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Mar 20 2012

Five tips to work more productively

firstline-icon-transparentOur world, with its modern convenience designed to give us more leisure time, has paradoxically encouraged a cycle of consumerism that has left us with less time for the seemingly small, but important things in life - time to focus on oneself, or time to relax with family and friends. This means it is increasingly important to work smarter, not harder.

Finding ways to work more productively means you can accomplish more when you sit at your desk, effectively freeing up time and head space to plan for a work-life balance - and to find other ways to work even smarter.

Here are my top five tips for working more productively:

1. Plan your work: You need to plan your work in order to work productively. Identify what you hope to accomplish in the month ahead, and then break it down into tasks and slot them into weekly and daily to do lists. This means you’ll arrive at work with a clear idea of what you want to achieve each day... no wasting time wondering what you need to do each day - you can just get stuck in and do it!

2. Prioritise your work: Take your planning one step further and prioritise the work you need to do. It’s human nature to put off things we don’t like doing. But a growing pile of unpleasant tasks can soon feel overwhelming and lead to all sorts of procrastination tactics. Delegate what you can and tackle the important stuff first to prevent a backlog of urgent or important work.

3. Work to your power times: We all have natural energy cycles and work more efficiently and effectively at certain times of the day. If you’re a morning person, keep your mornings clear of meetings and ask someone to screen your calls so you can use this time to get your creative or important work done. Switch off distractors, including email and social media to allow you to work uninterrupted and plan meetings or sales calls for the afternoon. Whatever your natural cycle, find ways to structure your work to take advantage of this.

4. Break intimidating jobs into smaller tasks: Large or complicated jobs can feel intimidating and that uneasy feeling you have about the job can set you on an unproductive pattern of procrastination. The easiest way to overcome this is to break intimidating jobs down into smaller tasks. Its much easy to get started if your task is:

  • Research presentation topic
  • Draw a mind map outline of the presentation structure
  • Write rough draft of presentation...

Than is it to:

  • Prepare 60-minute presentation.

5. Reward yourself: We all work more effectively if there is some reward for our hard work, so plan some rewards into your schedule - whether it is a five minute catch-up at Facebook for every 30 minutes spent working, a chai latte when you’ve completed a task... It is surprisingly easy to con yourself into working smarter when there are little rewards along the way to keep you motivated. So don’t be shy about adding a few motivating rewards to your day.

And finally - take regular breaks. This isn’t an extra tip - it’s compulsory!

Short breaks help to ensure you remain focused and longer breaks (weekends and regular holidays) ensure that you remain fresh, motivated and productive. It’s easy to fool yourself that you’re still productive working 60-hour weeks - but chances are you’re putting in more hours but working less productively (as well as on the way to a burn out) if you do this on a regular basis.

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