33 Freakishly Effective Ways To Be More Productive At Work
Scrambling to complete deadlines, wearing 18 different hats, answering the slew of emails and phone calls… you get the point.
The goal of this post is to help you find ways for you and your team to increase productivity at work. Instead of trying to do a bunch of these at once, find a couple that you can implement for at least 21 days (the time it typically takes to form a new habit).
Free bonus: Download this entire list as a PDF. Easily save it on your computer for quick reference or print it and keep at your desk.
1. Rethink your to-do-list with monday.com
There’s a lot of technology being developed to help you organize your life, use your time effectively, and make your life easier.
SnackNation is a work-from-home friendly environment and we use monday.com to promote collaboration regardless of if you are in the office or not. This centralized platform has a unique organizational approach that utilizes placement and color to help manage a team at a glance. You’re easily able to add members, assign tasks, customize workflows, and track the progress of work done to completion.
It is a simple and easy-to-use tool that people enjoy using everyday (not just Monday). Once you’ve tried monday.com, you’ll be hooked!
2. Reduce time-drain from miscommunication with Grammarly
Do you ever feel like people completely missed the point of your email? Or do you ever read an email and wonder what the person was multitasking on as they wrote it?
Vague emails circulate the average office every day. The resulting misunderstandings and necessary clarifications waste time and frustrate people.
Avoid all this with Grammarly, a tool that recommends text changes that help you communicate clearly and accurately.
Pro-tip: Grammarly is a free Google Chrome extension that sends you these cool achievement reports that give you additional insight into your weekly productivity. I use it personally and here is an example of one:
3. Stay organized and boost your productivity with Evernote
If you’ve ever experienced sudden panics as you try to remember which notebook you wrote that important note in—or if you just want to get your note-taking under control—then you need to check out Evernote.
This online resource helps you take, organize, search, and share your notes. With all the information you need readily available and easy to find, you can enjoy the kind of uninterrupted work you need to cross off your entire to-do list.
Evernote keeps you connected to your note-workflow at all times on both your computer and mobile device. You are even able to update your notes offline and Evernote will immediately sync to the cloud once it is able to hop back online again.
4. List your “crucial results” for the day
Crucial results are a list of objectives that absolutely need to be accomplished during your day to move your projects and goals forward. Create a spreadsheet listing your top 3 crucials for each day. This will help you plan each day and make sure you’re maintaining focus on the most important tasks each day.
Organize and track your crucial results in a way that makes sense for you. Here are some ideas to get you started.
- Enter your crucial results and associated tasks in Focuster, and watch as the tool schedules to-dos in your calendar and helps you prioritize your workload.
- Manage your goals in Hive, an interactive project management platform that helps you plan work flows.
- Create a spreadsheet listing your top 3 crucials for each day. This will help you plan each day and make sure you’re maintaining focus on the most important tasks each day.
5. Eat healthy foods throughout the day to avoid energy crashes and keep your brain properly fueled
The food we eat is extremely important in boosting our brainpower and impacting how productive we are at work.
Imagine you eat a Snickers bar versus a fruit and nut bar – which do you think is going to give you the energy necessary to finish strong through the afternoon? Junk food not only affects your weight. It also causes decreased productivity and energy crashes.
Keep healthy snacks at your office to stay fueled for a productive day..
6. Complete tasks in batches
Tim Ferris, author of the international best seller The 4 Hour Work Week, is extremely good at finding ways to be more efficient in everything from work to cooking to bodybuilding.
One of my favorite insights from his book is how much more efficient it is to batch your activities instead of breaking them up into small chunks.
How can you use this in your day-to-day life to learn how to improve productivity at work?
- Instead of spreading out data entry and reporting tasks throughout the week, set a block of time to knock it all out at once
- Set meetings with colleagues back to back in the afternoon
- Use the “2-Minute Rule” to knock out small tasks and beat procrastination
- Work in 90-minute increments
- Answer voicemails for a chunk of time in the afternoon
The logic behind this is that it takes time for you to get into a rhythm with whatever you’re working on. If you constantly start and stop that process, you’re wasting time getting back into your rhythm or catching up to where you left off.
7. Conquer procrastination with the “2-Minute Rule”
The “2-Minute Rule” seems simple enough, but it’s a tactic that works to perpetuate a system of productivity.
Often interpreted as completing any task you think of that should take 2 minutes or less right away, the 2-minute rule can kill employee productivity if you take it at face value and don’t carefully implement it.
To use the 2-minute rule successfully, you should schedule time to get your to-do list for the day in order. While building this list, you should find that there are some small tasks that seem like they can be done in a couple of minutes. Do them!
