When you’re trying to meet personal and/or professional goals, one of the first things you evaluate is your productivity.
Are you managing your time well? Are you checking off items on your to-do list? Or do you find yourself falling behind? If so, this article’s for you.
Discover low-effort ways to boost your productivity – whether you’re working from home or heading to the office.
- How to Increase Productivity at Work
- Figure out your productivity patterns.
- Don’t multitask.
- Be accountable.
- Break up large tasks.
- Block off your calendar.
- Use productivity apps.
- Ways to Increase Productivity at Home
- Limit distractions.
- Stick to a routine.
- Prioritize breaks.
- Set up your environment.
- Have a designated workspace.
How to Increase Productivity at Work
1. Figure out your productivity patterns.
Just because the average work day is between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. doesn’t mean those are the hours in which you do your best work.
Some of us focus best in the early morning before the sun is even up and some of us are night owls.
The first thing you should do when working on your productivity is first to observe yourself – specifically when you get the most or least done. Because some days are naturally more hectic than others, do this over a period of a week.
Identifying these ‘sweet spot’ days and hours will enable you to plan your day better and perform tasks faster without compromising on quality or accuracy.
For instance, I’ve designed my Mondays to include low-effort tasks because I tend to be in and out of meetings. This makes it hard to get anything done that requires intense focus. As a result, I schedule tasks that are short and quick.
Tuesdays, on the other hand, are very quiet and I do my best work between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. With that in mind, I get my heavier tasks done like research and writing.
Once you’re aware of which hours you work most efficiently, you can allocate projects accordingly and use that time for difficult tasks.
Many of us think we’re lazy or unproductive when the truth is, we’re not listening to our bodies. Identifying which parts of the day bring out the best in you is likely the key to increased motivation and effectiveness on the job.
Once you do that, all that’s left to do is adjust your schedule accordingly.
2. Don’t multitask.
It seems like we all got a memo as young adults that multitasking was peak productivity. Turns out, it’s not. In fact, recent studies suggest that attempting to multitask will actually hinder your productivity.
Although switching back and forth between multiple tasks may seem quicker, it ends up taking longer because the mind can only focus on one activity at a time. As such, your brain ends up doing double the work to refocus on each task.
Ever have a conversation with a friend but then get realize you didn’t register something they said because you got distracted? With multitasking, you may not realize it and end up making mistakes.
Your best bet is to focus your energy and attention on one task at a time. You’ll clear out distractions and allow your mind to be more present.
You will find that giving yourself enough that space leads to much faster completion times and higher quality work overall.
3. Be accountable.
Accountability can be a major productivity driver for both personal and professional goals. They often remind you of your “why” and serve as motivation to keep going.
At work, that accountability will have to be self-imposed, unless you have a co-worker or a team you can depend on for this.
Being accountable looks like this:
- Blocking out times on your calendar to get specific tasks done.
- Putting a 1-hour timer on to complete a task.
- Scheduling a reminder.
- Setting deadlines, even if your task or project doesn’t require it.
If you work from home, having an accountability partner can be especially helpful. Maybe your team gets together on Mondays for an hour to work together via Zoom, even if it’s in silence.
Or you could meet with your co-worker once a week to give each other progress reports on upcoming projects.
Whether it’s personal or shared, accountability can significantly increase your productivity.
4. Break up large tasks.
Imagine you have a high-impact project due in a few weeks. Every time you think about it, you picture the project as a whole and how far away you are from completion. That’s a recipe for disaster.
To remain productive, it’s essential that you break up your tasks into bite-size, actionable chunks. This will decrease (or remove) the anxiety often associated with the work itself and enable you to stay motivated as you reach important milestones.
5. Block off your calendar.
There’s nothing more frustrating than attempting to get in the zone but being interrupted by a last-minute meeting or a Teams notification.
One way to protect your time is by blocking out your calendar during set times to tackle your to-do list. This will create necessary boundaries to avoid interruptions while also setting expectations for your colleagues on when you’ll be available.
If they ping you during this time, don’t feel obligated to respond immediately.
