Let’s face it: It’s not always easy to focus. This is especially true at the office, where a number of distractions breeze in and out of your workspace from the day’s beginning to end. With each distraction, speed bump or daydream, your productivity at work suffers.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to overcome the feeling — and the reality — that you’re not getting much done. The following are four tried-and-true tips for increasing your productivity at work. Implement one, two or the whole list and see just how much you can get done this week and beyond:
1. Power Through When You’re Most Powerful
Whether you’re a morning person or someone who thrives late in the afternoon, one thing is for sure: You have a time of day when you’re most likely to be productive. Since you already know this about yourself, use it to your advantage and boost your productivity at work around the times when you feel a natural boost — or one you’ve created yourself.
The best way to use your morning, afternoon or even nighttime energy is to work on your toughest tasks then. When you’re most focused and fueled, you’ll get the most done. Don’t attempt to do your toughest to-do when you’re fatigued. You won’t get it done, and you’ll end up wasting time. Instead, plan your tasks around your most energized times, leaving the easy stuff for when you tend to lag, and voila: Just like that, you’ve increased your productivity.
2. Don’t Be Afraid to Take Breaks
To that end, it’s important that you’re not working yourself at 100 percent all day long. It may seem as though this work style would make you more productive — you’re working all day, after all. However, it turns out that breaks make you even more productive when you return to your desk.
There’s plenty of science to back up this theory, too. Simply getting up and moving around can help you mentally press the reset button, a particularly useful resource if you work in the creative fields. Plus, boosting your circulation helps you feel re-energized, more so than a cup of coffee could. You already know what happens when you feel energized, too: You’re even better able to tackle tough tasks, which means you’ll be more productive with more breaks.
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3. Learn to Delegate — and Decline
There’s no way you can boost your productivity at work if you keep overloading your plate. You may think that accepting tasks from your managers and doing favors for your colleagues puts you in good stead around the office, but it comes at a cost. You’ll be stressed out trying to do everything to a deadline and, because you’ve got so much to complete, your quality will suffer — along with your sanity.
In order to achieve peak productivity, you’ll have to learn the art of delegation, as well as the finer art of saying no to the people with whom you work. If you have the power to do so, make use of the people on your team by passing off pending tasks to them. Just make sure to avoid micromanagement: If you’re overseeing every step of their work, then you’re not giving yourself time to get ahead on the rest of your must-dos. When you strike the perfect balance of DIY and delegation, you’ll be amazed at just how productive you can be — and how much better everyone is for it.
In a similar vein, you’ll have to learn how to turn down a project or task when you’ve already got a full plate. It might seem difficult at first, but learning the art of a gentle letdown is a great skill to have. You can use it when you’re overbooked, when you disagree with a strategy or in any other situation in which you might need to say no to your boss. In this case, though, turning down work when you already have too much is going on helps you achieve more in the long run.
4. Focus on One Task at a Time
Despite popular belief and practice, multitasking is not the best way to work. Think about it: You refresh yourself on a particular project or customer’s issue. You dive into work. At the same time, you’re on the phone with a colleague in another office. You’re browsing your emails. What are you actually focusing on?
Conquering a single task means you’re completely focused on what you’re doing and you have nothing else to keep you from answering a tough question or completing the most daunting part of a project. Instead, you’re forced to power through until the end, at which point you move onto — and completely finish — something else. It may seem slower, but it’s actually a much more effective tactic for finishing your to-do list.
Be Your Productive Best
With these tips in mind — and in practice — you’ll find yourself meeting and exceeding every productivity goal you have in place for yourself. Imagine it now: You’ll soon be walking away from work without panic or stress about tomorrow’s workload, but with satisfaction about how much you’ve been able to achieve!
As always, all there’s left to do is get started. Let’s see how much you can accomplish with a productive state of mind each and every day at the office — and beyond.
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