Do you feel like you’ve been busy at work all day but haven’t achieved as much as you want to? Or maybe you feel that there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done at work. These 7 tips will help you be more productive at work.
1. Set yourself goals and write them down.
So often we feel that we are spending too much of our time on the wrong things at work but how do you know if you are spending time on the right things if you don’t have goals? Give yourself some dedicated time to think about what you want your goals to be. What projects would you like to lead, or be involved in? What relationships would you like to build? Could you improve any of your processes? What new skills or knowledge would you like to learn? What promotion are you aiming for and what steps are going to make it likely to get it?
Putting pen to paper to write your goals down forces you to get clear about your ideas. This will help you feel calmer and more focused. Make sure that you have written them down somewhere that you will see them often. This way you will remember them and act on them. It’s no good writing your goals down in a notebook that ends up in a drawer and forgotten about.
2. Break your goals down into individual tasks.
Big goals can be daunting. They make you feel like you are standing at the bottom of a giant mountain that seems impossible to climb. Treat each goal like a project that needs to be broken down into smaller tasks and it will feel manageable. It will also be easier to work out:
🕑 How long it will take to achieve the goal
💰 Which resources you need
👩💻 Who you will need to ask for help with it
I like business coach Jen Gale’s simple way of breaking down a goal by using post-it notes (which I learnt about when taking part in one of her business challenges). The video below shows you how to put the post-it note planning method into action.
3.Make your most important task the first thing you do during your working day.
The productivity guru Brian Tracy calls this ‘eat that frog’. This is based on one of Mark Twain’s ideas. Twain said that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can get through the day knowing that your worst task is behind you. We’ve all had that nagging feeling hanging over us when there’s something to do but that we keep putting off. If you ‘eat that frog’, it keeps your work on track, giving you a sense of achievement instead of frustration.
4. Stop multitasking, instead concentrate on one task at a time.
Multitasking slows you down because your concentration is constantly divided between more than one activity. How many times a day do you start working on something but get distracted by a new email? You stop and think, “I’ll quickly reply to this email, it will only take a minute.” Before you know it, you’ve completely forgotten about your original task, or it takes ages to get the same level of focus that you had before checking and replying to the email.
5. Schedule your time.
If you follow the advice above and stop multitasking, there can be a danger of concentrating on one task at a time for too long. If you do this, you can get to the end of the day, or end of the week having neglected other important work. There is a famous saying, “what gets scheduled, gets done”. By planning out your time and scheduling when you are going to work on certain things, you will make sure you get the important work done, without neglecting other, urgent or necessary tasks. There are lots of ways of doing this:
- Set yourself certain times of day to answer your emails. Instead of responding to emails as and when they arrive in your inbox. Allocate yourself certain slots in the day to do this (and let your colleagues know that you’re doing this). If you just can’t seem to stay on top of your inbox, some of the ideas suggested in Are your email habits damaging your career? can help.
- Use the Pomodoro Technique. This technique was invented by Francesco Cirillo to help him study as effectively as possible while at university. It involves setting a timer for 25 minutes at a time. During that 25 minutes, you commit to fully focusing on one task. You can then reward yourself with a break of 5 minutes before setting the timer again for your next slot of 25 minutes. Cirillo used a kitchen timer that was shaped like a tomato. As he is Italian and the Italian word for tomato is ‘pomodoro’ he decided to name his idea the Pomodoro Technique. The technique is just as useful in business as it is for studying.
- Book a meeting with yourself. If you work in an open-plan office and are constantly interrupted by colleagues, book yourself a meeting room and take your laptop in there to get your work done. Block the time out in your calendar, so that no-one can hijack this time by booking a meeting with you. It can help to ‘go dark’ while you’re having your meeting with yourself. Turn off all of your notifications, apart from your timer (if you are using the Pomodoro Technique).
- Theme your days. Allocate a day of the week or month to complete certain tasks. Want to learn more about theming? Mike Vardy (the master of theming days) fully explains it during this episode of The Soulful PR Podcast.
6. Use technology to automate or speed up boring tasks.
It can be easy to fall into the trap of doing things a certain way because that’s how you’ve always done them. Why not take a little time to think about the tasks you have that can be automated or sped up? The video below shows you how to work out how long and time consuming your existing processes are. Once you’ve found a task that could be improved, explore which technology could help. I’ve found that using Acuity Scheduling has completely transformed my working week. Now my clients can just click on a link to get access to my calendar and book in for coaching sessions with me.
7. Find someone to help.
You want to have a successful career, work on interesting projects and hit your goals. This takes time. Instead of trying to handle every aspect of your work yourself, achieve more in less time by finding help. If you don’t need a permanent new member of staff, or your company won’t hire anyone else to join your team, think about other people who could help. Maybe there’s someone else in the company who is more junior? Or there is someone in a different department who wants more experience, or to stretch themselves with a challenging goal? You can also look outside of the company for help. What about the university that’s closest to you? It’s likely to have dozens of students who are looking for real project experience. If you want someone in the office every day with you for a set period of time, you could offer an internship to a university student or recent graduate. If you work for a small or medium sized company (with less than 250 employees), you may be eligible for funding from Santander that will cover the cost of paying your intern. I’ve recently taken on an intern through Kingston University as part of the Santander scheme and it has been fantastic to have help from an enthusiastic and skilled recent graduate.
Fay Wallis is a Career Coach with a background in HR and Recruitment. She is the founder of Bright Sky Career Coaching, where she helps people in their 30s, 40s and 50s overcome their career challenges with confidence. Fay creates free resources via blogs, videos and templates to help tackle many of the career issues her clients come up against. To have her latest resources sent to you as soon as they are created just sign up here.