We all know time is money, but not all of us take that to heart. There are a finite number of hours in a workday, and spending that time constructively can only benefit you and your business. Greater productivity usually leads to more efficient operations, greater quality of work, and more satisfied employees, customers, and other stakeholders.
Productivity can be gained by working harder, or working smarter. We’ll focus here on tips to help you and your team work smarter.
Getting up early in the morning can be a chore, but once you develop the habit, you’ll find you have more energy and time to do all the things. Starting your day with a exercise or meditation, or even just a quiet cup of coffee, can ground you in a way that allows you to calmly enter your workday with greater focus on desired outcomes.
If you commute, use your early morning to make the most of that captive time. Others find breakfast meetings or coffee get-togethers to be some of their most valuable hours. Whether it’s spent alone, with your team, or with external contacts, strategizing how to maximize the time when you’re at your peak is usually well worth it.
At the start and end of each day, make a list of everything that needs to get done. It’s much easier to look at tasks written out rather than picking them out of some jumble inside your head. Rituals make a big difference here. Identify the ones that work for you as you end one day and enter the next one.
Now that smartphones and devices can run multiple tabs, apps, and programs at once, it’s easy to fall into the trap of doing too many things at once. A walk through any office shows it’s not unusual for employees to get distracted by their email inbox, a client phone call, a Facebook notification on their phone, or an endless list of websites to waste time on.
You don’t need to have twelve tabs open, and you don’t need to handle two projects at the same time. Learn to slow down and focus on one thing at a time. That may mean putting some headphones on to block out distractions, finishing a task before starting a new one or turning off social media notifications. Staring with this HBR article, a whole host of studies have determined that multitasking does not in fact make us more productive, and may hurt our productivity to the tune of 40%.
The best way to combat multitasking is to learn how to organize your tasks and assignments by importance. There are a few ways to do this. Ask yourself these questions:
Solid focus leads to efficient work. Choose what’s most important; it’s helpful to schedule out times to first tackle big issues, and then move on to smaller ones. Prioritize and see the job through to the end before moving on to the next one. The work will be accomplished faster and more effectively, yielding a significantly better output.
There’s a saying that goes: “Perfection is the enemy of progress.” Or maybe you’ve heard Facebook’s famous mantra, “Done is better than perfect.” You can spend hours, even days polishing your website or cleaning up a presentation, but there comes a time when you have to declare it complete and move on to the next task. Otherwise, you could end up wasting a whole lot of time on unnecessary details.
Consider getting a time-tracking tool, like MyHours or Harvest. You’ll find that when you’re being timed, you’re less likely to get distracted. Schedule out your weekly tasks, events, and deadlines on a calendar. When a date is set for a particular assignment, you can prioritize by due dates and set milestones towards completion.
Unless you’re managing a social media account, there’s no reason you should be on Facebook or Twitter during work. Try cutting down on the time spent flicking through your feeds. Of course, easier said than done. Once the picture stalking commences, it’s hard to stop. Plus, who doesn’t love midday stroll on Insta?
Luckily, there are apps that can help block our favorite social platforms while we work. Anti-Social allows users to block websites and social networks that distract them. Rescue Time tracks where users spend their time throughout the day, shaming them into spending their time the right way. To accomplish best results, test what makes you personally work smarter.
If you absolutely have to, for example, engage on Linkedin as part of your role, at least confine it to a scheduled block of time no more than once a day. Put it on the calendar and be strict about the time limits you set.
Sometimes, a change of scenery is all that’s needed to spark a flow of ideas. A more comfortable chair, better lighting, or a cleaner space can make all the difference. Other times, those around you are a major disturbance. It may be fun to chat with your friends during the workday, but it isn’t fun to be forced into working late because nothing was finished.
Find a workspace that encourages collaboration but also offers some privacy if you need it. It can be refreshing to have a floor or common area to share with other people, to bounce ideas off of or to chat with someone after a long day. Expansive offers private offices and meeting rooms as well as shared coworking spaces (with private phone booths!), catering to those who need their own space, and to those who would rather be around others.
Healthier habits lead to increased motivation. Productivity is its own feedback loop – the more you set your team up to be productive, the happier and more motivated they will be, making them even more productive.