Sarah works as an assistant producer at MSNBC. It’s a fast paced, demanding job that requires her to process information quickly and act on it. After concerns about her performance in her annual review, she commits to increasing her productivity at work. Although Sarah is driven to make the necessary changes in her life, she’s unsure where to begin. What should Sarah do? I’ve had my work performance called into question in the past and it’s never a fun situation to be in. When your work performance is negatively critiqued, what steps can you take to make sure you improve for the next time? In this article we’ll go through 5 practices I’ve implemented in my life to increase work productivity and performance. Let’s explore these techniques:
Morning exercise routine
I know I consistently harp on this but it’s really a game changer. Since incorporating an exercise routine into my mornings I’ve seen positive results in many areas of my life. Not only does my 15-20 minute routine make me feel more focused, the positive effects it has on work productivity are backed by science. Studies have shown that even a light exercise routine in the morning increases cognitive performance and temperament. Make the commitment to incorporate a 15 -20 minute morning exercise routine before work and see what a difference it makes. For tips on body weight home exercises check out my article titled “Exercise for a Fast Paced Lifestyle” (http://thestrongprofessional.com/exercise/).
Create and maintain a task list
Until recently, I used a pen and pad to keep track of all the tasks that I had outstanding and completed. Although this worked for the most part, I found it hard organizing all my completed tasks at the end of the week for my status report. One of my coworkers suggested that I start using OneNote to keep track of my tasks. OneNote is a Microsoft software package that allows you to keep checklists and archive items when they’re completed. Since I started using OneNote, I’ve noticed a significant increase in my organization and efficiency at work. I’ve provided a link for the OneNote free download below (https://www.onenote.com/download). Also, here’s a great tutorial on how to use OneNote effectively (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h07qZLLQc4I)
Once you’ve created your initial check list for the day, it’s time to start executing. One common misconception that’s extremely detrimental to productivity is that multitasking helps you get things done faster. Employers often list it in their job descriptions not knowing the negative effects it has on employees work performance. In a study conducted at Stanford University, participants were sorted on their tendency to multitask (multitaskers vs. monotaskers). As part of the study, participants were asked to complete a set of tasks that required focused cognitive thought. It was shown that the group of multitaskers performed worse than mono taskers in every single metric measured. To maximize productivity, focus on one task until it’s complete before moving on to the next task.
Take breaks throughout the day
There will be times throughout the day where you’ll feel mentally drained. This phenomenon is called “vigilance decrement” and it results in decreased efficiency and productivity at work. In a study conducted by the University of Illinois, two groups of participants were tasked with completing a difficult assignment. One group was told to work on the assignment without breaks while the other was encouraged to take a 10 minute break every 50 minutes. The group who took regular breaks was able to complete the task faster and with fewer errors than the group that worked without breaks.
I know that you may not be able to take a 10 minute break every hour but try to at least schedule a 15 minute break in the morning and afternoon. These breaks will allow your brain to recharge and refocus so that you can attack your difficult tasks. Make a commitment to take one 15 minute morning break and one 15 minute afternoon break and you’ll see your output increase.
Set your next day schedule before you leave the office
This technique has worked wonders for me. By performing this action at the end of the day, you give yourself a plan of attack for the next morning. There may be things you were working on that need to get pushed to the next day. Make sure these tasks are on the top of your next day to-do list. Organize the rest of the list on the importance of each task being completed. Because of this new habit I’m able to hit the ground running in the morning instead of having to organize my thoughts from the night before. Commit to setting a next day schedule to ensure that you start your day off right.
Bringing it all together
After receiving her negative review, Sarah jumped into action and began implementing some of the techniques we discussed in this article. She set her alarm back 30 minutes and began doing a light 15 minute yoga routine in the morning. This routine helped her focus so she would be ready for the day. When she got to the office she would review her OneNote task list and begin focusing on her most important task. When distractions arose, she would make sure she finished the task she was working on before addressing other issues.
She scheduled a 15 minute morning break at 10:30 am and another afternoon break around 3:30 pm. After her breaks she felt rejuvenated and ready to take on the rest of the day. At the end of the day, she would set aside 5-10 minutes to prioritize and write out her tasks for the next day. After a few months of this daily routine, Sarah began to receive recognition at work and was eventually promoted.
Incorporating these techniques into your daily life will help you increase your work productivity and performance. These techniques have worked for me and I’m sure that if you commit to implementing them, you’ll see positive results. We all want to be great at what we do so congratulations on taking the first step towards maximizing your effectiveness at work. Do you have any suggestions of productivity hacks that you use? I would love to hear from you.
My book recommendation for this article is the book “7 habits of highly effective people” by Stephen Covey. I’ve personally incorporated some of these habits into my daily life and have seen positive results. The simple concepts talked about in this book will have you on your way to becoming a productivity workhorse in no time. Check out the link below: