These days, the idea of work has changed. A 40 hour work week is a dream of a time gone by. Add onto that the amount of external distractions that have since weaseled their way into your world, and you've got yourself a surefire recipe for dwindling productivity during your workday. How do you stay productive? Are there tricks to increase productivity during your workday? With the idea of a single 9 to 5 job as a means of employment fading away into the abyss, it's easy to feel spread thin, stressed, and eternally busy. Put those into a picture with you, trying desperately to find a work life balance, and your days can start feeling extremely overwhelming.
To get to the bottom of this productivity dilemma, I spoke with President of eaHelp, Tricia Sciortino, to get her take on how to best utilize your workday to stay focused, and stay productive. Sciortino agrees that motivation killers are all over the workplace, just waiting to distract you from what you're really there to do. "It will take a while to make these new habits feel like second nature," Sciortino says. "But putting together a string of days where you know out two or three tasks that have been hanging over your head will get you addicted to productivity pretty quickly." Sciortino herself lives and breathes by her calendar, and swears that if you give the following tricks a shot, you will too.
1. Stop Checking Your E-mail All Day
"Spending your day monitoring and responding to e-mail can make you feel busy, but leads to you spending your whole day not accomplishing anything you need to," Sciortino says. She recommends turning off your notifications so you can take your time on your true priorities for a certain amount of time, before turning your notifications back on and focusing on your inbox. Sciortino believes that your inbox can be one of the biggest culprits when it comes to productivity dwindling throughout your workday, and changing the way you handle your inbox can help motivate the rest of your workplace tendencies, to get you headed in the right direction.
2. Protect Your Priorities
Sciortino says that another dangerous habit is letting other people hijack your priorities. Poor planning on someone else's part does not constitute an emergency on yours. Making sure you protect your priorities throughout the day, rather than sacrificing them for the sake of someone else can mean the difference between feeling good about what you've accomplished throughout the day, and feeling like you've gotten nothing done.
3. Utilize Time Blocking
Sometimes setting up your workflow for the day can be flummoxing. "Use time-blocking to set up periods where you can truly focus," Sciortino says. "Make your technology work for you, rather than against you, by setting up time blocks on your calendar." Sciortino also recommends setting up an e-mail auto-responder if you've got a large time block set up, so that your coworkers and clients can know when to expect a response. She also recommends setting alarms on your phone to remind you when to check for responses, and when to stop. Setting up time blocks ensures your focus is on one project at a time, rather than trying to cover multiple projects all at once.
4. Set Your Own Priorities
"Make sure you’re setting your own priorities for your workday," Sciortino says. "Pick two or three major tasks that need to be accomplished before you even think about opening up your e-mail." This can be hard to imagine, and even harder to implement, but once you're in the habit, you'll stop rolling over and checking your e-mails first thing in the morning — and it will be liberating. Sciortino recommends finding a way to keep track of your daily tasks that doesn't involve your inbox, as it can distract you from your plan.
5. Create Your Space
Depending on what your workplace looks like, or what sort of work you do — you may have to do some tweaking with how your colleagues communicate with you. Sciortino says that if things need immediate attention, for example, you may want to create a policy that doesn't involve your e-mail. She also states the importance of your surrounding environment. "A quiet office that feels like you makes a difference in your productivity," Sciortino says. Take the time to really set up your workspace in a way that makes you feel comfortable, and productive. Whether that means adding a few personal effects to the space, or keeping it minimal, is up to you.
6. Train Your Team To Over-Communicate
"Teach your team to plan ahead, kill procrastination, and over-communicate with you and with each other when issues arise," Sciortino says. Whether this includes instant messaging, texting, quick check-ins, weekly meetings, or otherwise, making sure that everyone on your team is planning ahead and crafting their priorities properly will help eliminate office distractions along the way.
7. Plan Ahead
If there's one thing you do to change your routine in hopes of being more productive, let it be your planning. "Before you log off for the evening, pick the top priorities for the next day," Sciortino says. "That means you can dive right into those items in the morning, before anything else gets a chance to derail you." Rather than waiting until you get to work to decide what you need to accomplish for the day, try planning ahead. According to Sciortino, prioritizing your to-do list the night before will set you up for a successful and productive day. Whether you work in an office space, or work from home — these tips and tricks are sure to amp up your productivity during the workday. And when applied to your home life, they can even help you create a well-planned and more productive life, any day of the week.