Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Ways to Increase Productivity at Work

We’ve all had days where it seemed like there just weren’t enough hours. Too much to do, not enough time to do it in - it’s a common complaint. If you find that most of your days are like that, it’s time to brush up on your time management skills.

Since the beginning of the recession, when companies laid off massive numbers of employees, the remaining (lucky?) few have had to shoulder the burden of their own workload plus the workload of the pink-slipped. Companies are expecting to do more with less, and dismissing those who can't handle it. The good news is, it can be done. Usually.

Stop Multitasking
When you're crunched for time, doing multiple things at once is the natural response - but it won't save you time, really. It may even slow you down. You'll be more productive if you focus on one task at a time, moving steadily through the pile of TPS reports on your desk.

The human brain just isn't built to section itself off, so when you try to do too much at once, you do it all poorly. It also takes longer, because as your attention turns from assignment to assignment, it takes you a second to get back into the "groove" of each piece. The result is a mediocre pile of barely completed tasks that took you way too long to do.

If you do things one at a time, you're able to ride the groove from beginning to end, devoting your full attention to each project in turn. If you move from one to the next without getting distracted, you may be surprised how quickly - and well - things get done.

This one's easy. Everyone knows to do the most important thing first, but how often do you really do it? Is checking into Facebook really the most important thing you need to do today? So why is it the first thing you do when you sit down at your desk?

Plan your work day according to what's due when, and how long it will take you to do. Aim to get things done ahead of schedule, so you have a built-in time cushion for when emergencies arise.

Deal with Things
The easiest way to explain this productivity rule is as follows: When you check your mail, do you just drop it on the table and go about your day, planning on going through it later? Stop it. When you bring the mail in, go through it immediately. Ditch the junk, stack catalogs on the coffee table, in the bathroom, or wherever you'll look through them. Open bills and write out the check, stamp it, seal it, and put it back in the mailbox. Get it? Deal with things. Approach your whole day this way, and you're less likely to have a stack of work waiting for you at the end of the day.

Set Alarms
Of course you wake up to an alarm, and you probably set alarms for important meetings and such. But using alarms to time your work tasks can keep you on track all day. Knowing you have a finite amount of time to get things done forces you to concentrate, and makes you less likely to end up browsing YouTube instead of working on that expense sheet.

The thing is, you have to stick to your alarm. When it goes off, move on to another task. Don't just ignore it, because then you lose the entire benefit of the mini-deadlines it creates.

Take Care of Yourself
If your body isn't running at its optimum level, your productivity will never reach its full potential. Get enough sleep, eat healthy foods, and exercise every day. Oh, and those productivity tricks we just talked about? Take one day a week and throw them out the window. This should be a day you don't have to work (obviously), so just do what you feel like doing when you feel like doing it. Schedule nothing. Don't look at a clock. Nap in the sun, curl up with a book, play tag with your kids. Whatever you do to recharge, do it.

Come Monday morning, you'll be refreshed and ready to go. Blazing your way through the mountain on your desk, you'll be done by happy hour.

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