What a day?
I couldn’t get anything valuable done today. Now, either I don’t deliver my tasks on time or I have to finish them when I get home.
How often do you have days when you feel like you have spent all day at work but haven’t quite accomplished much? That’s 8+ hours for most people.
It’s not that we don’t have any intention to do the work. It happens because we don’t have right systems and mindsets in place.
Why can’t we get desired work done even when we have a full intention of doing it?
It could be due to number of reasons but some that I have experienced in my life and see other people struggle with everyday are:
- Poor Control Over Distractions (Emails, IMs, meetings, chit chat, internet browsing etc.)
- Poor Time Management
- Low Energy Levels
- Poor Task Management
Work is always going to be there but we can certainly define boundaries on what is considered done at the end of the day.
This post is for you if you want to get real work done at work and have a sense of accomplishment at the end of every workday. Additionally, this post isn’t just about managing your time efficiently because that’s only one piece of the puzzle.
Here are seven simple but super effective strategies that I use to get lot of work done during work hours which eventually helps me to spend time on things I like to do outside of work.
#1 Break Fast at Home
If you aren’t a breakfast person, you can skip this point.
Whether you wake up early or not, make sure to wake up early enough to eat or pack your breakfast at home. Even though waking up early has many benefits but we aren’t going to focus on that today. For now, what matters most is where you eat your breakfast.
Stop wasting your precious time at coffee shop line ups and use that time to make progress on your biggest tasks. It can take you anywhere between 10-20 minutes to get breakfast and settle down. Why not use that 20 minutes to get work done and also stay healthy at the same time?
Don’t be one of those people who come to work, drop of their stuff and go to get a coffee and end up spending 20 minutes.
Have your breakfast at home or prepare it to take it with you to work.
#2 Eat the Biggest Frog First
In his book “Eat That Frog”, Brian Tracy recommends to eat the biggest frog first thing in the morning.
Don’t worry, we aren’t eating any real frogs here people. It just means working on your biggest and important task when your willpower and mental energy is at all-time high.
In order to implement this strategy, you first need to know what your biggest frogs are, so you can tackle them when you are full of mental and physical energy. Take 5-10 minutes at start of every work day (before you open your email) to decide your important and biggest tasks. Select one to work on.
Pro Tip – For your biggest frogs, select tasks you don’t like but have to do. Save your favorite tasks for later in the day when you are low on energy.
Tackle your boring but most important task as soon as you start your workday.
#3 Limit Chit Chat
In 2014 CareerBuilder did a study on 5000 professionals to find biggest productivity killers. Forty-two percent of workers admitted that they spend at least an hour gossiping with their colleagues.
Nothing wrong with catching up with colleague but time we spend in useless chit chatting is taken away from our evenings or weekends. It’s fascinating to see how many people spend 15-20 minutes or sometimes even half an hour talking to their colleagues first thing in the morning. This is the time when we can make huge progress on our most important goals or tasks.
I’m not suggesting you to be antisocial but you should decide if any given chit chatting session is helping you to make progress towards tasks or goals you need to get done. If not, avoid it all costs.
Limit chit chat to minimum and use lunch hours and after work events to catch up with your colleagues.
#4 Control Distractions
Distractions eat most of our time and prevent us from achieving our goals on any given day. Most people just gave up on distractions and don’t do much to fight or get rid of them.
Is it really possible to control distractions in our work environment? Absolutely. We have more control than we think.
Of Course, there are distractions where we have very little control on. For instance, your boss shows up at your desk and called you into his/her office while you are in middle of something.
We have a full control over other types of distractions and most of them are electronic distractions i.e. emails, instant messaging, internet browsing, conference calls etc. Let me show you solutions for biggest workplace distractions such as emails, IMs and meetings.
Email: Biggest time waster and as per studies done, average US worker spends 6.5 hours checking emails every day. Yes, you can check email more than three times a day but please don’t keep flipping back to it every five minutes unless your only job is to reply to emails.
