I’ve been there before and I know you have to. You sit at your desk for eight hours and you finish up a hard day’s work, only to realize you’ve got nothing done all day.
One unproductive day at work is not really something that you should be ashamed of, a lot of things out of your control can contribute to it, but it you’re always unproductive it’s a problem.
It can get you a number of different ways. You could just feel like you can’t focus, you could be making a ton of mistakes or you could be finding reasons not to do what you’re supposed to do.
Procrastination is a pretty awful thing. You think you have all day but then before you know it the clock has struck five and you’ve just wasted a lot of time.
Being unproductive is unfulfilling, it’s frustrating and it could land you in some hot water. The worst thing though, is that even though you’re resisting work you’re probably not having fun.
It’s miserable to be that distracted and unfocused. But it can be overcome. Here’s five tips for increasing your productivity at work.
#1 Stop Multitasking
This is the thing about us humans, we always think that we are capable of far more than we actually are.
If we have a couple of different jobs that we need to do during the day, it seems like it would be more efficient to just split the time over the two of them.
But that’s not really how it works. Progress requires focus. If you want something to get done quickly, you need to give all of your time to it.
If you start working on one thing and then switch to something else after an hour, you are forcing yourself out of the mindset of the original task.
Once you return to it, your thoughts will have to be rearranged again. Imagine if you’re trying to build a tower using ice cubes.
You need to stack them all on top of each other straight away. If you put one down, leave it for a while and then go back to put another one on top, the first will have melted a little bit.
It will take you longer to get to the height that you want. This same principle applies to any task. Your focus deteriorates if you redirect it.
Here’s a bit of advice on how to stop doing this, but it’s pretty straightforward really. One task at a time.
#2 Eat Healthy Foods
Never underestimate the importance of your diet. It will impact every single element of your life and it can impede you in a variety of ways.
Giving attention to what we eat is something that a lot of us will forget to do, especially when we’re trying to get work done.
But really you’re just shooting yourself in the foot because your brain needs nourishment to function. Concentration, cognitive reasoning, logic, all of these are affected by a bad diet.
This doesn’t mean that you should just eat anything while you’re working, having a chocolate bar at your desk isn’t going to cut it.
Junk food actually decreases your productivity. Eat three square meals per day and if you want to have snacks in your office, make sure they’re healthy snacks.
Eat things like fish, leafy vegetables, nuts and flax seeds. All of these things are linked to a healthy mind.
And perhaps the best brain food out there is blueberries. Blueberries are basically a superfood and are packed with antioxidants which will stimulate the flow of blood and oxygen to your brain.
Also, drink plenty of water. Have a bottle or a glass of it at your desk at all times and regularly refill it.
#3 Turn off Notifications
If I wrote this list a decade ago this probably wouldn’t be one of the things that I’d have to talk about.
But it’s 2018 and here we are. Smartphones are amazing, I think the rise of them has been a massively positive impact on society, but there is some negative elements.
Phones are extremely distracting. Of course, phones have been around for a long time and have always distracted people by ringing, but it’s different with social media.
There’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, God knows how many others and you’re almost certainly signed up for at least one.
These social media apps like to keep you updated on every little thing and so your phone is constantly buzzing.
The urge to look is always there, and even if you resist it, the fact that you know something knew has happened is going to be on your mind. And that’s a distraction in itself.
It’s best to just turn off notifications from social media. You can leave text notifications and phone calls available in case of emergency but the others are just counter-productive.
#4 Set Daily Goals
You should have overall goals for your career, that’s an entirely different think you need to think about, but setting goals every single day will help you a lot too.
Having to do the same thing over and over every single day gets extremely monotonous and frustrating, but you can work it to your advantage.
If you start the day knowing what you want to have finished when it gets to clock out time, then that will push you to meet that goal.
Also if you are working on a particularly big project and you feel like there’s no end in sight, you can focus on the small picture instead.
Instead of thinking of it as one giant, intimidating job, think of it instead as a series of smaller, individual jobs.
It becomes way less scary. If it feels like you’re not making progress it becomes much harder to focus on something. It’s hard to convince yourself to work on something that feels hopeless.
This is an important mindset to get yourself into for certain jobs. If you’re an engineer you’ll encounter a lot of projects that require this line of thinking.
So if you’re trying to find work in something like the oil and gas engineering industry then you should be trying to rewire your brain to approach large tasks this way.
#5 Take Breaks
If you think that the best way to be productive is to just work for hours and hours on end, then you’ve been misguided.
Despite this list centering around getting as much work done as possible, overworking your brain will get your nowhere fast.
Your productivity actually starts to wane after less than an hour. You can probably get about 45-50 minutes of good solid work done before your focus will start to inevitably waver.
What you should do is operate on a schedule of some sort. Work for 45 minutes and then take a 15 minute break. Treat every hour this way.
These breaks can be whatever you want as long as they don’t tax your brain. You can go for a short walk, make a cup of coffee, check your emails, or even switch to a lesser task.
Something that you can do quickly and easily while also letting your brain relax and prepare for the next hour.
It might seem like the antithesis to what you’re trying to achieve, but it will definitely help in the long run.
If none of this stuff works, there might be a deeper problem going on with you. One of the main reasons why people are unproductive at work is because they have no passion for their job.
If this is the case with you, it might be worth your time to consider a different career path. Even if it’s not necessarily your dream job, you can always find passion somewhere.
Regardless of that though, productivity is tough and you will have to put effort into changing any bad habits. These steps should be helpful.
About the Author
Angela J. Mattson's superpower is her ability to organize anything (including cluttered desks, over-stuffed email boxes, business processes, and more). Her work is part business process consultant and part business therapist.