Always make sure to come back to your list and finish it, though. Don’t get bogged down in these small tasks and let them derail your day by taking up more time than they should.
8. Get moving!
Exercise is not only important for the body, it is almost as important for your mental wellbeing. According to this article from Brain HQ, exercising has been shown to reduce stress hormones while also increasing growth factors in the brain necessary for new neuronal connections.
I’ve personally switched back and forth between exercising in the morning versus at night and I typically find that it works better for me earlier in the day. The motivation to go to the gym after a really long day is hard to find. However, the important thing is that you are consistent with your exercise.
9. Morning huddles with your team
This point made the list of employee wellness ideas for offices, but it’s also worth mentioning again here. Each morning, huddle together with your team for about 15 minutes and go over each person’s main crucial results for the day. This helps everyone get on the same page and lets people know where their assistance is needed.
And if you’re finding it difficult to dedicate the time to this, sit down with individual members of your team to go over lessons from the previous week and set expectations and goals for the week on Monday. Setting short-term goals and planning time to revisit them will help you better manage and measure your productivity at the end of the week.
10. Prioritize your most important tasks first
Stephen Covey’s book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, there’s a chapter dedicated to a subject he calls putting “first things first”. There’s a great analogy of this concept using rocks and a bucket.
Here’s a video that illustrates this concept from the book:
11. Put your phone on silent
Corresponding through social media, text messages, making phone calls and emailing, ranks as the 4th biggest workplace distraction behind food and bathroom breaks, and talking with coworkers.
Remove the distractions by silencing your phone, exiting out of chat applications and closing the inbox before you start any important task where complete focus is necessary.
12. Is that meeting really necessary?
Have you ever walked out of a business meeting and realized that it was a complete waste of time? You’d be lying if you said no. HR consultant Sharlyn Lauby of HR Bartender agrees:
“One of the biggest obstacles to productivity is business meetings. That being said, I do not think the answer is to abolish meetings or create funky rules like ‘no meeting Wednesdays’ or ‘only 10 minute meetings’. Organizations need to give employees the tools to run effective and productive meetings.”
So how can you do that? Make sure there is a set agenda and goal for each meeting.
No agenda and goal, no meeting. Also respect participants’ time! A one-hour meeting should only take one hour. If you end early, that’s cool. But don’t run late. You can help to avoid issues and maintain productivity by taking clear steps to plan and execute the goal of your team meeting.
For more ideas on how to have more efficient and impactful meetings, check out this infographic from our friends at Taskworld.
Follow this simple flow chart to determine if you’re ready to schedule a meeting or just wasting time:
13. Get out of the office
Working remotely can help you increase your productivity by getting more done in less time.
While the office is an environment that can foster collective energy and resources, it can also hinder our productivity. People often interrupt others who are in the middle of work because they think their issue or question is urgent.
In reality, their issue is typically not urgent and can wait.
This study by the Harvard Business Review found that employees who worked from home were more productive AND less likely to quit their jobs.
14. De-clutter and organize your work environment
There’s a lot to be said about how much organization and less “stuff” can decrease your anxiety, thereby increasing productivity.
Having less clutter will help you think more clearly and waste less time searching for that misplaced document.
Toss out the trinkets and old papers sitting around your desk to see if it helps you become less distracted and more productive.
15. Visualize next week this week with the “2-Hour Solution”
The “2-Hour Solution” was created by Roger Seip, author of Train Your Brain for Success.
It’s a method of spending 2 hours each week for the purpose of mentally creating the next week of your life. Roger swears by this method and claims that when he does this, his life goes well.
Use this time each week to reconnect with your goals, assess what has been working and what has not, and schedule your calendar for the upcoming week.
How does this differ from normal scheduling?
You schedule your “green time” (the work that gets you paid), “red time” (the time that supports your green time), “flex time” (unblocked time to prevent the unplanned from unraveling your plans), and “re-creation time” (the time to take care of yourself – i.e. hobbies, exercise, relaxing, etc). Most of the time you’ll find that you don’t even need the full 2 hours to make this effective.
For more on the 2-Hour Solution, you can read this short book summary.
16. Wake up early
Look at every top CEO, executive or leader and you’ll find they all have 1 major thing in common – they wake up early. How can waking up at 6am or earlier make you more productive at work?
It gives you the time you need to start your day right. Instead of feeling rushed out of the door each morning, you’ll have more quiet time to do things you would otherwise be too distracted to do.
You can read each morning, eat a healthy breakfast, or exercise before hitting your stride to start the day. I started doing this about a year ago and it has increased my productivity dramatically. I believe the ways in which you wake up in the morning can make a huge impact on your daily approach to life.
