the next one.

2. Begin with the most difficult task

“Eat the frog” is a famous productivity technique according to which you should do your most important and urgent task first. Completing the biggest task before anything else will give you a huge sense of accomplishment and will give you a great motivation boost for the rest of your day.

The biggest task holds the biggest consequence if not completed. If, however, you manage to deal with it at the beginning of the working day, you will feel motivated, accomplished and ready to do more great things ahead.

3. Take regular breaks

Another great tip on how to improve your productivity levels is to take regular breaks at work. Spending hours in front of the computer without moving anything but your hands can seriously damage your focus and can have a bad impact on your body.

Regardless of the amount of work, you should make sure you take minibreaks to stretch your legs a little bit and have a scenery change. Breaks are crucial for your physical as well as mental health. If your brain works without a break, it will inevitably get worn out. In turn, you won’t be able to perform as efficiently as you thought you would.

4. Turn off social media notifications

Checking your Facebook or Instagram account a few times in an hour is definitely something to watch out for. If you want to be productive and get the job done as quickly and efficiently as possible you have to turn off your notifications during work hours. This way, you won’t check your phone all the time and spend precious minutes liking photos or watching videos.

The same goes for your computer. Log out of your social media profiles and try not to log back in. Make it harder for yourself to access the countless distractions Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or YouTube can offer you.

5. Hold stand-up meetings

Stand-up meetings have proven to be a great alternative to the old-school round table morning company gatherings that can take up to an hour to finish. A standing meeting is a quick team meeting that’s held on foot. The entire team meets for a quick overview of important tasks, progress and upcoming events.

The great thing about stand-up meetings is that they take not more than 10–15 minutes. The fact that they are held on foot makes everyone eager to go back to their safe place, their desks, so team members speak quickly and clearly without going into unnecessary details.

a team member working and taking notes on a desk
a team member working and taking notes on a desk

6. Cut down on meetings

Meetings can take a lot of time, that’s for sure. We’ve all been part of meaningless, time-consuming meetings that do nothing but waste precious minutes of our daily work life. Conducting team meetings efficiently is an art and not everyone is good at running one. Therefore, if you have to arrange a meeting or are asked to attend one, ask yourself first if the contents of the meeting can’t be delivered through email.

Of course, you shouldn’t eliminate meetings or completely ignore the advantages of having regular meetings with your team. However, if all the hustle is just about information sharing, you are probably better off sending an email or just waiting for someone to send you a meeting follow-up email containing a summary of the discussion.

Weigh up the options prior. Is that meeting absolutely vital for you right now? Can you skip it and focus on the important task at hand?

7. Utilize productivity tools

With the advancement of technology and the development of so many communication, data, project and time management applications, increased work productivity doesn’t seem like an unfamiliar concept anymore.

With the right tools at your disposal, you can complete tasks more efficiently and save time. These tools can also keep you connected to the rest of your team, manage and prioritize tasks, assign new roles and responsibilities, keep track of progress and hold important data, as well as meetings.

Ask your manager to give you access to such tools if you feel like what you currently work with is not helping you or there are better platforms available. A good team leader will understand the significance of having just the right tools and how significant they are for team productivity.

For communication:

  • Slack
  • Discord
  • Microsoft Teams

For meeting management:

For task management:

  • Trello
  • Asana
  • Wrike

For time-tracking:

  • Clockify
  • TimeCamp

8. Manage interruptions

There are certain disruptions in the office which are unavoidable. If you work from home, things are even worse. In order to deal with this, you have to learn how to handle interruptions like a pro.

Let everyone around you know that you need to focus. Turn your status on as “unavailable” and fully concentrate on the tasks. Tell your colleagues or family members you live with that you’re doing something important and you would appreciate not being interrupted for a moment. Communicate the seriousness of the situation and make sure everyone gets that.

9. Organize your work place

You can’t expect to improve your productivity levels if your workplace is a mess. Physical clutters can negatively affect your ability to focus and analyze information. You should keep your work environment well-organized and clutter-free.

Being organized also helps you find things faster. You can grab tools, documents or appropriate stationary quickly and move on to the project you’re currently working on. According to a research, the average worker can spend up to one week a year looking for misplaced items.

10. Set self-imposed deadlines

A great way to combat procrastination is to set self-imposed deadlines. Make daily or weekly to-do lists, set task deadlines and do your best to stick to them. This way, you can clearly see, for yourself, what your productivity levels are and how efficiently you manage your time. If something doesn’t look right or you’ve discovered that a small task took longer than expected, find ways or seek guidance on how to complete it quicker next time.

Another thing you can do is before leaving work for the day, write down a list of five to ten goals that you would like to accomplish the following day.

The Bottom Line

Depending on the exact job, work environment, company structure, personal work style and other factors, there are indeed many things that can be said about productivity and how to improve it. The good news is that there are so many ways that can help you with that.

Things won’t change overnight, though. It takes time, effort and consistency to form a habit out of even one or two of the above-mentioned work productivity tips. You will, however, notice that in time the change will feel more obvious and you will feel proud of yourself and the valuable contributions you have made.

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