Wouldn’t it be great to be more productive at work without increasing the hours you spend at the office? Did you know that the average worker spends 8.7 hours at work a day but only about 45% of that time is spent on completing tasks related to their primary job responsibilities? You can increase your productivity by working smarter not harder. Follow these three easy steps to maximize your productivity and improve your work life balance.
First, ditch the basic to-do list. Most to-do lists contain a single list of items with a box that is checked off when finished. This is great tool to keep track of all items that must be completed at some point but it doesn’t help you focus on what actually needs to be completed next. This type of to-do list doesn’t focus your attention to any one item since they are all showing of equal importance. Once a task is completed, it takes a few minutes to review your to-do list and determine what to focus on next. Instead, sort your to-do list into 4 categories, high priority, medium priority, low priority, and follow up items. Focus on your high priority items first and then move down the list as time allows. Now, whenever a task is completed, you immediately know which item to start next.
Second, reward yourself throughout the day by taking short breaks. Yes, you can become more productive by taking strategic breaks throughout the day. Taking a break allows you to re-energize and refocus. It has even been proven to increase your creativity. Try scheduling short 5 minute breaks after each solid hour of productivity to keep your energy up and your mind focused. Whenever your productive hour is up reward yourself by standing, stretching, and going for a short walk. Also, take advantage of your longer lunch break whenever possible. Catch up with co-workers, friends, or hit the gym. You will be amazed at how much more productive you feel when you take strategic breaks throughout the day.
Third, reduce unwanted interruptions. Reading and answering emails can be a huge interruption to your work flow. Don’t let emails interrupt your productive time. Designate specific times throughout the day to read and respond to emails. You may even want to close your inbox when working on projects so that you are not tempted to read the emails outside of the designated times. Another great way to reduce unwanted interruptions is to stand up when people stop by your desk to chat. I’m sure you have at least one person that loves to stop by your workspace unannounced. You may really like this person but their constant chatting is killing your productivity. When he/she pops by your work space, stand up. This small gesture signals to your co-worker that you are in a hurry. The interrupter will be less likely to sit down and make themselves comfortable for a long chat when you are standing.
So why would you want to work harder when you can accomplish more by working smarter? If you follow these three easy steps, you will increase your productivity at work. More productive work days equal more free time outside of work to focus on the activities and relationships that you enjoy.