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A study by The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that while American workers now spend longer at work (8.8 hours) than they spend sleeping, workplace productivity isn’t improving much. It clearly indicates that putting in more hours at work isn’t going to help increase office productivity.
Being more productive at work isn't rocket science, there are some simple strategies that you can implement at work. Let’s take a look at them.
1. Create a Proactive To-Do List
If you don’t have the freedom of managing your own time and are constantly bombarded with meeting invites, conference calls and work your colleagues need done urgently, it’s a sign that things are going wrong.
You can ask your manager to inform you about meetings in advance if possible. Tell them that it will help you to walk into the meeting more prepared and stress-free.
Try to be respectful of your fellow worker's time. If something is urgent, put forward a plea rather than an order – “Hey, I need that work report done by 4 p.m. today. Would you be able to make time for it and complete it today?”
“If you have any other urgent work, can I help you in that so we can get the report done today?”
When you have the freedom to create proactive to-do lists rather than reactive to-do lists, you will certainly be more engaged and productive.
2. Have a Distraction-Free Work Environment
According to a survey, 58% of high performing employees said they needed more quiet work spaces and 54% find that their office environment is full of distractions. These distractions could be colleagues making phone calls, one-to-one conversations conducted where people are working, and unwanted colleague conversations.
In today’s workplace, most people are working in jobs where they need to think and be creative. With constant distractions, that could be tough and could even make you feel stressed.
In light of this, try to have a distraction-free work time where you work on your own tasks with no phone calls and no conversations. Noise-cancelling wireless headphones, like the ones shown here, are popping up in companies everywhere, especially where open offices are prevalent.
Just grind away at your to-do list. You can do this by putting this block of time on your calendar and share it with your colleagues and if possible, your managers. If not, you could always ask them to wait for some time while you finish off your tasks and then get back to them.
You could fix this time for 2 hours in the morning when you are more productive or in the afternoon.
We all know how much more work we can get done if only we could escape from everyone and get those 2 distraction-free hours.
3. Focus on Solutions, not Problems
An article on workplace communication shows that we spend 80% of our work-related conversation time on discussing problems of the past. 15% of time is spent on the present and a mere 5% spent discussing solutions.
When you are constantly involved in thinking about who to blame for what happened, you are unknowingly creating an environment with too much emphasis on problems than on solutions.
It doesn’t take long for this to turn into a toxic environment where rifts, blame-games and misunderstandings constantly ensue.
While you can’t ignore the problems, you can help look at it in a positive way. You can even encourage your colleagues to focus on finding solutions. This culture will help people come forward if they make mistakes rather than engage in hiding them and worsening the problem at hand, which often leads to more work and lost productivity.
4. Keep your Workspace Clean and Bright
You might be thinking how does productivity have anything to do with your work desk, right? But there are studies that prove otherwise. Below are certain pointers you can take care of to enhance workplace productivity.
An article on NewDayOffice.com shows that natural light is beneficial to workers and is found to decrease depression and improve energy, mood, alertness and productivity.
You could keep the windows open when you work and make sure there is enough lighting to keep you working on your tasks or invest in a sunlight desk lamp. Here’s an article that talks more about 5 awesome office lighting solutions in your workspace.
What would you prefer more? Working at a clean desk or desk with heaps of paper lying on it? Get rid of unwanted papers and items from your desk and storage areas. Looking at it will only make you more stressed. You could even have a clean-drive every week where you either file stuff that is wanted or discard things that are not needed. Check out this cubicle transformation to a clutter-free, well-organized office cubicle.
Smells And Plants
Having flowers and indoor plants enhance problem-solving skills and creativity and thus improve productivity in the workplace. There are many small plants available that you can place on your office desk like mini succulents, two layer bamboo plants, etc. that will also help purify the air and enhance productivity. Here’s an article about 20 indoor plants that can improve your office environment.
5. Keep Rethinking your To-Do List
We all make to-do lists be it on the paper, mobile or laptops. We keep adding and subtracting things from it based on our daily schedules of if some urgent work pops up. But what we hardly ever do is take time to review it every week.
Did we get stuff done as we should or did we spend most of our time working on things that weren’t in our to-do list? Is there some time period where our to-do list starts turning unproductive because our energy levels have dropped?
You need to ask these questions to yourself at the end of every week. You will find out many things that need to be changed to have a to-do list tweaked to increase office productivity. For example, you might figure out that you need to schedule your work in batches or make all calls at one time.
The daunting task of how to increase office productivity isn’t a one-size-fits-all thing. You will have to try and test different approaches and strategies to see what works best for you. But starting out by trying the above simple strategies will be a good way to figure out how to achieve the optimum level of productivity for success!
Shyamal is the Founder of SmartTask, an online work management tool that's helping teams be more productive by having clarity on who's doing what by when. Has a penchant for researching and sharing strategies that could benefit a team's productivity.