Today is National 4pm Finish Day, and we’re all being encouraged to down tools earlier in the spirit of increasing our productivity – getting more work done in less time.
More work done, in less time? Sounds like an impossibility, doesn’t it?
But it doesn’t have to be.
As employee engagement specialists, we want to ensure that every employee thoroughly enjoys their time at work. But that doesn’t mean we’re impartial to the occasional early finish to promote a healthy work-life balance, and greater productivity.
While your to-do list may be threatening to pin you to your desk, even after hours – there are small changes you can make to the way you work which will help you to tick those boxes faster.
Here are our 10 favourite productivity tips to help you take advantage of that extra hour!
Make a plan – and stick to it
You’ve probably heard this one before – it’s tossed around so often that it’s practically a buzz-phrase. But the value of a solid plan can’t be underestimated. Make a note of all your pressing tasks – it doesn’t matter where, just as long as you’ve got sight of them so none slip your mind
Tick each task off as you complete, and celebrate it as a small win (that’ll motivate you to keep going), create a new plan often to avoid the eye-sore of too many tasks on one list, and if any new tasks come along, spare some thought to where they’ll fit within your workload. Which leads us nicely into…
Once you have your plan, you have to prioritise what’s on it. Before you dive into your tasks, think about how important each one is in relation to the others. Is there a major deadline looming? Has someone requested something for a specific time? Are there any tasks you can afford to push back to focus on another, more pressing task? Taking the time to organise your plan will save you getting caught out at a later stage.
Do smaller (or boring) tasks first
Getting smaller, easier tasks out of the way is a great way to make headway while saving your focus for larger tasks that require more time and effort. And if you’ve got any tasks you’ve been avoiding simply for their sheer dullness – do them first!
Research suggests that experiencing periods of boredom and low stimulation can make us more creative and productive later – so if you’ve got a big project to work on, you’ll be better placed to ace it after you’ve completed those more mundane tasks.
Use definitive action language
How many of you succumb to ‘should’ syndrome? Saying things like, ‘I should start this report’, or ‘I should take a break’. By falling prey to this affliction – you’ll start to serially put things off. Instead, try saying ‘I will’, or ‘I can’. I will follow-up this email. I can finish this presentation today. When you frame your tasks as definitive actions – you’ll be much more motivated and prepared to complete them.
Respect your rhythm
It’s not always easy or even possible to complete a certain task at a specific time. Your energy might be lagging, or you might not be able to muster up any worthy creative ideas. When you sense yourself losing your drive, stop. Take a break. Have a drink or a snack. Make small talk with a colleague.
We all have individual rhythms – some of us are early birds, where others might be night owls. It’s not a competition to get things done the quickest, so when you need some time out, take it.
With all the digital gadgets and gizmos at our disposal now, it’s easier than ever to automate certain processes so we can invest our precious time elsewhere. An automation programme we use frequently is Zapier.com. It enables us to seamlessly automatically transfer data, log information, and integrate different online applications. If a task doesn’t require a pair of hands – give it to the digibots.
Cut out distractions
Another common one – but increasingly relevant. The amount of distractions in front of us all the time now is overwhelming. Social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Workplace communication tools like email, Jive and Slack. And endless, endless notifications!
But the panacea isn’t cutting out these distractions completely. Some of them are crucial to helping us get stuff done. But sometimes, switching off completely (yes, even your phone!) makes it much easier to get into the ‘zone’ and zip through those niggling tasks.
Take regular breaks – outside
Working through the to-do list without moving away from your desk can be incredibly exhausting. When you feel yourself close to burning out, step away and take a stroll. But we don’t just mean down the corridor and back again – we mean entering the great outdoors.
A bit of fresh air – and exposure to nature – can make us happier, more energised, and even more productive. You don’t have to go frolicking in the fields – a simple walk around the block would suffice.
Relax your inhibitions
Do you spend a lot of time mulling over your idea wondering whether it’s the most ingenious in the world, or will make you the laughing stock of the office – rather than just getting it out there?
Research has shown that the most creative among us has simply mastered the art of lowering their inhibitions – so essentially, they don’t give a monkeys about how their ideas are received. If you’re anxious about sharing your idea, just remember – when it’s stuck in your head, no-one can benefit from it.
And finally – if you need help, ask for it
Sometimes even the most efficient people need help getting things done. It’s easy to bite off more than we can chew in an effort to prove our worth. But saying ‘no’ doesn’t make you inferior, incompetent, or a failure. It makes you responsible.
Recognising your limitations, and sharing your workload with others, will ultimately increase your collective productivity. And it leads to a more open and collaborative workplace too!
These are just a handful of ways to increase your productivity and get more done. You might have your own tricks up your sleeve – so why not share them with us on Twitter?
And remember – it’s not about the hours you work, but whether you put those hours to good use.
Follow these productivity hints and tips, and you’ll be able to take advantage of that bonus hour today – and feel guilt-free!
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