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10 Ways to Increase Office Productivity

11 min read

The world is filled with one thousand and one distractions that can manage to take up our time before the all-important daily workload begins. Of course, we can always cut ourselves some slack and allow time to rest and enjoy ourselves, but do we really need to be spending the best part of an hour on Facebook or discussing the finer points of last night’s cup final with our colleagues? Sometimes that ‘slack’ is just a little bit too slack for our own good – nor is it particularly beneficial for business.

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1. Use Your Commute

Rather than reading a book or playing games on your phone, forty minutes on the bus or train could be more constructively used on the day’s jobs. This could mean planning and prioritising the daily tasks ahead, checking and sending out emails, brainstorming or listing ideas, or general admin and organisation. The greatest advantage of mobile technology is that it gives us the power to work from anywhere, and even when offline there’s always something that can be done.

2. Make to-do Lists

To-do lists can really make a difference to our success with a task. Recent research has even shown that the mere act of making a plan to complete tasks can actually lessen anxiety. Whether these tasks are made on a scrap of paper or through one of the many software solutions aimed at organising workflow, a certain degree of planning can have a positive impact on productivity. When the items on the agenda are also given a time frame, a deadline and a list of participants involved, the level of organisation is all the more effective.

3. Incentivise

When managing others, awards such as gift cards or free meals can add an extra reason to get certain tasks done. It should make perfect sense that the carrot is more effective than the stick, while also creating a more positive working environment. Sometimes we also need to incentivise ourselves so the principle should be just the same. We can reward ourselves by allowing a coffee break only after our current task is finished or permitting a drink after work only when all of our tasks are completed.

4. Track Your Time

It’s very easy to lose track of time and find that the day is already over without much to show for it. This is why it’s always a good idea to keep a close record of the timing of our daily tasks, and when we expect to finish them against how long they actually take. By doing this we can allocate time periods for certain tasks more realistically. Apps such as RescueTime are aimed at improving time management.

5. Impose Deadlines

Once the timing of tasks has become organised and planning can be carried out with more clarity, we can begin to set realistic deadlines that we are able to stick to. Policing ourselves in this way is something that many of us are reluctant to do, but it has been proven in studies to be effective. After overcoming the initial resistance to these methods, a more productive routine will be attained.

6. Avoid Multitasking

The ability to multitask is often considered to be an admirable quality, but numerous studies have shown that it can lead to a range of negative effects, from depression and stress to memory loss and physical illness. Multitasking will have a negative impact on productivity, as well as your health. Instead of filling your mind with all the different tasks you have to consider at any one time, commit to a single task and see it through to completion.

7. Try Out Chunking

As put forward by author Tim Ferris, breaking up a workload into smaller tasks can be a more efficient and effective way of getting things done. Smaller and more manageable tasks can be completed more quickly because there’s no need to stop and start again before finishing, as there may be with bigger tasks. This is another time management strategy that can reduce wasted time, organise time better and raise motivation.

8. Avoid Distractions

Every day, there are too many distractions that can take time from our constructive working hours. These could include the unproductive meetings that could be avoided or replaced by videoconferencing, or they could be interruptions from colleagues or messages. Finding a quiet place to complete tasks may be the answer, as well as turning off your phone and putting a ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door.

9. Take Breaks

We all need to rest the body and mind, and sometimes both. If we don’t get the rest we need, we can end up anxious and stressed out, which can affect our sleep or lead to physical tension. This means that when we don’t get the rest we need, overworking will actually cause us to become less productive. It’s been proven that the human mind is not supposed to focus on any one thing for a long period of time, so short and regular breaks will lead to increased productivity.

10. Exercise

When we are stuck in the same position all day long, it’s not good news for the body or the mind. As awareness of this has grown in recent years, office exercise apparatus such as desk treadmills, balance ball chairs, and yoga mats have become increasingly common in offices. Studies have shown that short periods of exercise in the office has various benefits, that include increasing focus, memory and motivation, reducing stress and improving sleep. There are many different forms of exercise available to people working in offices, so this should be carried out on a regular basis.

Suggestions for improving office productivity may cause some of us to roll our eyes and complain about the heavy workload that’s already causing us no end of stress. But a few changed attitudes and approaches could, in fact, lead to a much easier – and less stressful -working week. And as the age-old proverb has it – there’s always room for improvement.

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