Whether you work for yourself or for a company, workplace productivity is as important as productivity in our home. This week we’re considering some ways to maintain your motivation and stay productive in your job.
Perseverance is a key to workplace productivity
For the last 25 years or so I’ve worked as a lawyer in a couple of different law firms. For most of those years, I commuted to an office downtown. For the last 3 or 4 years, I’m still a partner in a large firm, but working exclusively from home.
I’ve had a lot of other jobs too, though, over the years. Among other things, I worked as a clerk for the state Department of Licensing, at McDonald’s, as part of a motel cleaning staff, in a daycare center, and as an administrative assistant for a small business. So I’ve had a lot of different experiences in different types of work environments.
Just like everywhere else, productivity at work is about managing our time, energy, and attention–the productivity components we talked about in last week’s episode. I started thinking about this lately, inspired by a question Brandi asked in the TPW Community Facebook page:
“Hi everyone! I’d really appreciate your good advice. After working for the same agency for over 15 years, I think I’ve become too comfortable. I’m not as disciplined as I used to be at staying organized and working to my full potential especially when it comes to time management. I’m starting a new job at the end of April. What are your tips at staying organized, tidy, and disciplined? Another concern I have is that I’m the only person in my building with the position, so I will have limited contact with people to teach me about my new responsibilities.”
I’ve been thinking about this ever since I read Brandi’s post. I thought I’d share a few thoughts about being productive at work, trying to focus on things that apply to any kind of work situation, but mostly for those jobs where you go to work somewhere outside your home. I will also share some of the great advice women in the TPW community offered in response to Brandi’s question.
One important key to maintaining motivation and staying productive is–just like any endeavor–awareness and intention
Know your why — why are you there? Yes, we work for a paycheck, but why here? Why this job? What do you hope to get out of it in addition to the paycheck? Is it a stepping stone to a better job? Do you hope to develop skills you can parlay into career advancement?
Know what your primary contributions are. There probably are lots of things you can do, but time is finite, and knowing what your primary responsibilities are will help to allocate time when there’s more to do than you have time to get it done. If you have a manager or supervisor, ask them to clarify their expectations. What do they think is the more important thing? If you’re an entrepreneur or work for yourself, identify your unique contributions–the things only you can do for the business–and make sure you allocate the most time (and your best time) to those things.
Pay attention to the relationships
A life that matters almost always matters in relation to people, and that’s true at work as well. Relationships can either enhance or detract from your ability to do your job and do it well, so pay attention to key relationships in your company and nurture them.
- Managers/supervisors—Communicate-know how you can support their goals and make their life easier.
- Peers–They can be a great source of support, ideas, and backup.
- Support staff—Develop relationships with these people, supporting and showing appreciation to them, so they’re more likely to be supportive of you when you need it.
Manage your immediate workspace
- Arrange your workspace strategically with the things you use most often close at hand.
- Declutter because it helps you to work more efficiently and helps minimize distractions-don’t keep things you don’t need or use.
- Avoid sticky notes on your computer screen or desk or cubicle wall. Instead, perhaps a nice notebook and pen, and create the habit of using that to jot down notes.
- Add things you find beautiful or motivating or inspiring (a beautifully framed photo of those you love or a quote). In my office downtown, I hung my diplomas and law license behind me, but on the wall I faced I hung a piece of art I found beautiful.
- Include in your daily routine a few minutes at the end of the day to put things away and tidy your workspace.
Invest in tools that make your work more effective and efficient
Of course, this depends on the type of job you have. If you are a chef, you’ll want good-quality sharp knives. If you are a desk/knowledge worker, you’ll want a good computer, the right software, an ergonomic chair, and good lighting. Whatever your job is, identify the key tools and make sure you get the best you can. It’s hard to enjoy your work if you’re working with low-quality, ineffective tools.
To the extent it’s within your control, structure your day to make the best use of your energy and attention. Save your high-energy, high-focus times for the work that demands both (try to avoid scheduling meetings or calls during those hours) and schedule “brainless” or admin-type work for your low-energy times.
- Grab your coffee or tea
- Take a look at your calendar or to-do list for the day, adjust if needed, then get to work on the first.
- Mid-day reset?
- Get away from your workspace for lunch or your break to give your mind and body a change of pace. Get outside if you can.
- If you’re an introvert and work with others, get a few minutes of alone time.
- If you’re an extrovert and work mostly alone, plan lunch with a friend or colleague.
- After lunch, tidy your workspace, look at your priority list and adjust if needed.
- Tidy your workspace.
- Look at your calendar for the next day–what can you do now to prepare?
- Make your list of the top 3 things you need to accomplish tomorrow and decide which you’ll start with.
Nurture habits that serve you
“I do not think there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcomes almost everything, even nature.” ~ John Rockefeller
Advice from the community:
Kelly asks Brandi: What does “as I used to be” mean? Was that better, or just necessary at the time? How much is necessary now? As for your new responsibility, I believe the employer is mutually responsible for equipping you for the work they expect you to do. How can you help them prepare you?
Brandi’s response: before, let’s say, I used to have my day well planned with set goals. Nowadays, I often just wing it. I think it’s because I have a combination of job boredom or burnout. I want to make sure I start my new job with more dedication. I’m just worried I’m too comfortable and might fail when I try something new.
Sharon’s response regarding preparation: set a deadline a day or two early in your diary.
Amelia says: I’ve been using Focusmate.com. You get paired up with someone to work with for 25 or 50-minute sessions. You tell the person what your intention for that session is and they do the same. Mute yourselves until you hear the chime at the end. Greet each other, discuss and then book another session. I’ve been paired up with people all over the world! It’s wonderful! There’s a Focusmate FB group, too once you join. $5 a month! A bargain for how much it improves productivity. You can use it for housework, workouts, etc as well as your normal work.
Elizabeth says: I am currently reading the book Indistractable by Nir Eyal. I like it so far. A lot of info about internal and external distractions that affect productivity and how to deal with them. In a new job where you want to make a good impression, the book has some good tools. Good luck! Things are always a little scary at first. Get past that and you’ll be fine.
Our work–whether paid or volunteer, for ourselves or for others–is a big part of our lives. We can use the same tools and techniques we talk about all the time on this podcast to make our work hours productive and rewarding.
What do you think?
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