We spent a lot of our time at work. How can we make that time more efficient and effective?
How Can We Be More Productive at Work?
Thanks to our listener survey, which you can take here, I’ve found a lot of listeners asking for tips for productivity in the workplace. Although this episode will focus mostly on an office environment, many of these strategies and tips can be applied to any workplace.
What are some barriers to getting your job done in an efficient and productive way?
1. An inefficient workspace
An unorganized or uncomfortable workspace can be distracting and can lead to the inability to complete tasks quickly and efficiently.
3. An overwhelming workload
In past episodes, I’ve given tips for making your to-do list more manageable. Here are a few:
- The Big Picture: Priorities and Guiding Principals – TPW002
- Task Management Options – TPW030
- Chose What’s Essential, Eliminate the Rest – TPW032
- How to Stay Productive During Life’s Storms – TPW036
- Planning a Project – TPW060
We’ve talked before about how multitasking isn’t as efficient for getting things done as it should be. Tasks are easily forgotten since your focus is spread among too many different projects. When we’re thinking we’re completing tasks simultaneously, our brain is actually flipping back and forth rapidly, and it can be inefficient, ineffective, and can cause issues.
In Carol Deeb’s article, “Top Three Barriers to Workplace Productivity,” she writes, “Multitasking is a barrier to productivity because it can prohibit an employee from remembering important information and, instead, grasping unnecessary details that distract from satisfactorily performing the job duties. Another barrier caused by multitasking is the amount of stress an employee feels when faced with many uncompleted duties.”
5. Conflict with coworkers
Difficult peers, managers or assistants can impair communication that’s necessary for getting work done effectively.
What are some productivity challenge areas at work?
For many of us, dealing with email is a big part of our job. That time can be better put to use if we can find a way to streamline our email.
Meetings that aren’t necessary or focused can be a real challenge when trying to get your work done.
Although meetings can be necessary, “oftentimes, meetings involve too many people in discussions that don’t always pertain to their specific responsibilities. Ensuring that there is a clear and thorough meeting agenda will ensure that the meeting is productive,” as stated in “Two Obstacles to Productivity at Work.”
3. Cluttered or inefficient workspace
Tips and tactics to tackle the challenges to workplace productivity
1. Use best practices for managing email
- In episode 38, Managing Email, we focused on ways to manage and organize email and streamlining the process of emailing.
- For those who use Outlook at work, I’ve found the Simply File plugin by Tech Hit effective for intelligently managing email quickly and sorting them into different folders based on the content.
2. Make your workspace comfortable and efficient
- Incorporate music that keeps you focused and productive, such as the focus@will app and website. This can be listened to through inexpensive speakers, headphones, or earbuds to cover outside noises
- Think about ergonomics of your desk and chair and the location of your keyboard and computer screen. Make sure discomfort isn’t a distraction.
- Organize your space to keep things you use frequently within easy reach.
- Consider having an extra monitor, especially if you keep multiple windows open.
- Don’t allow your environment to be a distraction. Dressing in layers can prevent yourself from becoming too hot or too cold, or keep a sweater at work.
- Keep your mind focused by decluttering to help find the things you need quickly and easily. Organizer your space in a way that make sense to you. Some past episodes you may find helpful:
- Consider keeping a plant or two at your desk or in your office. According to the article, “8 Benefits of Plants in the Office,” plants reduce stress, noise and minor illnesses, and they increase creativity and productivity, as well as provide a nicer work environment. The article also gives suggestions for plants that thrive in an office environment, including:
- spider plants
- rubber plants
- peace lilies
- Check out these articles for more tips for making your workplace more efficient and more comfortable:
3. Keep meetings from taking too much of your time that would be better spent getting your work done.
- Talk to your supervisor about being excused from meetings that are irrelevent to you.
- If you can’t be excused from meetings, offer to be more proactive by helping to organize the meeting to be more efficient and focused. Free-for-all meetings aren’t very productive, but keeping the meeting shorter and to-the-point can be a better use of your time.
- If making decisions among your peers and coworkers is holding up meetings, take a look at Laura Stack’s tips from her productivity blog about making decisions easier.
- If you’re in charge of the meeting, consider walking meetings or standing up.
4. Learn to delegate.
- Sometimes it seems easier to do the tasks ourselves so we know it’s done correctly and to our specifications, but proper delegation can be more effective and productive to your work.
- Look at your to-do list and focus on tasks that can only be done by you. Delegate other tasks to those who are capable of doing these jobs.
- Think of delegation as part of your job to develop the skills of others, not as being selfish or transitioning your load onto someone else.
- The article, “8 Best Practices in Employee Delegation” lists helpful steps and practices for delegating.
- Other articles helpful for learning to delegate:
5. Reduce distractions at work.
- If you have a door to your office, consider closing it and/or put up a gently-worded “Do Not Disturb” sign
- Wearing a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, either with or without music playing, can cut down the noise, but they can also give the impression to others you don’t want to be disturbed or interrupted. I like Bose QuietComfort 25 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones.
- If you’re being continuously interrupted, be prepared to set boundaries, including knowing when to call it a day, which we covered in episode 56, Knowing When to Quit.
- Setting boundaries on other people can be tricky, but it can be done. Boundaries start with knowing what’s important to you and what your limits are, then communicating gently, but firmly, to the appropriate people.
- It can be difficult to set boundaries and be straightforward with people, whether it’s a subordinate or a supervisor, and you may feel you don’t have a choice in the matter. But we do have a choice. I encourage you to listen to episode 29 in which I talk with Allison Sheradin about Choices for the Productive Woman and owning our choices. Just that shift in attitude and being proactive can make the situation better.
- If the work environment is toxic and making it impossible to be effective, you owe it to yourself to consider making a move. You can’t do this overnight, of course, but you can begin to take steps to get yourself into a situation that’s more conducive to getting your work done.
- Talk with a career counselor about making your workplace a more ideal place to be productive
- Articles with tips for setting boundaries:
- Develop ways to deal with people who hinder your ability to get work done. An article I found helpful is “6 Ways to Deal with an Angry Person.”
- If interruptions or noise are a continuous distraction, try to find an alternative workspace, like a conference room or outside.
- Consider working from home, but be aware of the distractions there and make sure you can maintain your focus.
What do you think?
Do you have any other challenges that can hinder workplace productivity? Do you have tools, tips and tricks that help you manage your workload? I’d love for your to share them in our comments, on our Facebook page, or you can email me or leave a voice message on the website.
Resources and Reminders:
- Check out Remember the Milk, a simple and effective task manager recommended by listener Emily Born on Facebook.
- Grab a free copy of my project planning template.
- Very special thank you to Emily Prokop, co-host of the Classy Little Podcast, for her help with preparing the show notes this week!
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