We all go through stages of work where we feel like our productivity is hindered. Sometimes it’s a mental block, while other times it could mean you’re on the brink of burnout. Burnout happens when you experience both physical and mental exhaustion, negativity and/or disinterest in work, and reduced professional output for a significant period of time. The tips shared in this article can help you both increase productivity and reduce your risk of burnout.
Distractions are a common culprit of setbacks while you’re trying to stay productive at work. The average employee gets interrupted 50 to 60 times per day, many of which can be avoided. To do so, it’s important to define your distractions, set boundaries, and minimize multitasking.
For example, it’s almost never a good idea to work from your couch while watching t.v., or in bed. Instead, when working from home, define your workspace. This helps you associate certain places in your house with work. In addition, you’ll be able to leave work with a clear conscience and not feel the need to work in bed or while eating dinner with your family.
Set boundaries with your spouse, partner or roommate if you identify your personal life as potentially distracting. Subtly let these folks know what your working hours are and be transparent with your schedule. Once you’re on the same page, they’ll know the best times to call, message, or text you (e.g. on your lunch break or after working hours).
Another cause of diminished productivity is multitasking. This is because your mind isn’t entirely focused on one task at a time. At work, each task requires your full attention, so by trying to do multiple tasks at once, you’re actually creating more work for yourself.
Eliminate most of your multitasking and organize your email inbox. We spend too much time sifting through emails and the thought alone of 76 unread emails stresses us out. Not to mention, answering several emails leads you down paths where you tackle too many tasks throughout the day. Archive week old emails, set specific times of day to respond to emails and reduce notifications you get when people respond to calendar invitations.
Prioritize and Strategize
Most of us simply can’t keep track of every task throughout a 40-hour work week. Your time management is essential for productivity in the workplace. Without time management, we easily get lost on certain tasks and neglect other important ones. Using a journal can help keep your priorities straight to remain productive.
Start your day by creating a plan of action that aligns with your goals. List out your major tasks for the day and how they will help you achieve a desired outcome. In doing so, you’ll be able to determine the most effective use of your time. The most important task should be first to guarantee that it gets done.
The Best Self Journal offers a guided solution. It offers time blocking schedules to help organize your time. You’ll notice that time blocking sets boundaries for yourself so you don’t overcompensate on a single task. It also has places for your goals and key tasks for the day so that you can build a schedule around what matters most. 15 minutes of journaling can save you hours each day.
Work in Sprints
We’ve all heard that slow and steady wins the race from the fable about the Tortoise and the Hare. When it comes to work, however, it’s more productive to work in sprints because it allows us to hyper-focus, then relax. By working in sprints followed by more breaks, we can boost our productivity in the workplace.
The average professional switches context every 11.5 minutes. Each time this occurs, it takes time to refocus. To avoid this, you need to batch similar tasks together based on priority and complete them all at the same time. Keeping your mind on one subject at a time allows you to enter a flow state, which maximizes your productivity. (People who report the greatest amount of flow also report being the happiest.)
After sprinting hard towards the completion of one task, rest becomes equally as important. You can reward yourself with a one-minute stretch or coffee break or by going on a walk. The point is that you will stay motivated while working on your task if you get something that releases endorphins at the end. These breaks also allow your brain to relax before recalibrating for the next big project.
Leverage Delegation and Time-Saving Technologies
Two tools that allow you to achieve maximum productivity are delegation and technology. By harnessing the power of each, you will have more time to focus on the big picture and reduce your workload.
No single person can do it all and you don’t have to. Delegation is the act of giving responsibilities to another team member. It’s a great way to empower people to use their strengths and grow while utilizing your strengths elsewhere.
Employees can also communicate with one another and find out what tasks are best for each person. Ask yourself these questions when you look at your tasks for the week:
- Would this task allow somebody else to grow?
- Is this a repeat task that will show up again?
- Could this task be delegated to another person or team?
By delegating, you’re saving yourself time. And by handing off the right tasks to the right people, you’re helping them develop; it’s win-win.
To help organize your sprints, try using a tool that can help manage your workflow. Take the kanban view on Trello or Airtable for example. It lets you visualize with cards, boards, and lists to manage ongoing projects. You can even assign team members to certain tasks and pass them off. In doing so, you can see the completion of one item before jumping into another.
Know When to Say No
As a leader, you will constantly be pulled in varying directions. Instead of trying to do everything, you need to focus on less if you want to stay productive. In the grand scheme of things, saying “no” to certain things allows you to say “yes” to the ones that matter most to you.
Saying no starts with being fully transparent. Rather than simply declining without explanation, you can say “I would love to help, but I have a prior commitment with the marketing team that requires my full attention.” Most people are reasonable and will understand if you tell them why you can’t help with their request.
Offer an Alternative
Offering an alternative solution is a powerful way to give value while removing yourself from the situation. If you don’t have time for a call, you can suggest that they send an email with questions for you to answer. Another option is to offer resources or introductions to people who may be interested in helping. These will show your team that you are a team player, even if you can’t fulfill a request yourself.
Finally, it’s important to hold your ground and resist changing your mind. To avoid guilt, it’s important to have a clearly defined mission. That way, everything you say “yes” to will tie into something that moves you towards your mission. If it doesn’t, then it’s taking away from your productivity.
Less Burnout and More Productive Days
Overcoming stress and staying productive are some of the biggest hurdles that we face at work. We constantly have to find the motivation within ourselves to keep pushing forward despite expectations and obstacles. Acknowledge your distractions, work in sprints, and don’t be afraid to say “no” when you have to.
Your mental and physical state always comes first. Increasing efficiency and productivity will have the added benefit of giving you more control over your day-to-day life. By keeping these steps in mind, you can transform your work and personal life dramatically.