Crossing things off your to-do list gives you a sense of accomplishment and motivates you to work harder. It helps you stay focused and raises your productivity.
Unlike what most people think, productivity has nothing to do with your intellectual capability. It is about choosing certain habits over others – habits that help you get the most out of your day and also improve your skills.
Often a few quick changes to your work habits or the way you approach the task at hand makes a huge difference in your performance. (4)
Take a look at your work routine and see whether you can make a few improvements that will allow you more time to focus on the things that matter most.
Now, let’s get on with the list of some habits that can help you increase your productivity at work by 100%.
- Take an hour to prepare your mind and body. Dedicate an hour first thing in the morning to prepare your mind and body for the day ahead. During this hour, read an inspirational book for a few minutes, go through your to-do lists and practice positive affirmations. Make it a daily routine.
- Start your day with a workout. When you start your day with a workout, you pump up your blood circulation and set your brain into an active mode with the release of endorphins. Exercise helps you release stress and increases your energy, thereby improving your focus. You will instantly feel super-charged and ready for action.
- Eat a healthy breakfast. What you put into your body highly affects your performance for the rest of your day. When you start off eating unhealthy food, it lowers your energy, thereby affecting your focus and productivity. Eat a healthy breakfast to jump-start your energy and give your mind and body the right fuel to be productive.
- Stay hydrated. Your body needs to be hydrated to function at its best. Instead of grabbing a cup of coffee, reach for water instead. Although coffee will instantly make you feel alert and focused, it will leave you sluggish and tired later. Often, it’s dehydration that makes you feel tired. Keep a bottle of water at your desk, so you don’t have to get up repeatedly for water.
- Keep your desk clutter-free. Keeping your desk tidy will save you time and energy, as you won’t have to waste time hunting for things. Clutter also creates stress.
Bringing tidiness and order to your desk will help you keep your work in order and reduce stress. Being organized raises your productivity.
- Add color and live plants to your workspace. Color can greatly impact your mood and productivity. Blue helps you remain calm and relaxed, while red helps you pay attention to detail. Also, live plants can impact your performance. People who are exposed to live plants in a windowless workspace are less stressed, more productive and attentive. (1)
- Plan your day the night before. Take half an hour the night before to plan the next day. When you plan, you’ll have a better idea of how to prepare yourself for what you will need to do. This also helps ensure you get proper sleep, as your mind is not restless thinking about the next day. When you wake up, you’ll be all set for the day ahead.
- Visualize your workday. Try to visualize your workday. Imagine a successful and productive day ahead. Make your subconscious mind believe your success story by rehearsing what you will be doing throughout the day, and how you will tackle challenging tasks. This will prepare you for the day, and when the actual time arrives to tackle the task, you will find it much easier to do so.
- Get to your desk 15 minutes early. Report to work early, instead of rushing to work anxiously. This will enable you to start your day in a calm and composed frame of mind. Use the extra time to prepare for the day. Write down a to-do list. This will help you stay focused throughout the day.
- Review the previous day’s work. Instead of jumping into a task right away, warm yourself up by reviewing the previous day’s work. It will remind you where you left off and will give you a productive place to start today.
- Schedule your daily to-do list. If you’ve jotted down your to-do list, you’re off to a good start. But you can also assign time for each of the tasks on your schedule. Doing this will give you a reality check about how much time you need to get things done.
Schedule your work, taking into account any approaching deadlines and meetings. Also, consider any inevitable distractions that will occur and allow extra time in your schedule.
- Identify the three most important tasks for the day. Do not allow yourself to get lost in too many things. Identify the top three priorities for the day.
When you do your best to make a fixed schedule reality, it forces you to make productive decisions.
- Set a deadline for winding up your day. You need to have boundaries if you want to have a balance in your life. Set a time when your workday will end and schedule your tasks accordingly. Work backward to make everything fit into your day.
When you do your level best to make your fixed schedule a reality, it forces you to make productive decisions.
- Make a weekly plan. Lay out a plan for the week. Go through your list of tasks, browse through your schedule and try to make every day of each week productive. When you follow a plan, you spend your time more wisely.
- Take a deep breath before you start your day. Pause for a moment and take a deep breath before starting your day. This provides oxygen to your brain and helps you think clearly so that you can make decisions with a calm and composed mind.
- Stop checking emails first thing in the morning. If possible, try not to spend the first hour of the day checking emails. Instead, get as much work done as you can in the first hour. It sets the tone for the day. If you have things, you know you need to work on, focus on those first rather than reading emails. Emails can distract you and bog you down with stuff that doesn’t matter. If your job revolves around email communication, create a schedule to check your email every two to three hours.
- Focus on work that uses your talent. Avoid spending your time on shallow work - checking emails, passing on information, arranging meetings, etc. These are things that don’t use your talent but are very time-consuming. Work on things that require your maximum abilities and push you to produce high-value results. Take on the kind of work that improves your skills. If your workdays are full of shallow tasks, you will end up getting work that is of less significance.
- Do fewer things and do them well. Your work is judged based on what you do best. So, do fewer things but be good at them. If you have too many things to do, you will never have enough time to get everything done. Say no to tasks for which you cannot provide much value.