I typically find that I hit my most productive groove about 2 hrs after waking up. So now I get to read something inspiring or surf at dawn before most people even start their day. Then when I get to work, I’m ready to hit the ground running.
17. Stand more
Feeling a little sleepy around 3pm? Stand up!
Is your posture starting to wane? Stand up!
Do you notice that your team is having trouble staying focused in meetings? Stand up!
It’s simple, but it’s effective. At SnackNation our team members swear by their standing desks and the documented impact they have on productivity.
While standing at your desk doesn’t burn a significant amount of calories more than sitting, it can help diminish other health risks, like:
- shoulder and back pain
- cardiovascular disease
- cancer (especially cancers of the colon or breast)
- premature death
And like most things out there, too much standing can be a bad thing. When you’re starting out try to have your standing periods coincide with your 90-minute work intervals.
18. Learn to say no
Throughout your day, people will inevitably disrupt you to get your help or input on something. It’s so easy to say yes and take on more things, but this is counterproductive. Learn to say no more often to guard your time for your highest leverage activities.
When someone comes to you with a request that you need to say no to, simply ask them to give you 15 minutes (or some arbitrary interval of time) to finish what you’re working on then by the time you come around to find out what they wanted, they’ll often have figured it out on their own.
19. Eat the frog
At SnackNation, we use 9am-10am as “Crush” time.
During this time, we get our most challenging tasks out of the way and don’t disturb one another with questions. Whichever activity you are dreading the most is probably the one you need to complete first thing in the morning.
Once you get started, you’ll quickly find your flow and get that task out of the way.
20. Focus on one thing at a time
You’ve undoubtedly heard that multitasking is detrimental for productivity at work. Too many people fall victim to the trap of doing several things at once so it bears repeating here to help you increase your productivity in the workplace.
Multitasking lowers IQ and reduces the performance with which you can complete any task. So would you rather do 3 things with mediocre results or 1 task with excellent results?
21. Delegate like a boss
Do you ever find yourself wondering how you’re possibly going to complete all the work on your plate?
I’m willing to bet there are some low value tasks that you could outsource. Things like data-entry, document formatting or running errands are all going to eat away at the precious time you have during your day to get stuff done.
Luckily there are some great online services that connect you with cheap labor to get tedious tasks done so you can spend your time focusing on the most important projects.
22. Wear headphone
Working in a high collaboration environment can mean that people come up to you with questions all throughout the day, throwing you off of your rhythm.
Wearing headphones is a simple trick that can ward off questions that are either too menial or too complex to be answered in a face-to-face interaction. To disturb someone, at the very least, your colleague will have to have at the very least thought through the question in the moment it takes them to consider whether it’s worth the disturbance.
You don’t even have to be listening to music. Headphones on their own are a deterrent and help filter your communications in real life.
23. Give yourself less time than you think you’ll need
This is another piece of gold from Train Your Brain for Success. However long you think it will take you to complete a project or task, give yourself less time to complete it. You’ll find that giving yourself a deadline will keep you more focused to get the job done.
24. Read in the morning
Most people don’t wake up super energized feeling inspired and excited to take on their day.
One of the best ways I’ve found to get my mindset in the right place to be productive at work is to read for about 15-30 minutes before I start my day.
Books on business, psychology, behavioral economics and personal development are the subjects that I personally find to boost my creativity and inspiration for my day.
Photo belongs to Kate Ter Haar via Flickr’s Creative Commons License
25. Protect the time in your schedule to get real work done
We all have those days that fly by as we jump from meeting to meeting. At the end of the day, we come to realize that we didn’t actually get any work done. How can you make sure you’re as productive as possible each day?
Steve Boese, host of the popular HR Happy Hour podcast, has this advice for you:
“One sure fire way to improve your work productivity is to make sure you protect enough time in your schedule, in other words, time that is not in meetings, conference calls, or any other activity that is not conducive to thinking, planning, and creating. Lots of us will book back-to-back-to-back meetings in a day, then all of a sudden it’s 6:00PM and we feel like we did not accomplish much at all. So protect your time, keep your most productive times meeting-free if you can, and even consider designating one afternoon, or even an entire day if you can, as a ‘meeting-free’ zone where you can dig in, concentrate, and get some ‘real’ work done.”
26. Listen to calming sounds to help you concentrate
Sometimes a bit of music in the background can help enhance your focus.
Studies show that music without lyrics works best for repetitive tasks. Outside of the variable effects, music can also have an impact on shutting on the sounds and distractions of a noisy office and create lasting workplace productivity.
