Do you ever question how to be more productive at work? I’m an organized and self motivated person who genuinely wants to make a strong contribution at work but sometimes I want to be more productive. Part of this is my type A personality and just being hard on myself. However, I don’t always own all of my time because I need to attend meetings or deal with matters that unexpectedly occur during the day. This can be frustrating, but often boils down to my responsibilities of being a manager. You have to make yourself available to people and help solve unexpected problems. I get that. In spite of this, I do think there are some things we can do to be more productive regardless of the situation. I know every situation is different so consider these tips and think about what might work best for you.
Maintain a to-do list – No brainer, right? Well, I think it’s extremely important to have a running list of things you need to get done. At the beginning of the day I review my list, emails, etc. and prioritize what I think I can reasonably get accomplished that day. Perhaps I do have a full calendar of meetings for the day. Therefore, my list of things I hope to accomplish for that given day is going to be much shorter. If something absolutely has to get done, but can’t because of the schedule there are a few options which brings us to the next tip…
Say no – Yes, I think we all have to learn to say no to certain things at work in a professional manner. Maybe your approach for saying no is getting permission from your boss to miss a meeting so you can get your high priority task completed. Or, maybe you have the flexibility as a manager to move a meeting to another day, cancel it all together or simply say you can’t attend a meeting but will happily get caught up later if necessary.
Make time – Another great way to accomplish a tasks and be more productive at work is to carve out the time on your calendar. In other words, schedule a meeting with yourself. No one else will be able to schedule for that time and you can go to a conference room or quiet area to complete the work without interruption. I know on occasion my previous boss would just tell me to go to a conference room and block my calendar out for the day in order to complete the project. Some bosses let people work from home to focus. If you can get your boss’s buy-in this is a great strategy!
Understand the level of urgency – You say you must get the task completed, but is it really that important? Are you creating the urgency or is someone creating it for you? I find that about 90% of the time the urgency is created by me. The stress about the work is created by me. Again, I’m a self motivated, type A type personality, so you can see where I’m going. So, what’s important is to really evaluate when that work needs to be completed. I’m not saying put work off and not be productive, but truly evaluate whether or not it needs to be completed today, tomorrow or next week to keep things moving along.
Pick the right priorities – All that being said, we need to make sure we’re picking the right priorities. What adds the most value to your organization or project? What is required to keep a project moving? What are your bosses biggest interests? These are the questions you should be asking as you prioritize and choose your work. It’s easy to fall into the trap of doing the work we want to do, but it may not be the most valuable work for the company or your career.
Use the right tools – The final tip is to make sure you have the right tools that fit your situation best. By this I mean that some people like software, spreadsheets and some like pieces of paper to keep track of their to-do’s. Whatever it is make sure your tool is always available and handy for you to take notes and add new items to your list. Make sure you keep a calendar as well. Spend 10 minutes at the beginning of each day working with your planning tool, organizing and setting priorities.
I know there are many more tips to be more productive at work and I know all the readers have their own experiences to share. I think work can be productive everyday, but we have to set realistic expectations with ourselves and our boss on what can be reasonably accomplished to maintain work-life balance.
What are your tips on how to be more productive at work?