- Learn to say no. When you are focused, do not let anyone interrupt you. If your colleagues approach you for help, either delegate it or just be honest and tell them, “I can’t do it right now, but I will help you once I am done with this project.”
- Get rid of personal distractions. Eliminate temptation by disabling social media networking apps or by turning off your phone.
When you check your phone or social media accounts, it distracts you and snaps you out of your productive flow.
- Hang out a “Do not disturb” sign. When you work in an office, you often get interrupted throughout the day by people stopping by your desk, texts, emails, and phone calls. When you are working on an important project, put up a “Do not disturb” sign. If you work from home, let others know the best time to contact you. If possible, move your phone away from you to reduce distractions.
- Keep a productivity card handy. Write a productive statement on a note card and carry it with you all the time. It will help you stay focused and motivated. The statement can be something like, “I am the most productive person in my office. I utilize my day to accomplish things that matter most and improve my skills.” When you find yourself lagging behind due to lack of motivation, glance at your productivity card and get back to work.
- Accept that perfection is just an illusion. It’s common for people to obsessively attempt to perfect a task. Know that nothing is ever perfect. Rather than wasting your time chasing perfection, get each task done to the best of your ability and move on to other tasks. If needed, you can usually go back and improve it later.
- Do not multitask. Multitasking reduces productivity. When you are doing a lot of things at once, it distracts you and makes you lose focus. If you are working on multiple projects, schedule days for each project when you prepare your weekly plan.
- Change your focus. If you are stuck on a time-consuming task that’s becoming boring and affecting your concentration, move on to other tasks or allocate time periods for different tasks. Instead of working on a task until it’s completed, work on it for a set period and then change your focus. Give each task a time frame and alternate between them to keep you engaged and involved in your work.
- Take breaks. Take short breaks. Allocating time for distractions or to get your mind off work makes you more productive throughout the day. Whenever you feel unproductive, take a quick break. Walk away from your desk, check your emails, get a cup of coffee or chat with a colleague. Short breaks will perk you up and help you work better.
- Do light stretching throughout the day. Sitting at your desk all day focusing and concentrating on work will stiffen your body. Take time to do light stretching throughout the day. This will increase the blood circulation through your muscles and enable you to think more clearly.
- Change your location once in a while. If your work allows you to switch locations, try working in some other location or environment from time to time. A change of scenery can boost your productivity. Find a place in your office that provides natural light or, if possible, go to an open space or library to work. This will recharge your mind and help you come up with new ideas or find new ways to tackle a problem.
- Optimize your down times. You usually have down times, when you are waiting for someone, or while commuting or walking from one place to another. Utilize this time to the maximum. Always have an activity ready to do during these times. Meditate for 5 minutes to increase your concentration and focus, listen to a refreshing piece of music, or plan for your next day. You can get a lot done during these short periods of downtime.
- Eat your lunch away from the office. Instead of eating lunch in the office, find a place nearby to have lunch. This will also allow you to take a lunchtime stroll. Getting away from your regular workplace will help clear your mind. A lunch break will recharge you, and you’ll return to work with renewed energy and focus.
- Listen to music. Low-volume music that helps drown out disturbing background noises can help you focus on your work. However, the music should not distract you or interrupt others around you.
- Cut down your commuting time. If you travel two hours to work, it can take a lot of energy, put you in a bad mood, and decrease your productivity once you get to the office. If possible, cut down your commuting time by moving closer to your office.
- Be professional. When you are at work, limit personal phone calls and emails. It will help you focus more on your work. If you need to make any important personal phone calls, use your break time to get it done.
- Hang around, positive people. When you are around negative people, it’s easy to lose the focus and energy needed to accomplish your goals. Toxic relationships can drain your productivity, in the same way, that healthy relationships can nurture it. (3) Negativity will drown you in unnecessary things. Positive associations can improve the overall productivity of your life.
- Be happy. Research shows that people who are happier, are also more productive. (2)(5) Happiness inspires and fuels your motivations, connecting you with your driving force. It allows you to organize your time based on what is most meaningful. Take time to focus on what makes you feel happy and well, allowing plenty of room for these things in your life; then focus on your tasks from this perspective.
- Bringslimark T, Hartig T, Patil GG. Psychological Benefits of Indoor Plants in Workplaces: Putting Experimental Results into Context. American Society for Horticulture. https://journals.ashs.org/hortsci/view/journals/hortsci/42/3/article-p581.xml. Published January 29, 2019.
- International Journal of Health & Productivity. http://www.ihpm.org/e-news/issues/325IJHP.html.
- Karimi S, Mohammadinia L, Mofid M, Javadi M, Torabi R. The relationship between sociability and productivity. Journal of Education Health and Promotion. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4165111/. Published 2014. Accessed February 6, 2019.
- Philippa Lally, Gardner BE. Promoting habit formation. Taylor and Francis Online. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17437199.2011.603640. Published October 11, 2011.
- Sgroi D. Happiness and Productivity: Understanding the Happy Productive Worker. Happiness and Productivity. http://www.smf.co.uk/publications/happiness-and-productivity-understanding-the-happy-productive-worker/. Published 2015.