For many of us, a typical work day begins at eight or nine in the morning. We arrive at work, sit at our desk, and spend the next eight hours plodding through our onslaught of responsibilities until it’s time to go home. Not only does this become repetitive and daunting, but in many cases it prevents us from being as productive as we could be. Here are 10 tips for mixing up your work day in order to boost your productivity and work smarter.
1) Focus and prioritize.
Focus on doing the most important, urgent things first. Getting the right things done helps avoid frustration and wasting time. One way to do this is to keep your “must-do” list to three items or less.
2) Eat the frog.
Similar to the first point, eating the frog means tackling the tasks you don’t necessarily enjoy but that are still important first thing in the morning. Leave easier tasks that require less focus or effort for later in the day.
3) Question your role at meetings.
If you feel that you’re spending most of your time in meetings, ask yourself these questions when deciding which ones to attend:
- Can I delegate my attendance and better invest my time elsewhere?
- Does my presence add value to fellow team members who are present?
- Is attending this meeting a better development opportunity for someone else on my team?
Taking time to prepare may help eliminate wasted time during actual tasks. Plan out the top things you need to work on the day before and consider any obstacles or extra work that might be involved.
5) Know your ideal working hours.
Working at a time of day when you have no focus or energy is a waste of time and achieves nothing. Find the hours when you work best and schedule accordingly if possible, as it may not be between the hours of eight and five. You may need to experiment by trying out different routines, and keep in mind that it may change based on your age or circumstances.
6) Focus on being productive instead of busy.
Most people accomplish more in shorter periods of focused work than in long, outstretched hours. Dedicate your most energized, focused time on tasks that require deep focus, and remember that deep work often requires no distractions.
7) Use a calendar.
Seeing your days laid out in calendar format with tasks assigned to specific times can help you be more realistic with what you can get done each day. If your calendar is filling up too much, consider building in two-hour blocks of time that cannot be scheduled to prevent you from becoming overwhelmed.
8) Take breaks.
Be realistic about your attention span and take intentional breaks to rest your brain and release built up tension. Attention and energy levels often decrease after 90-120 minutes, so it’s good to build in breaks accordingly. It can be tempting to skip breaks in order to get more work done, but not consistently taking them increases your chance of burnout.
9) Try Pomodoro.
The Pomodoro technique involves grouping your activities into 25-minute blocks of time. During each time block, you focus on only one activity and turn off all notifications or potential distractions. At the end of 25 minutes, take a few minutes to stretch and re-center before moving on to the next activity. After four or five of these Pomodoro sessions, take a longer break.
10) Set boundaries.
Leaving your door open gives permission for people to interrupt at any moment, which can affect your ability to do deep work. Close your door if you need to or go to a secluded office space and switch off your phone.
Defending your time off the clock is just as important, as it is needed recovery time. If you write emails in your off time, instead of sending them out immediately save the written drafts and send them during normal business hours. When you respond during your off time, you are setting a standard that you are available. Maintaining balance between your professional and personal life is important.