Though many arguments can be made for the positive impact that computers and smartphones have made on our lives, these devices are also the gatekeepers of modern distractions such as social media, mindless games and meaningless quizzes, and infinite access to information. In fact, many of us find ourselves distracted by these features at inopportune times during the workday, which can significantly decay productivity over time. If staying on track is a daily struggle, you’ll want to reshape your workday to minimize the temptation of distractions and increase the efficiency of your process. No matter what industry you work in, the following tips can help you become more productive—and probably better at your job.
Wake Up Earlier, Go to Work Later
It might seem counterintuitive to start your day by putting off work, but if you wake up at the last possible minute before you have to run out the door to the office, you’ll find yourself dragging your feet through the first few hours at work. Instead, shift your sleep schedule so that you rise an hour earlier and have time for a healthy breakfast, a cup of coffee, and some guilt-free Facebook browsing time before you get ready for work.
Take on Your Hardest Tasks Before Lunch
Getting back to work after lunch can be the hardest task of your day, since you’ll feel full and sleepy as your body digests your midday meal. This afternoon slump is natural and normal, but it can be a roadblock if you try to get important work done in the afternoon. Your best work hours will probably be between 10 a.m. and noon—in the sweet spot when that second cup of coffee kicks in—so schedule your most labor-intensive or mentally challenging tasks for this time. This way, difficult tasks will not be hanging over your head as you accomplish other projects, and you can plan for an easier afternoon before you clock out.
Stop Trying to Multitask
Perhaps Ron Swanson said it best: “Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing.” In other words, your focus should be on producing your best work, which means that you should stop trying to do multiple projects at once. Multitasking is a detriment to productivity, because switching gears too frequently throughout your day will reduce your cognitive function. This can leave you with a long list of partially completed tasks rather than finished projects with effective outcomes.
Automate What You Can
In most jobs, there are repetitive tasks that need to be completed each day. Responding to emails, for example, can take up a significant amount of time, even when you are responding to the same types of inquiries every time. Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel with each response, use canned responses for emails that you need to send frequently. You may even take your shortcuts a step further with automated processes that are triggered by certain actions.
Set More Micro-Goals
It can be tough to wrap your head around a big project, and you might find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the work before you even start. Breaking larger projects into smaller, more achievable tasks will make them easier to approach and complete. By setting micro-goals before the start of each project, you’ll also be more informed about how much time you realistically need to complete a given project.
Make a Killer Playlist
Your physical environment can have a strong impact on your ability to focus and engage with your work. Paradoxically, an environment that is too quiet or boring may make it harder to focus. That’s because our brains have two processing levels: Conscious and unconscious. So, while your conscious mind is focused on work, your unconscious mind is scanning the room to continue processing information about your surroundings. If you are consciously focused on something that is boring or otherwise unenjoyable, it will not take much for your unconscious mind to pull your focus away to a nearby distraction. Though you can’t turn this function of your brain off, you can trick it with the right playlist. With some quiet, melodic music in the background, you’ll be just engaged enough on a subconscious level to really dive into your work. However, the wrong music can have just the opposite effect, so stay away from experimental prog rock and thrash metal when you design your playlists for the office.
Redecorate Your Office
In the same way that music can help you focus, the right visual aesthetic can keep your mind on your work. If your office is decorated in bland beige and gray tones, you might suggest some paint colors to management to add some life and stimulation to the office. When you can’t make such permanent changes, try decorating your cubicle with soothing blues and greens to promote focus or bright yellow to awaken and stimulate your senses.
Another trick for improving productivity? Don’t give your team tasks they aren’t trained for. If your team isn’t equipped to take on marketing your business, partner with Pennington Creative. Our team of writers, designers, and other creative types can lend the expertise you need to improve your website, show up on search engines, and maintain a presence on social media, so your team can stay focused on the tasks that they are best at.