Let’s be honest: we all have those days where stress, burn-out, and distractions prevent us from having a productive workday.
On a good day, the office is a great place for collaboration, but it can easily turn into place of disruption (like chatting around the water cooler about last night’s episode of The Walking Dead).
And working from home isn’t always easier: uncompleted chores jump out at you, there’s no boss checking up on you to keep you accountable, and the TV is right in the other room…calling you….
We get it. That’s why we’ve scoured the internet for the best ways to improve your productivity at work and get more done. Following even some of these simple steps can help you cross more off your to-do list and impress your boss (or clients!) with your mad skills.
Edit Your Sleep Schedule
You’ve heard it said by would-be dieters and soon-to-be-ex smokers alike: “I’ll start first thing tomorrow!” But why not start the night before? Getting plenty of sleep will not only give you a head start on a productive workday, it will banish those cobwebs from your brain that hamper your pre-coffee thinking.
Furthermore, waking up earlier gives yourself some extra time in the morning to prepare for your day. Take the extra hour to do whatever you need to get yourself ready to work: exercise, give yourself a morning pep talk in the mirror, or read a book as you savor your coffee. If you have a stressful day coming up, you may want to take your morning a little slower, whereas a tedious to-do list filled with meaningless drudge work might start off best with a rigorous jog on the treadmill.
To help turn yourself into a morning person, focus on sticking to a certain wake-up call rather than on going to sleep early. You can’t make yourself fall asleep at 9pm if you’re not tired, but after a day or two of getting up at 5am, you’ll automatically start falling asleep earlier.
Your mom was right, starting the day with a good breakfast is a sure way to stay focused on your work.
You may be tempted to skip the most important meal of the day, but did you know the human brain consumes up to 25% of your daily calories? (And you want to put it to work on a steady diet of doughnuts and cold pizza. Tsk, tsk….) A healthy, well-rounded breakfast that includes whole grains, protein, and fiber will feed your body and your mind so you can kick that email inbox’s butt.
However, there’s no need to stuff yourself. Overeating can leave you feeling sluggish and fatigued. Instead, snack smart throughout the day to prevent crashing. And if you find that you need a little boost of caffeine, stick with tea. It has enough caffeine to give you a boost of energy, as well as antioxidants to fight free radicals and improve your general health.
Create a Comfortable Environment
You can’t build a livable house with sub-standard tools, so improve your productivity by making sure your workspace is, well, workable. Take the time to clean and organize your workspace (this includes your house if you work from home) so that it’s a contribution to your success rather than a hindrance. A well-organized office enhances productivity by keeping necessary materials at-hand and hiding the distractions.
While you’re at it, consider upgrading any outdated or uncomfortable pieces of office equipment. Do you need a faster internet connection? How about a new laptop? Now is also a good time to take a look at making your workspace more ergonomic. If you’re going to spend 8+ hours a day somewhere, make sure it’s comfortable. The last thing you need is a hit to your productivity because your butt hurts.
Stay On Schedule
Now that you’ve done all your prep work, it’s time to get down to brass tacks and start working! You’re ready, right? Go!
Yeah, okay, that’s easier said than done. When projects and co-workers start competing for your attention, you probably find yourself running in circles rather than running over the finish line.
Improving your productivity starts with creating a to-do list designed for your success. Use a task management software like Asana to break down larger projects into specific, manageable tasks that you know you can complete. We love the suggestion of Boss You giving instructions to Assistant You as if you were instructing another person.
Now, you can optimize your to-do list by giving yourself realistic due dates, prioritizing your tasks as they change from day to day, and collaborating with co-workers and clients.
Once you start your workday schedule, stick to it. Don’t multitask and don’t get sidetracked: just conquer one task from your to-do list at a time. As you start to adapt to this new way of working, you may benefit from developing a routine to keep you on-track. An action becomes a habit after 28 days of repetition, and what better habit to start than working productively?
Involve Your Senses
The human brain is a complex organ and psychologists are constantly discovering new ways to influence your thinking, your mood, and your energy levels.
Using these discoveries, you can stimulate your senses to get more work done. For instance, you might look to the field of color psychology to select the perfect color to paint your home office. Popular consensus lists blue as the most “productive” color, but it all depends on your vocation. Yellow enhances creativity (best for designers and creative types), red makes you more physically productive (great if you’re a personal trainer), and green evokes a sense of balance.
Certain scents have also been found to increase focus and relaxation. Candles are okay if you work from home, but for most offices, reed diffusers or cotton balls dabbed with a few drops of essential oil are a safer method. Choose scents like pine and citrus to wake you up in the morning and lavender to wind down at the end of the day. And rosemary is another good all-around aromatherapy choice for a shared office, as it can help make you more productive and content (but not calm, which could make some too sleepy).
Listening to (certain kinds of) music has been shown to have a positive effect on focus and productivity, but the results probably won’t work the same for everyone. Extroverts and introverts have different sensory needs, so while one may routinely crank up the jams to get through a stack of difficult paperwork, the other probably requires quiet noise or even silence to properly concentrate.
However, not all music is created equal. Avoid music with lyrics, as singing along or even listening to the words can distract you from the task at hand. If you need some help picking out the perfect soundtrack for your work day, the folks at Focus@will have taken care of that for you. The web app has seven different instrumental “channels” that can be set to slow, medium, or fast tempo, and it even asks you questions to help determine the best channels for you. You don’t have to pay to use it, but upgrading (about $3/month) allows you to tailor your music selections more specifically and even track your productivity.
Take a Break
Finally, it’s okay to stop and step away for a few minutes if you find yourself distracted or burnt-out. Doing something physical like taking a walk or doing some office yoga helps take your mind off your work while also increasing blood flow, which increases your energy and your brain function.
If you’re still feeling out of sorts, try surfing the web or playing a game of Sudoku. Or you can always switch gears and check your social media pages or work on another item from your to-do list. And if all else fails, take a nap! (Just not at your desk. Drool will smear the ink on your important papers.) But don’t feel obligated to take a break if you don’t need it. Breaking your concentration when you’re at your most productive will work against you.
No matter how passionate you are about your job, it’s completely normal to lose focus from time to time. But following these steps can help you get back on track and improve your productivity at work while avoiding burn-out and boredom.
What are your favorite ways to get more done during the day? Let us know in the comment section!
Clarity Creative Group is a web design & internet marketing company located in beautiful Orlando, Florida. Some of us listen to music with lyrics and still manage to get work done. Shh! Don’t tell anyone!