Business these days is all about doing more with less … and faster. But it’s not always about simply working harder. You only have so many hours in the day, and there’s a limit to how hard and fast you can work without burning out. If you’re struggling for ideas about how to work smarter, check out our latest productivity round-up – there’s sure to be something that inspires!
1. First things first
Is your working life plagued with constant interruptions, meetings and various flavors of administrivia? We all have to deal with the seemingly unending stream of ‘urgent but not important’ tasks that keep us from the critical jobs – you know, the ones that would make a real difference to your organization and career …. if only you could get to them!
Shana Lebowitz, writing for Inc.com, might have an antidote for you in her recent article on why your first waking hour is crucial for productivity. The age old argument – that you should put first things first – is hardly new. However, in this day and age of distraction, the benefits of a “power hour” cannot be overstated.
We say: It’s easy to procrastinate in the face of a never-ending stream of “busy-work.” However, by dedicating the first and best hour of every day to the tasks that will actually make all the difference in the end, you will ensure you reach your ultimate business and career goals, baby step by baby step.
2. Time to unplug?
How dependent are you on your smartphone? If you think not so much, consider a scenario where you would unexpectedly have to wait for a goodly length of time – say 15 to 20 minutes. This could be time spent in in a doctor’s waiting room, on the bus headed for home or an occasion when your friend is detained meeting you for lunch. How long does it take you to pull out your phone and check email, text or social media?
For most of us, the answer is not very long, unless you are one of the few people on the planet who have yet to own a mobile device. Even where your smartphone is not forever glued to your ear, hand or hip pocket, the dizzying array of functions and entertainment that they offer to mean that we are increasingly reliant on them for any number of daily tasks.
However, Lesley McClurg, writing for NPR, suggests that it is just this versatility that might be destroying your productivity. In Don’t Look Now! How Your Devices Hurt Your Productivity, she reviews research suggesting that interrupting a task you have been focused on, such as writing an article or similar – to ‘dash off’ a quick email to a work colleague – actually disconnects your brain processing sufficiently that it takes significant effort to get back on track.
We say: It’s easy to think that multi-tasking is boosting your productivity when it could be harming it. For really essential tasks, try and work in uninterrupted blocks of time, even if it means disconnecting from technology for a while. Your brain will thank you for it!
3. Or not…
And having suggested you get off your devices a bit more often to increase your productivity, here’s a story that might get you right back on them again!
Techradar recently published a comprehensive list of the 40 best mobile productivity apps. There’s something here for everyone, ranging from team to-do lists and project management software, virtual meeting software, meeting planners, and file sharing apps like Google Drive.
Further to this note, some commentators have recently written about the expansion of Google’s G suite (previously called Google Apps for Work), with five new productivity features recently added. If you’d like more information, TechCrunch recently covered it, also Anthony Karcz in Forbes.
We say: Apps are a great way to extend your effectiveness and functionality while you are on the go. It’s likely that only a few out of the multitude of options out there will personally work for you, so why not try a few on for size and see what works best?
4. Evidence-based ways to boost productivity
There are lots of suggestions out there for the means to boost productivity, but how do you know which ones will be most useful? Entrepreneur.com have some suggestions with their recent guide to 4 science-backed ways to increase productivity.
There are some interesting (and sometimes counter-intuitive) strategies in here, including sleeping more to raise productivity, spending more time in natural light and working in large chunks on a single task (research suggests 90 minutes working with 20-minute breaks is optimal for attention).
We say: Regardless of the evidence base, productivity is a very individual matter. It’s always great to try out new ideas, but if you have strategies that already work for you, don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater! Incremental changes work best.
5. If you want to boost your productivity, don’t do this… or this
Business Insider recently offered a run-down on the 17 bad habits that are sabotaging your productivity. You’ve got to wonder that anyone gets anything done at all with these kinds of odds stacked against you! Chances are, though there will be something here that starts ringing alarm bells for you (in fact we had to stop for a breather at number 10 because it was all starting to look just a little too familiar!).
From skipping breakfast to taking too many meetings, there would have to be something that everyone can take a good hard look at on in this list. Once again, there’s got to be something that everyone can tweak, but one person’s tweak might be another person’s wrecking ball, so once again it’s a case of picking what works for you.
We say: Changing your habits doesn’t happen overnight. In most cases, habits are the result of patterns of behavior that have been a long time in the making – maybe years, perhaps a whole lifetime.
Start slowly, changing one bad habit at a time, replacing this with a new, more productive habit. Only once you’ve bedded this one down should you embark on changing a new one. Going overboard with wholesale change is guaranteed
6. And last but not least …
Want to make your office more productive? Why not consider boosting the fun factor? OK, so this is one of the least conventional options out there … but it wouldn’t be a round-up if we didn’t present you with all the quirkiness that the web has to offer now and then, now would it?
And this one comes from a fairly reputable source. Fast Company recently published an article on the 10 ways to make your office more fun. What’s not to like about that?
This article’s worth a look to see if any of these strategies could work for your team. From the sublime (get an office dog) to the ridiculous (Monopoly-themed conference rooms), your team and your customers will thank you for making an effort.
We say: Fun is the secret ingredient that is sadly lacking from many modern workplaces. In our efforts to make it all about productivity, we can sometimes fail to remember the lighter side. And yet, the ability to inject some fun into everyday operations will not only make your business a great place to work, but it will also give your team the morale boost they need to make a difference.