Between meetings, never-ending to-do lists and team lunches, the work day can seem a lot shorter than you need it to be, especially if your schedule is full and you’ve got deadlines to meet.

Despite our collective desire to be more productive, it’s not something that happens spontaneously. Sure, there are times when we may feel more motivated but relying solely on motivation to get work done is not always the best way to go about it.

So, what exactly is productivity, and how do we improve it? Productivity is about striking a balance between how much output is required for a certain task or project, and the means with which to produce that output. In other words, you need to have a desired outcome and a process to achieve that outcome in the most efficient, time-sensitive way possible.

Being more productive at work means working smarter, not harder (or longer) and getting the most out of the hours you spend. Let’s go over some productivity tips and tricks so you can get more done during the workday:

Use your commute to get small tasks out of the way

While you may want to zone out on the blissful journey to and from work, if you travel on public transport this is an optimal time to do those small, simple tasks that often take our attention away from our main work. Examples include drafting an email, re-formatting a document or writing up a meeting agenda. Even five to 10 minutes can help you get these tasks out of the way. Doing this a few times a week can save you time at work especially when you need to focus on bigger tasks that need your full, undivided attention.

Make your calendar work for you

One of the most valuable productivity tips for employees is to make use of your calendar for your own tasks. The satisfaction of ticking off your to-do list is great, however it’s a good idea to use your calendar alongside it so you can realistically finish all the tasks you set each day. Try to use the hours in your day, and the days in your week to allocate tasks, as you would with meetings. Take this basic example:

  • 9am-10am work on report
  • 11am-12pm read and respond to emails
  • 12pm lunch
  • 1pm work on report

This is called time blocking, and while locking yourself into certain tasks may seem restrictive, you’ll actually be able to get more done this way. By creating certain routines and habits, you’re leaving less time for indecision and more time committed to do the work, without relying on ineffective multi-tasking.

Automate certain tasks

According to a report by McKinsey, 45 per cent of workplace activities can be automated. Things like scheduling meetings, generating invoices, creating proposals or briefs and even sorting emails, can be automated to save you time. For example, instead of emailing your team back and forth about when they are available for a meeting, you can sync your calendars to find a time when everyone can come together. You can also create templates for documents which can be pre-filled with certain information, or use the ‘find and replace’ feature on Word. Further, you can create canned responses for the emails you receive regularly and simply tweak them before you send to ensure they are personalised to the recipient.

Work up a sweat

Research by the University of Bristol suggests individuals who exercised regularly rated themselves as more productive at work than those who did not exercise regularly. They also experienced better time management and interpersonal performance on the days they exercised. One explanation for this could be that vigorous physical activity activates certain areas in the brain responsible for output. That’s one less excuse to avoid the gym!

Get a good night’s sleep

We all know getting enough sleep is important for our mental and physical health but it can also make us better, more productive workers too. A study by Harvard Medical found that sleep deprivation leads to a 20 per cent decrease in productivity. So make sure you’re getting in the recommended hours of sleep each night, and avoid caffeine after 3pm.

Remember, working longer hours doesn’t necessarily mean you get more work done. It’s what you do with those hours that makes a difference to your productivity. By getting small tasks out of the way during your commute, automating tasks and having a good rest, you can be just that little bit more productive during the week.

Have you tried any of these productivity tips at work? Let us know how they’ve worked for you.

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