Whether caused by a seven-year itch or a 3pm slump, the truth is that all of our productivity wanes at some point. The key to maximising your output in the workplace is understanding that it’s not about working harder, but working smarter. It’s about adopting certain practices and sticking with them until they become habit – I’ve listed seven of these which have helped me over the years below.
1.Create a conducive working environment
Considering most of us spend the majority of our week days at our place of work, it should come as no surprise that your office environment has a great effect on your mood and subsequent ability to perform to a high standard. There are many different factors which could affect your happiness in the workplace, from sufficient shrubbery to congenial colleagues. Conduct a full review of your space and, where possible, make recommendations to your human resources/office support team on how to improve conditions.
2. Get the balance right
The increasing trend towards coming into work while under the weather, otherwise known as ‘presenteeism’, is another enemy of productivity. Such is the desire not to be perceived as lazy, many of us would rather soldier on than keep proper tabs on our well-being. Unbeknownst to the majority, this is actually detrimental to productivity in the long term, as the mind requires rest just like any other muscle in order to function effectively.
The same rule applies for lunch breaks: get out of the office! The World Health Association found that taking an ample break in the middle of the day leads to a 30 per cent boost in productivity. The general underlying rule is not to overwork yourself; remember it’s about working smarter, not harder. That applies to leaving in good time at the end of each day too, ensuring your tiredness from overstretching yourself doesn’t bleed into the next day and create a domino effect.
3. Schedule smart
Schedule tasks specific timeslots based on their difficulty. Starting the day off with your most difficult task creates a sense of achievement which can put you in a positive, proactive mood for the rest of the day. By the same token, scheduling robotic, admin-type duties for periods of low-energy (typically around 3-4pm, once lunch has settled) and thus conserving your thinking power is also advised.
Keep your team members informed as to when you plan on completing certain tasks and when they should expect to receive them, thus creating pressure on yourself to meet your deadlines. The more people you tell about an impending deadline, the greater the pressure to hit it – it’s why smokers spread the word far and wide when trying to quit.
4. Delegate, responsibly
Delegation is necessary for a properly functioning business, and is not something one should feel guilty about as long as subordinate colleagues are not being overworked. Remind yourself of your remit and prioritise those tasks which fall directly under your jurisdiction. Where appropriate, delegate extra responsibilities to capable colleagues to lighten the load.
5. One task at a time
Start on the next job only once you’ve fully completed the task in hand. A recent study found that task-juggling “decreases the performance of workers, raising the chances of low output, long duration of projects and exploding backlogs”. In the fast-paced industries we recruit for, such as marketing and advertising, this is sometimes a little unrealistic. In such instances the previous point may come in handy, while learning to push back against those who are overloading you with tasks is another useful skill to maintain focus.
6. Keep cool under pressure
Rethinking your attitude towards pressure and viewing it as an opportunity to perform at your most alert and able can improve your productivity tenfold. Separating yourself from the moment can be helpful when under particular strain. Try and adopt the helicopter mind-set by removing yourself from the minutiae and considering the bigger picture, e.g. “OK, this particular piece of work is quite important but how critical is it to the success or failure of my career and, if it is that critical, what sensible provisions can I make to ensure I hit the deadline?”
A systematic approach to tasks, rather than a hasty, reactive one can help you keep a level head and move through your to-do list at a considered but effective pace. Distancing yourself from negative-minded colleagues is also vital to maintaining a healthy mind-set and boosting productivity.
7. Stop reading this blog post and get on with it
Ultimately, you can do all of the strategising and brain rewiring your heart desires but at some point you just need to get on with it! As influential thinker Robin Sharma states in his bookThe Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, “Immediate action fuels a positive feedback loop that drives even more action”.
The desire to succeed is innate and is born from doing a job you love – if you feel as though your career is heading in the wrong direction and would like to try something new then we’d be happy to talk to you.7 ways to boost your work place productivity