At times, we’re all guilty of being unproductive. Whether it’s because you’re struggling to focus on a task at hand or you have multiple deadlines competing for attention, it can be a challenge to get back in the right frame of mind. But there are small steps you can take to boost your productivity and get back on track.
When deadlines or important meetings are looming, it’s easy to feel like you should give all your attention to a task without a break. But it can do more harm than good. In fact, a break can increase your overall productivity.
A break can be particularly useful if you’re struggling to come up with a solution for a problem or are in need of some inspiration. Taking a break can help you come back with a clearer mind and a fresh perspective. If you can, getting some exercise on a break, even a quick walk, can deliver even more benefits.
In your working day, try to schedule in breaks alongside your usual routine. And if you’re finding it difficult to concentrate, don’t be afraid to take five minutes away, it could be just what you need to be able to tackle the job.
When you’re busy working it’s easy to start snacking on the ‘wrong’ types of food. From a sugar-filled snack bar to a bag of crisps, a lot of convenience food doesn’t help your concentration. However, some options will give your brain a boost while still being tasty.
Blueberries are a great example. The antioxidants can keep your mind fresh and improve focus without a sugar rush. Other options to reach for while at work include avocados, dark chocolate, and nuts. Filled with valuable nutrients, healthy snacks can give you a boost when you need it most.
We all have an environment that we work best in. For some, having background music on can improve concentration, others will struggle to get the job done if there’s clutter around. Learning what works for you and creating the optimal environment can put you in the right frame of mind from the get-go.
If you’re in an open office environment, this can be more difficult. Thinking of your workspace as your bubble and adjusting that to suit your style can help. For those that work from home, creating a dedicated space that’s designed for work can give you separation between personal and working mindsets.
Technology and modern working expectations means it can feel like a million small distractions are pulling you away from work.
You just get into the swing of things and your phone rings. And then an email comes through. And then a colleague asks to have a quick catch-up. Stopping and starting can mean it takes far longer to get each task done and reduces productivity. Where possible, shutting these distractions down can mean you give the task your full attention. Logging out of emails for an hour can help you get more done and, in many cases, won’t harm your performance overall. It also means when you come back to those distractions, be it a call with a client or a team meeting, you can give it your full focus too.
Along the same lines of minimising distractions, avoiding multitasking can be a useful way to boost productivity too.
Multitasking is sometimes seen as a positive thing, allowing you to get several jobs done at once and reduce the time spent on them. At times, that’s true. Yet, multitasking can also mean jobs take longer to complete and they aren’t given the attention they deserve, providing more opportunities for mistakes to creep in. Having to go back to check or correct work will inevitably harm productivity and potentially cause further issues too.
Where possible, give each task your full attention, ticking it off before you move on to the next item on your to-do list.
Going into work with a clear plan of what’s ahead can give you the time to think through tasks, get prepared and head in ready to get started. Whether you spend ten minutes at the end of a day preparing for the following day or use your commute to set out a schedule, it’s a step that can help you use your time more effectively.
Of course, things don’t always go to plan and there will be tasks, queries and other things that pop up during the day to throw you off course at times. But having a plan in the back of your mind can help you prioritise your workload.
When you’ve got a lot on at work, it can affect your personal life too, from actively checking email to thinking about what needs to be done in the back of your mind. However, making an effort to switch off outside of usual working hours is a step that can help you feel more focused when you’re at work, improving productivity.