The 10 Rules of Productivity at Work

The 10 Rules of Productivity at Work

By Shami Barooshian

Let’s talk about  productivity—a.k.a. that drive that gets you to approach the work day in beast mode, power through your to-do list and feel totally accomplished by bedtime.

But as we all know, productivity is incredibly elusive. Sometimes it’s our own I-can’t-get-started mentality. Sometimes we run out of steam. Sometimes we get continually sidetracked. Roadblocks like these pop up all throughout the day.

So how do you set yourself up for a day of kicking a** and taking names? Here are 10 ways you can make sure you’re making the most of those work hours.

1. Get Your Head in the Game

Getting productive starts at minute one of your workday—but that doesn’t mean you need to dive right into your email or jump into a project or a meeting (if you can help it, anyway). Instead, make sure you start your day off with a proactive mindset, instead of a reactive one. That means starting with tasks like industry research and putting together a plan of attack for the rest of your day.

2. Set Realistic Expectations

When you’re making your proactive plan, ask yourself: can I actually accomplish all of this today? Chances are you’re trying to do too much, so make sure you’re setting realistic goals. This planning lays the groundwork for your day—kind of like setting down tracks ahead of a high-speed train. It’ll keep you from having to constantly stop, rethink and refocus. Not only will this give you a clear path, it will help you keep from feeling stressed and overwhelmed by your to-do list: two common barriers to productivity.

3. Prioritize Effectively

Try thinking about your to-do list in two categories: “big rocks” and “small rocks.” Big rocks are major tasks (writing a byline, putting together a presentation, developing a media strategy), while small rocks are less time-consuming and mentally-demanding (sending emails, scheduling meetings, reviewing a document).

With this in mind, figure out what “big rocks” are priorities and make sure you have large chunks of time to get them done. Then, sprinkle the little rocks in between—these take less focus and brainpower, so they’ll feel like a break from those bigger projects. Make sure to leave time for any unexpected tasks or a “that-took-longer-than-I-anticipated” moment.

4. Get to Know Your Brain—and Let It Work *For* You

Take planning your day (and even your week) one layer deeper by being aware of how your brain works. If you haven’t already, make a point of noticing your work preferences and your brain’s rhythms. Willpower is a finite resource, so setting yourself up for productivity will keep you from draining the coffers in the first few hours of the day.

For example, figure out what gets you focused. Do you need complete silence to get in the zone, or do you find it easier with a little background noise? Set yourself up in the right environment, whether it’s noise-canceling headphones or ducking out for a few hours at a coffee shop. Do you find yourself distracted by things like email and DMs? Shoot your teams a quick FYI and then shut ‘em down when you really need to devote your attention to a task.

Another great thing to note is what tasks come most easily to you at various times of the day. Do you find you write best in the morning? Research actually shows the creative part of your brain is most active first thing in the morning, so using the beginning of your day for writing or doing research will let you make the most of that time. The editing brain kicks in later, so try saving review projects for the afternoon. That said, you know your brain best—take note and take advantage!

5. Make Time for a Break

Here’s a challenge for you: for a solid week, keep track of how much time you’re actually giving your brain a rest during the day. That means you actually let your brain rest and slow down. Again, think about what makes you feel most relaxed and set aside 10-20 minutes in your schedule for it. Some suggestions? Take a walk (leave your phone behind!) or try a 10-minute Headspace session.

6. Know What’s *Actually* a Waste of Time

Yes, you have your to-do list to complete by the end of the week, but there are a bunch of intangibles in your day-to-day that make you great at your job. When you’re looking to increase efficiency, take some time to reflect on what’s important and what isn’t. Taking 20 minutes to craft every email? Probably a waste of time. Spending an extra 10 to send a thoughtful pitch? Definitely worth it!

7. Figure Out Where You Get Your Energy

There will be days that you run out of steam or you get stuck halfway through a project. Trying to power through doesn’t always work and can be more draining than it is effective. Instead, stop and take a minute to figure out why you’re struggling and how you can get back in the game. Personality tests like Meyers-Briggs can be a great way to help you reflect on what drives you. For example, extroverts draw energy from other people. The best strategy for an extrovert to feel reinvested in a project, then, might be to talk it through with a colleague. Introverts, on the other hand, might benefit by taking a step back and reflecting or doing some additional research.

8. Remember: it’s PR, not the ER

Your plan is bound to fall to pieces sometimes, whether in a small way or altogether. When that happens, take it in stride and remember that proactive mindset! You are capable of tackling whatever comes your way. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and remember that whatever might go wrong, it’s not the end of the world. Maintaining perspective will keep you grounded and able to act quickly and efficiently.

9. Get Enough Sleep

Maria Konnikova recently published a 3-part series in The New Yorker about sleep and how important it is. According to one of the neurologists she interviewed for the project, “most of us are operating at suboptimal levels basically always” due to our lack of sleep. This causes things like decision making, emotional reactivity and judgement to deteriorate. The best thing you can do for yourself is to get a good night’s sleep (that’s 8 hours!)

10.  Stay Positive

Because everything’s better with a positive attitude, period.

The bottom line: it might feel kind of crazy to spend so much time and energy in the name of productivity, but remember that this will save you time (and stress and frustration) in the long run.

How do you stay productive in the office? Leave us a comment or send us a tweet @LaunchSquad and let us know!

Image c/o Stocksnap

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