To be the most productive, you have to create an environment that encourages productivity.
Employees working from home have more freedom to choose their hours, as long as they get their work done, and the great WFH experiment has shown that they really are. That’s because productivity isn’t about the exact number of hours you work, but how smart you work and how much you achieve in that time.
Everyone wants to achieve peak productivity, but it’s not something you can achieve on demand or force anyone into. To be productive, you have to want to work, be in an environment that enables quality work, and have the resources you need to do the work.
To that end, here are 7 ways that you can create the conditions that encourage productivity.
Having to search for the files, information, or tools you need to complete your assignments is the very opposite of productivity. Likewise, hunting for the right cloud tool and trying to remember which one you used last time also messes with your focus and throws your productivity off course.
It may seem like a waste of time to file documents properly or organize work tools if they’re all easily searchable on your device or in the cloud, but searching through folders is an irritating task that takes up time and saps your energy.
It’s worth devoting an hour or so to getting your house in order. That means filing documents logically and saving tools somewhere you can easily find them.
Take more breaks
It can be tempting sometimes to push yourself to work even when you’re not focusing, just to notch up the expected number of work hours a day, but it’s counter-productive. You just end up getting less done, and then you probably take a longer break as a “reward” for having worked for so long.
Take a break. Breaks allow you to reset your concentration, helping you regain energy and focus so you can work more effectively.
But use the break wisely. It’s best to do something totally different, like playing solitaire for free online. This kind of game requires a different type of thought process which helps stimulate your brain so you return to work refreshed.
Change your surroundings
As the saying goes, a change can be as good as a holiday. Working in a different physical environment can help wake up your thinking and stop you from getting stuck in a rut.
True, not everyone is able to go on a workation, but you could change which room you work in in the house, work in the garden when the weather is good, or take a table in a cafe.
You could even swap with a coworker and work in each other’s home office. It’s always easier to ignore someone else’s mess; you can be much more focused when you’re outside your own home.
Batch process tasks
It takes time to regain focus after you interrupt your thought processes. A study at the University of California, Irvine that researched the effect of interruptions found that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 19 seconds for someone to be productive again after an interruption.
Interruptions don’t just mean scrolling Instagram, but also switching from one task to the next.
Cut the interruptions by using time blocking to divide your day into slots for different types of tasks, like checking email, scheduling, making phone calls, brainstorming, etc. and then be rigorous about keeping tasks to the right timeslot.
Protect “real work” time
It’s all too easy for days to fly by in meetings, replying to emails, and making calls, leaving without the time you need for focused brainwork like creative thinking, planning, and brainstorming.
Prevent this from happening by scheduling creative work time into your day, and then ring fence it so it doesn’t get nibbled away by all those meetings and requests for help.
Create a routine
Indecision takes up a lot of time, but when you have a work routine, where you do the same task at the same hour each day, or the same day each week, you won’t need to decide what to do next.
Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, describes why she loves routine. “If you do the same thing every day at the same time for the same length of time, you’ll save yourself from many a sink. Routine is a condition of survival.”
Another advantage of a routine is that your brain and body adjust to and prepare for it. Once it becomes a habit to, say, check your emails at 9am each day, you’ll find you get through them faster.
Don’t overload your to-do list
It’s a common mistake to cram more into your to-do list than is humanly possible to complete in a day. We all want to aim for the moon, but unfortunately over-filling your to-do doesn’t mean you fall among the stars. You’re more likely to feel overwhelmed by the task ahead of you and find ways to procrastinate.
You’ll be more productive when you trim your schedule down, including only those tasks that you feel absolutely confident you can achieve in the time available. When your day seems realistics, you’ll feel more motivated to get started.
What’s more, the burst of energy you experience when you complete it all empowers you for tomorrow’s to-do list.
The right tactics can bring productivity
Productivity is the elusive elixir that everyone is searching for, but there’s no one-size-fits-all prescription. However, a combination of protecting creative time, taking more breaks, organizing your space and your tasks, making a change, and setting up a routine can help you find the approach that transforms your productivity.