I personally enjoy the calming sounds I find on Noisli.
27. Treat yourself to motivate yourself
While most of us may do this naturally, it’s a very effective way of managing your habits and productivity.
When you incorporate rewards into your productivity system it helps train your brain to focus on goal-oriented tasks by tapping into your emotions. The reward you give yourself after completing something on your to-do list makes you feel good.
Simply put, people who are happy or feel good are more productive than those that don’t.
28. Replicate the body’s natural cycle
Jamie Lawrence, Editor for HRZone, recommends replicating the body’s natural cycle to boost productivity at work:
“Replicating the body’s natural cycle in office environments is a fundamental, but often ignored, part of improving productivity & wellbeing. So, is the lighting full spectrum?
Do you keep blinds and windows open to ensure there’s natural light and air circulating? Plants are another well-researched way to improve air quality and mood – they kill two birds with one stone.”
With only so many hours in a day we must learn to work more effectively and efficiently if we want to succeed. Now take some of these tips and implement them in your working life.
29. Use a “blast-off” method to dive into tasks you don’t want to do
Most of us don’t have enough time in the day to finish all we have to do. When that’s the case, we definitely don’t have enough time to waste procrastinating our way out tasks, especially relatively simple tasks we just don’t feel like doing. We even waste time and energy coming up with things we need to do other than the thing we’ve been avoiding.
Entrepreneur Mel Robbins recommends the Five Second Rule, which involves conducting a 5-4-3-2-1 countdown and then launching yourself into the task you’ve been dreading. Robbins, also a motivational speaker, says this practice overrides bad habits and puts you in greater control of your actions. By using this Five Second Rule, you empower yourself to complete the task at hand. You’ll feel a rush of accomplishment and a flood of inspiration to take on even more.
30. Complete recurring tasks at the same time each day or week
“If you do the same thing every day at the same time for the same length of time, you’ll save yourself from many a sink. Routine is a condition of survival.”
While routine and repetition may seem boring, doing the same things at the same times each day empowers you to avoid decision fatigue, develop efficient habits, and complete tasks with speed and precision.
31. Find the real, motivating reason for completing the task
If you experience a slump in your usual productivity, a lack of motivation might be the culprit. Rekindle your drive by reflecting on why you truly do your work.
“Motivation is the fuel for productivity in the face of apathy, and generating it is as simple as tying the task at hand back to a bigger, more important goal.”
Sometimes, asking yourself why you’re doing something simply isn’t enough, Anderson explains, as many people focus on surface-level motivations, such as keeping a job and a paycheck. But Duhigg insists anyone can find a deep, meaningful “why” behind their work if they dig deep enough; he cited an example of people who clean hospitals finding deeper meaning in their contributions to patient healing.
The why behind your work might not be obvious, but no matter what you do, keep digging until you find the motivation that gives you goosebumps.
32. Use the power of optimism
In their powerful change manifesto, Switch, Chip and Dan Heath say,
“Rescue—if people are facing a daunting task, and their instinct is to avoid it, you’ve got to break down the task. Shrink the change. Make the change small enough that they can’t help but score a victory.”
Train your brain to be more optimistic about overwhelming tasks you’re avoiding by breaking them down and boosting confidence in your ability to actually complete them. As you complete each sub-task you’ve created, celebrate your progress. Experts say acknowledging progress is one of the most powerful ways to inspire motivation, and focusing on progress instead of dwelling on setbacks is the perfect way to keep optimism alive through a project’s completion.
33. Channel the science-backed secrets of willpower
Willpower isn’t just about rejecting things that are bad for you; it’s also about resiliently pursuing goals and desires you know will benefit you. Dr. Kelly McGonigal, author of The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It, says:
“We rarely think about willpower as actually just being the ability to do what really matters to us, what we really want in the long term, those choices that are consistent with our long-term goals and values.”
Dr. McGonigal says willpower is a muscle you can tone, and toning your willpower helps you focus your attention and be more productive in pursuing what you truly need or want to do. She says that many people use guilt and shame to compel themselves to be more productive and complete tasks they may not really want to do. Take a break and consider all the times you’ve shamed yourself for missing a deadline or not finishing a project in time to join your coworkers for happy hour. Unfortunately, this habit drains your willpower and your productivity. Dr. McGonigal says the things we feel guilty about, procrastination for example, are the ones we eventually revert to for comfort.
What’s the solution?
Forgiveness and compassion for yourself and your shortcomings. So if you’ve procrastinated an afternoon away, reboot your productivity by accepting what you’ve done, forgiving yourself, and moving forward with renewed willpower.