Like any important skill, becoming better at time management and productivity in the work place requires developing good habits through practice. In some cases, these habits also require a little bit of planning and preparation. However, being more methodical and deliberate in how your time is spent can make a big difference in how productive you are. Below are a few practices I’ve picked up over the past few years that have been helpful in improving my productivity:
1. Schedule time to schedule
Taking 15-20 minutes every morning to block out your day is one of the best ways to set the goals you want to meet and the results you want to see by the end of the day. Hold yourself accountable by placing your day’s tasks on your calendar along with events like meetings, and set goals for what you want to accomplish with each task. Furthermore, this is a great way to get a sense of the amount of responsibilities you will have for the day and identify opportunities to get the annoying things out of the way.
2. Put the pressure on with personal deadlines
We can all remember a time during college in which a strict deadline forced us to accomplish a ridiculous academic feat in a very short amount of time. Sometimes working under the duress of a deadline can push us to work more efficiently. A sense of urgency can be a great way to push your creative boundaries, and it forces you to cut corners to focus on results. I often do this by using my calendar to schedule deadlines for very specific tasks. For example, try setting aside two hours to work on that presentation and add reminders when you’re getting close to your deadline. When your boss sets a deadline for a week, set your personal deadline for 5 days. You’ll find that you’ll get work done more effectively and you’ll have time to actually assess and refine your final product.
3. Archive your thoughts
Always have something to write with and something to write on. There are so many productivity tools for collecting notes, but at the end of the day, nothing beats a blank sheet of paper to collect ideas. A simple composition notebook on your desk and a smaller notepad for your pocket are great tools for sketching flowcharts, bullet pointing ideas, and designing creative diversions as soon as they pop up in your head. Write those thoughts down immediately with a date and time stamp to add some semblance of organization to them when you need to revisit them. Time spent away from the desk is often when the best ideas strike us, and having even a rough sketch of a thought process from notebook scribbles makes implementation and execution much easier.
4. Create the work environment that makes you productive
The environment in which you work is a very powerful influence on the quality of the work you produce and the speed at which you produce it. That’s why it’s important to identify the elements of your ideal environment and see how you can bring them with you to the office. For example, if you find coffee houses to be great working places for you, try using Coffitivity to recreate that environment when it’s not available. Look to YouTube for some great soundtracks to create that sonic environment that gets you into your zone of productivity (just avoid wandering down the YouTube rabbit hole ). Finding the context that gets you focused is a valuable asset to working faster and efficiently, especially when performing rote tasks.
5. Don’t be afraid to shut everything down when looking for creativity
The office can sometimes be the worst place to be creative and productive in your thinking. While productivity aids like music and sonic environments may be useful when you actually have a task at hand, they may not that helpful when you’re looking for creative inspiration. Before starting that new task, take a proactive measure by going for a walk, eating lunch outside of your work setting, or talking to people outside of your work environment about the problem that you’re attempting to solve. Sometimes removing yourself from the rigidity of the office environment is exactly what you need to creatively flex your thinking.
I’m by no means an expert in productivity (I still have way too many silly videos in my internet history), but these practices have worked for me. I’d love to hear what you do to stay productive and focused when your nose is to the grindstone. Sound off in the comments below!