I would recommend to limit it to six times but if you can’t, check it at top of every hour. Most importantly, turn off all email notifications except for emails listed with high priority.
IM (Instant Messaging): Set times when you aren’t available via instant messaging tool. Just set your status to busy and it will help you to cut down incoming messages by more than 50%. Trust me, it works as I have tested it so many times. People respect your time when you respect it yourself in the first place.
Meetings: You don’t need to attend every meeting you are invited to. Yes, that’s right. Whenever you get a meeting invite, see if there’s an agenda. If not, decline it and get in touch with meeting organizer to let them know why you have declined it.
If there’s an agenda, look through it and decide if your contribution will add any value to the subject being discussed. If the answer is no, get in touch with meeting organizer to tell them you aren’t the right person for this meeting and decline the meeting. This works great and will not cause you any trouble.
Avoid distractions generated from emails, IMs and meetings at all costs.
#5 Find a Place to Hide
Office spaces are full of distractions these days which makes it super hard to get real work done especially if you don’t have a personal office. Sometimes leaving your desk space to work from a meeting room, coffee shop or different floor is the best thing to do. Of Course, this technique only works if you work from a laptop and also not required to be on your desk all the time.
Pro Tip – Meeting rooms aren’t only for meetings. If room is free, book a meeting with yourself and work from there.
If you are finding it hard to focus on your task due to distractions at the office, grab your laptop and go somewhere you can at least focus for 30 minutes with full intensity on a task you are working on.
#6 Avoid Afternoon Slump
When does our productivity takes a biggest hit? I bet it’s afternoon.
I see two reasons for that. First, we been going for few hours by time we hit noon. Second, a delicious and unhealthy lunch contributes to the slump.
You can certainly be more productive during afternoons if you take care of following things:
- Take lunch break away from your desk. Don’t eat and work. C’mon, just take 15 mins to eat properly. You deserve it.
- If possible, pack your lunch from home. I discovered that restaurant food makes me more tired and sleepy during afternoons whereas home cooked food keeps me energized. If you absolutely have to eat out, avoid foods loaded with salt, sugar and fat.
- If possible, take a quick 5-10 nap. Use your car, coffee shop near work, a library (if one close to work) or restroom (weird but this works great)
Eat healthy lunch (home cooked if possible), eat away from your desk and nap if possible.
#7 Develop an External Brain
How many things you are storing in your head right now? I can guarantee that you have anything between 20-30 things you need to get done at some point.
If you don’t trust me, take out a piece of paper or word document and start writing/typing all of the things you have any intention to do.
How many times you become overwhelmed by the number of things you have to do? And how many times you miss deadlines or emails due to overwhelm.
This is where task manager can really make your life easier. It can work as your personal assistant if configured properly. If you are new to task management, it matters less what you use. You can start with any popular option such as Asana, Todoist, Omnifocus etc. I personally use Omnifocus and it really helped me to overcome overwhelm since I started using it.
Here are few examples of what you can use task manager for:
- Capture everything you need to do in a task manager. Example, car repair, weekly status report, presentation preparation, child birthday preparation etc.
- Create a task for emails you need to process later and don’t leave them unread in your inbox. You can come back to it with fresh mind and decide how to process it
- Use it every morning to pick tasks you are going to focus on that day
Stop keeping everything in your head and use task manager as your external brain. Leave your brain to generate more ideas and solutions.
What your day looks like when you get real work done at work?
- Eat breakfast at home
- Start working on your biggest most important task (biggest frog) as soon as you get to your workspace/office
- Avoid meaningless chit-chat during work hours especially in the morning
- Curb distractions which originates from emails, IMs and meeting
- Find a place away from desk where you can work without distractions for few minutes
- Eat healthy lunch and nap (if possible) to avoid afternoon slump
- Track everything you do in a task manager. (Connect with me if you want to learn how to use a task manager)
I can guarantee you that by using these strategies, you can easily double your productivity and get real work done in half the time as compared to what you normally spend.
What’s your biggest struggle to get work done during work hours? Let’s chat.