When your company consists of five or six people, it’s easy to stay productive. But as you grow and evolve as a business, staying nimble becomes more of a challenge as you find yourself with more people to manage and more tasks to follow through on. Understanding how to keep productivity up, while modeling good practices yourself, can go a long way towards forming a company culture that is productive and positive, allowing employees to get what needs doing done better. Here are a couple tips to help you and your staff find the best way to boost productivity:
Streamline your stuff. Clutter on your desk will clutter your mind. Keeping your desk tidy is a positive boon for your productivity not to mention it helps you find what you need faster. The most important area to keep in check is the 45 degree area that constitutes your passive visual range when looking at your computer. Keep paper in folders, pens on hand, and try to make sure that everything is set up in a way to give you enough personal space to not feel crowded. If you don’t need a document, file it away. When it comes to personal decor, don’t let clutter take over . . . ask yourself “is this something I get personal enjoyment from on a regular basis?”
Manage time with the 3 minute rule. Freelance writer and yoga instructor Stephanie Taylor Christensen cites the 3 minute rule method to take care of quick, unscheduled tasks and ease the mind from distractions for work-from-home types. She writes:
“Give yourself three minutes every hour of your official ‘work hours’ to scan and respond to important emails, put shoes that accumulate around the doorway in the closet, etc.—if it takes no more than three minutes. It puts your mind at ease and reduces at-home work distractions without derailing your day.”
This is something you can easily employ in an office setting as well, even without a six-year-old running around like Stephanie has. Take three minutes to clean up around your area, send out quick emails, or grab a snack.
Stay limber. Don’t let your overscheduling and rigidity constrict the way you do your work. Yes, of course it’s very important to manage your time and keep yourself on task. However, there will be days where you’re pushing the boulder uphill trying to get one task done. Shifting gears and trying something else on your to-do list can often break up the mental log-jam and help you make better use of your time. Even on a productive day, scheduling everything down to the minute builds stress over time when it takes a couple minutes longer than expected to complete a task. Scheduling tasks loosely, based upon reasonable time estimates, will give you the type of flexibility that can help unlock your potential.
Short term and long term goal lists. A lot of people rely on to-do lists to organize the things they need to do daily or weekly, but the mark of a productive planner is the goal list. Goals are different than tasks in the sense that they define objectives, rather than things that just gotta get done. Having short term goals lined up for a two to three month period, as well as a separate list of long term goals, gives perspective to why you are doing what you’re doing. Establishing goals also guides your task selection and helps you prioritize your time for the bigger picture.
Make your space more liveable. Happiness is good for productivity. Add color and life to your space to give it personality. Add fun accents to your desk to make you feel like you’re at home. Studies have shown that houseplants are good for promoting happiness and productivity in the workplace too.
Move around. One of the best things about technology is how it made working more mobile. Don’t forget to use this to your advantage! Moving to a different location can do wonders for re-inspiring you to get work done. You often don’t even need to leave the office . . . cozy up in an unused conference room and quite often that’ll do the trick. Otherwise, a local cafe with wifi can break up the way you envision your workday. Moving to a different location distances your stubborn brain’s association with work (which can allow you to actually get back to work.)
Stay active. Living an active lifestyle is key to healthy brain functioning. Becoming sedentary in your office affects your physical health and can cause chronic back problems over time. Granted, we don’t all have the liberty to go on a lunchtime jog everyday, but there are little things you can do to help. Stop, stand up, and stretch once every hour or so to promote good blood flow and stay limber. If your lifestyle allows it, consider walking or riding your bike to the office to get a good workout that’ll wake you up better than a cup of coffee (okay, well pretty close at least).
Take breaks! A short break can give you the boost you need to stay on task. Trying to work through the day without resting properly is setting yourself up for fatigue, which over time will cut into the amount of good quality work you can produce. Stand up, take a stroll around the block, grab a cup of coffee and a scone from the cafe around the corner. Or just go outside and sit in the sun, soaking up some ever-beneficial vitamin D.
Allow visitors. A lot of businesses see visitors as a distraction. This isn’t always the case though! When friends, family, or pets stop by and say hi, their presence breaks up the day. Plus, the connections we have with loved ones have roots in biochemistry, which means visitors can make us happier when we are working. It’s no surprise that over the course of the past fifteen years or so, bringing your dog to work has become such a popular thing.
Don’t let socializing get in the way. We spend much of our waking lives at work. This is especially true for people who run small businesses and startups who are dedicated to their company. As a result, your coworkers and employees become friends. This is healthy, of course, but you can’t let socializing get in the way of getting things done. While it sounds rigid, setting aside time during the day to meet up and chat will help you maintain a strong work/life balance.
Minimize online distractions. The internet offers myriad opportunities to zone off into distractions if you let it. Social media, clickbait articles, even thoughtful analyses of important news stories can eat into your day, and make it more stressful trying to get your work done before closing time. If you simply can’t stay away, download a timed website-blocking apps like the StayFocusd Chrome® extension.
Do things in your own time, not someone else’s. Don’t stop what you’re doing to respond to an email. While replying to people’s questions in a timely manner is a good practice, dropping what you’re doing to cater to their needs at this very moment isn’t always necessary. Gage whether or not you need to get back to someone on the spot or if they can wait a bit until you’re done with your flow.
Kick out the jams. Music can make a world of difference when it comes to getting into a working groove. While some people may see throwing headphones on as antisocial, the reality is entering your own zone by isolating yourself from office sounds can do a world of good when it’s crunch time. If you’re having difficulty focusing—especially if you’re a writer—switch to instrumental music that doesn’t have vocals and lyrics. Classical is always good.
Do the worst task first. If you eat your most trying and annoying task for breakfast, the rest of your day gets so much better instantly. Not only do you have more energy early in the day, but you have the opportunity to budget as much time as necessary to get the job done. If you put off the worst task on your list until the end, you’re either tackling it against a time deficit (with less energy) or putting it off until the next day.
Get more out of your hours.
Build-in time to prepare for client meetings. When planning a meeting, always remember to give yourself proper time in your schedule to prepare ahead of time. By this I don’t mean enough time to prepare slides or print marketing materials . . . I mean prepare yourself. First impressions are very important for meeting with new clients, and even people you are familiar with expect you to bring your best to the table. Give yourself a couple minutes to clear your mind and double check that you have everything in order.
Stop trying to multitask all the time. Several recent studies have shown that trying to multitask actually decreases your productivity. One recent study performed at Stanford suggests it may actually be bad for your brain to divide your attention all the time as well. It’s better to focus on one task at a time and do it to completion rather than trying to be a human octopus.
Organize with apps to add hours to your day. Apps can both eat away at your time or help you make the most of it. Delete Facebook® from your phone and download these apps to help improve your productivity.
Productivity is a game of balances. Finding the middle ground between structure and flexibility, work and play, will make a huge difference when it comes to getting more out your day. Often, the first step towards becoming more productive is realizing that there’s room for improvement. Once you’ve reached that level of awareness, you have the tools you need to build a workplace lifestyle that suits your needs.