Better yet, turn on the “Do Not Disturb” feature on your group messaging application to indicate you’re unavailable.
Most of the strategies for increased productivity require you to take a proactive approach, rather than a reactive one. And this is one where the benefits are immediately clear.
6. Use productivity apps.
If all other techniques fail, there’s likely an app to help you increase your productivity.
Productivity apps will range in purpose and function. Some focus on time management while others zero in on the organization. Here are a few top options:
- Toggl - A timer to use when using the Pomodoro focus method and when tracking how much time each task takes to complete.
- Notion – A digital workspace to store your documents, to-do lists, and more.
- Mindfulness – An app to use during your breaks to recalibrate.
Ways to Increase Productivity at Home
1. Limit distractions.
Distractions can be a major obstacle to productivity at work, which is why it's so important to limit them as much as possible.
When you read this, you might be thinking about things like social media and the TV. Those are bad too but there are some unsuspecting distractions to consider.
The first is roommates – whether they’re talking directly to you or in the background, they’re hard to ignore. If you can, make sure you isolate yourself during your most productive hours to ensure you can get your work done.
Pro-tip: If separation is not possible, put on headphones to block out the noise.
Next is your pet(s). Sure, they’re fluffy and adorable but when they’re having zoomies or begging for attention, that can quickly become disruptive.
Lastly, your cellphone. It’s likely what you’re reaching for any time you look away from your computer but it’s also what will keep you from going back.
One way to avoid this is by placing your phone outside of your workspace. If you’re worried about missing calls, put on your loud ringer to ensure you hear your calls.
Keeping distractions to a minimum can do wonders for your productivity, as they’re little time sucks you often don’t account for.
2. Stick to a routine.
When I operate outside of my normal routine, that’s when my productivity is at its lowest.
That’s because the mind loves what’s familiar. From the time you get up to the music you listen to at your desk, every step in your routine serves as cues for your behavior.
So, when you fail to maintain a consistent routine, it can be difficult to focus and be productive.
A routine can look like this:
- Starting and ending work at the same time every day.
- Having a designated work space.
- Taking breaks every two hours.
- Associating each work day with a set of tasks. E.g. Mondays for meetings, Tuesdays for writing, and Wednesdays for analytics.
- Listening to music when completing certain tasks.
3. Prioritize breaks.
To keep productivity levels high at home, taking regular breaks is key.
In an office, breaks are embedded into the environment. You might stop to chat with co-workers or get up to grab snacks or coffee. At home, you have to structure your breaks or you run the risk of burning yourself out.
Stepping away from your desk – even for just five minutes – serves as a reset, a brain refresher that will actually help you stay focused throughout the day.
In addition, a break doesn’t have to look like a food break. It can be:
- Taking a walk
- Sitting outside
- Doing breathing exercises
- Working out
Unlike doom scrolling, these activities are considered energy boosters that will help you stay productive during work hours.
4. Set up your environment.
Just as your routine serves as a cue for your productivity, so will your environment. As such, it’s important that you set yourself up for success in this area.
Start by organizing your desk to keep it neat. Though it will likely get messy throughout the day, make sure you end each work day by tidying up for the next day. Think of it as a small investment into the future you.
Music can also be a great cue to start your work day. My personal favorite is my Cafe con Leche Spotify playlist. It’s soothing but upbeat and indicates that it’s heads-down work time.
Whether it’s jazz or Dembow, music can be a huge productivity booster if you use it wisely.
5. Have a designated workspace.
Working from home has become a long-term reality for many, but the change of scenery can be difficult if you don't take the time to establish an effective workspace.
Having a designated area set up specifically for work will help keep you focused and organized. It will also provide a physical and mental barrier between home life and business - which is essential when trying to remain productive.
Being able to switch into 'work mode' as soon as you sit down at your desk or table can enable you to get into the right mindset for achieving your goals.
Once in place, having a designated workplace is sure to make it easier to stay focused on your work while still enjoying the benefits of taking it on remotely.
Follow these tips and you'll be on your way to becoming a productivity powerhouse.