We are all at risk of distractions getting the better of us during our working day. And while some distractions, such as urgent emails and tasks, are necessary – the unnecessary ones eat into our productivity.
Does this scenario sound familiar: you have a long list of tasks, and you start the week to work your way through them. You get halfway through the week and not only have you completed less than half of what you planned, everything took a lot longer than you had imagined. Not only this, your task list has now increased.
Technology has played a big part in changing the way we work. We are now more connected than ever, but instead of increasing our productivity, it seems to have had the opposite effect. People now check their smartphones on average 52 times per day.
‘Productivity’ is not about doing as many tasks as possible, it is about focusing on doing fewer jobs, but doing them well.
To help you become a more productive employee, here I will share the secret productivity hacks my most accomplished candidates use.
1. Identify When You Are the Most Productive
Some people prefer to come into work earlier and get their work started before everyone else arrives; others find it easier to complete tasks if they stay a little later.
This does not necessarily have to be a particular time of day; some people work better when they take regular breaks. Some find it easier to complete tasks in smaller chunks; others prefer to work solidly on one task to ‘box it off’ and then move onto others.
Are you aware of when you are at your most productive?
Figuring out your preferred style of working is the crucial first step to becoming more productive. You can do this by taking notes of how much you get done at different times of the day, using an accountability form. Or even just making an effort to notice when you feel most productive, and your work is flowing.
2. Remove Distractions
As I mentioned earlier, we check our phones on average 52 times a day, or about once every 12 minutes during our working day. This can be everything from emails to family messages, reminders and unexpected calls or messages.
We have fallen into the trap of believing that not answering messages or emails straight away is poor working etiquette.
In reality, stopping regularly to answer emails when they drop is cutting your productivity. A strategy productive employees use is to have set times during the day that you dedicate to checking your email and responding to messages.
If this seems unrealistic, you can start by having set times not to check your email, for example, between 10 am – lunch and 2 pm-4 pm. You will find that you can become more involved in completing your tasks when you are free of distractions.
3. Make a Schedule (and stick to it)
We all have calendars; email calendars, planners on our phones, physical planners. But the sheer amount of different methods we have of making daily, weekly and monthly schedules can lead to confusion and missed appointments or deadlines.
If you currently use two or more methods of scheduling your week, commit to reducing this down to one.
Career skills website ‘Mind Tools’ has an excellent resource on how to plan your month effectively, which you can read in full here. The six key points they emphasise are-
- Identify the time you have available.
- Block off essential tasks you must carry out to do your job.
- Schedule high-priority urgent tasks and vital ‘housekeeping’ activities.
- Block off appropriate contingency time for unpredictable events.
- Schedule the activities that address your priorities and goals.
- Analyse your activities to identify tasks that can be delegated, outsourced or cut together.
Once you have a cohesive schedule, you can stop trying to face all of your tasks head-on, which brings me onto my next point.
4. Stop Plate-Spinning
Many employees think that because they are always going at 100 kph and are seemingly busier than their colleagues that they are the most productive. However, this is not the case.
One study on multitasking found that changing tasks ten times a day decreases your IQ by 10 points. This fact alone should be enough to make you want to focus your time and energy on a few choice tasks rather than many at once.
5. Learn How to Say No
Finally, the most productive people appreciate and value their own time, and understand when they need to say ‘no’. This does not mean shutting yourself off from colleagues, or refusing all offers of collaboration, it about managing your time.
Introduce the phrase ‘I am happy to help once I’ve finished what I’m working on right now’ into your vocabulary. Your colleagues will understand and respect your decision, and it means that your work is not at risk of being left half-finished or forgotten about.
Do you want to be more productive in your current role? Or is your satisfaction level low because what you want is a new job? We can help you with this.
We help talented employees find their next job, which is the right fit. If you want to know more, get in touch with us today to find out how we can help you with your job search.