Anything can trigger a dip in motivation. Seriously, here are some of my sillier reasons for a drop in productivity levels while at work:
- Someone had a better packed lunch than I had and I felt food envy
- A live ‘puppycam’ feed distracted me
- Brexit debates
- Someone made me aware of a weird humming noise that I then couldn’t stop hearing
- I was too cold
- I was too hot
- It was dark outside and raining heavily
While these only led to minor dips and are usually fairly easy to jump out of, some things aren’t quite so easy to shake off. I’ve felt so snowed under by work at times, that I’ve sat staring blankly at my screen – which obviously makes the situation worse as you watch the minutes fly by. I’ve been so angry reading an aggressive email that I’ve sworn not to resolve the solution and ignore the person until they go away (this only lasted a few minutes before I realised that was not, unfortunately, an option). I’ve worked late into the night, ordering take out to the office and only completed one out of eight tasks, because I was tired (and eating curry which requires both hands sometimes).
Have I got to the point where I can eliminate all distractions and maintain high levels of productivity every day? Nope. But I’ve certainly learned a few really good ways of getting better at it!
Get organised – no excuses
Productivity and organisation are best mates – you never see one without the other. If you do, that person has magic powers or might be a superhero. For mere mortals though, just creating a simple to do list helps get you through the day without feeling like you’ve been winging it the whole time. Take this to the next level – create daily, weekly, monthly and ongoing project and task lists.
How you say? Well, there are plenty of free online tools that will help you create an organisational format that works for you. I use Trello to create tasks, attach supporting materials or notes and prioritise accordingly on a daily basis. They’ve very helpfully set up an example ‘productivity’ board, which you can copy and paste into your own Trello account once set up. There’s a nice tips list in there with some ideas for improving productivity.
Or, if you’re best kept on schedule using non-digital means, try out the bullet journal technique, which has taken off in America – the concept of daily, weekly and monthly is the same but it has much more of a schedule feel than an online tool. Watch the video on bulletjournal.com to find out how a simple lined notepad can become the ultimate tool in offline organisation.
Change up your meetings
Meetings at work are one of the biggest drains on office society. Refuse (politely) to attend any meetings that don’t have a pre-supplied agenda. Keep discussions to the point and make it clear that any tangents should be discussed separately between only the relevant parties. Follow up with all attendees immediately afterwards with agreed actions (and who is responsible for undertaking each one, by what date) via email.
Some places are keeping meetings short by conducting ‘stand up’ meetings to avoid, I imagine, people falling asleep while sat down. This has been taken to a new level by one of the teams at Pinterest, who are conducting plank meetings to keep meetings really short!
Add some ‘life’ to your work-life balance
Motivated staff are productive staff – so think about what motivates you. When I moved to Sydney, every weekend felt like a mini holiday because I could go to the beach. I’d be ready for work on Monday because I hadn’t been obsessing over what needed to be done all weekend (also I’d be glad of an excuse to sit in an air conditioned office and hide my rosy English face from all the tanned Sydney-siders).
Leave work on time, even if you are going for drinks with your colleagues, be sure to physically depart your desk as well as mentally. This infographic from Business Insider suggests that working longer hours does nothing to increase productivity and the eight hour day was started by the British (sorry guys) during the industrial revolution to implement better working conditions in factories. So it’s a massively out of date concept.
Does your employer offer a work from home policy? Use this gift! Stanford University professor Nick Bloom conducted a study in Shanghai in 2012 which proved that allowing employees to work from home increased productivity and, ultimately, saved the company money.
Sounds drastic but it worked for me! Moving from London to Sydney gave my work-life a new pace and momentum. Take your pick of these 13 cities with the best work-life balance! Tell your boss that if they insist on getting that report by the end of the week, they’ll have to transfer you to the Vilnius office...
Of course, you could just switch jobs if yours is demoralising you past the point of return, but moving abroad has a more dramatic flair.
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