Editor’s Note: Here at Dispatches, we are always looking for ways to help our readers do things. For some of our readers, that means helping navigate the working world, for others, it means assisting in the ever challenging question, “what’s for dinner?” For still others, it means figuring out how to balance family life with everything else. In an effort to aid in all of these endeavors, we have collaborated on this article written specifically for our readers.
If you often find yourself at the end of a workday and realize that you got pretty much nothing done for the last eight hours, trust me, you’re not alone. Being productive is not as easy as it might seem. It’s one thing to say that you should just sit down and work when you’re supposed to, but to actually do it is a different story. Things get in the way. There are distractions everywhere, even inside your own head. There are probably things you don’t even realize you’re doing which are negatively affecting your work.
Here are five tips that will help you increase your productivity while at work:
- Take Regular Breaks
Mental fatigue will destroy your ability to work effectively. You can sit at your desk for four hours straight like you think a good worker is supposed to, but it won’t work out the way you hope. After about an hour you stop being able to genuinely achieve anything. Your brain will shut down if you don’t give it a chance to rest. A good method would be to work for about fifty minutes and then take a break for fifteen. If you do this for four hours on each side of your lunch break, you’re getting about six hours a day in. So just take those fifteen minutes to go and get yourself a cup of coffee, or even switch to a different, less demanding task like checking emails or filing some papers. You don’t even need to set timers or anything, just keep an eye on the clock and roughly adhere to the fifty minutes of work and 15-minute break guideline. I guarantee you’ll be more productive than the guy who doesn’t take breaks.
- Avoid Multitasking
Multitasking is another skill that you would assume is beneficial for your workload, but it’s actually the complete opposite. And when you really think about it, that makes perfect sense. Instead of giving your full attention to a specific task, you’re giving it half. Or perhaps even less than half. If you have two separate, completely different tasks and you are switching between them, that means that your focus is constantly breaking. You are not really giving your brain a chance to settle into one specific job and you need to do that to be productive. You can only process so much information at once and if you switch your focus from something you will have to reprocess all of that information again when you switch back. If you have more than one task to complete during the day, approach one first and don’t even think about the other one until you’re finished with the first.
- Track Your time
The only way for you to know how long it takes you to complete a specific task is to actually measure it. Effective time management is a good way to ensure that you can as much work done in a day as possible. What can be measured, can be improved and this applies to your time management skills more than anything else. Time yourself doing every specific task and then in the future, you can set yourself blocks of time to ensure that you finish things as efficiently as possible. The harder you work at adhering to the time goals that you set yourself, the easier it will be in the future to actually meet these goals.
- Write Down Your Goals
Always know what you’re working towards. If you go into work every day and just go through the motions, not only is that discouraging, but it will also decrease your productivity. You’ll have a lack of motivation if you don’t have specific goals that you’re working towards and as a result, you will have less drive to actually perform at a high standard. Set yourself both short-term and long-term goals to work towards and then be strict with your commitment to reaching these goals. Take into account what I said about time management because managing your time effectively will help you reach short-term goals. You can apply this to any industry, but it’s especially important for goal-oriented jobs such as engineers. Whether it’s software, oil and gas, biomedics, if you can prove yourself as someone who sets and meets their goals, you will excel in a job like this.
Sometimes the most basic of essentials slip through the cracks when you’re trying to work as hard as possible. The importance of hydration should never be understated. Even mild dehydration will cause problems with concentration and with energy and it will make mental tasks more difficult. Coffee is something that’s popular among hard-workers, and it’s fine to drink coffee but keep in mind that it will dehydrate you. You need to drink about six glasses of water a day too. Always have a bottle of water on your desk and drink from it regularly. It will improve every aspect of your life, even outside of the workplace.
This isn’t necessarily going to be easy. You’ll have to work at all of these things to see the results. Further, not everyone will improve at the same pace. Some people will take to these tricks very easily and quickly, and for others, it will take a bit longer. Either way, these are some of the essential ingredients to having a productive workday so be sure to take them onboard.