Sitting with my laptop open and a steaming coffee at my side, gazing into the distance pondering over how many episodes of my latest Netflix binge I’ve got left, is a far too regular occurrence. On the days when I’ve got a to-do list as long as my arm I’m pretty awesome at knocking through it at the speed of light, focusing on the task at hand and getting sh*t done; when I’ve got more time to think, plan and leisurely work through my list, it’s another story entirely. Working from home has its pros and its cons, but being about three paces away from my kitchen is definitely a downside – I spend far too long making cups of tea and opening the cupboards to see what there is to much on than I’d probably care to admit. Whether you’re self employed, spend regular days working from home, or simply need to ensure you’re as efficient as possible in the office, there are some simple tricks I’ve learned to get the most out of your working day. If you need to up your game and be a touch more productive, here are a few things that have undoubtedly helped me feel like a boss come 6pm every day.
CREATE A GREAT WORKING ENVIRONMENT
The number one thing to get right is your working environment; you can’t be productive in a windowless, messy, uninspiring space, so make as many changes as you need to until you feel like it’s a place that you *want* to be. For me it was about injecting a splash of colour (yellow is known to be energizing) and lots of greenery (plants are thought to aid concentration and productivity,) alongside some motivational quotes and fab wall art. I honestly look forward to stepping into my office every single day as I find it an incredibly comforting and energizing place to be (read more about my office makeover here.) Although it frequently gets a bit messy because of the endless amounts of product that land on my doorstep, I invested in some great storage to ensure the clutter is away from sight – and boy does it make a difference. It’s true what they say: messy desk, messy mind, so do your utmost to surround yourself with inspiration rather than mess (even if that’s simply putting a pot plant in your cubicle.)
GET INTO A DAILY ROUTINE
I can’t express the importance of finding a daily routine enough, especially if you’re self employed or work from home. Yes, it’s easy to spend the morning working from the sofa in your PJs while listening to Holly and Phil giggle away to some innuendo, but it doesn’t enable you to be as productive as you need to be. Setting an alarm to wake you up at a reasonable time, getting dressed and being at your desk ready to face the day is the first step in mentally preparing you to be as efficient as possible. When I bumble about I find it far harder to get into a mindset of productivity, which can throw me off kilter for the remainder of the day; as a result I set my alarm for 7.45am, make myself a cup of coffee, practice some yoga, have a shower and find myself ready to work by 9.30am at the latest. It’s made the world of difference and really helps me to focus on working through my daily tasks and obligations.
WRITE DOWN YOUR DAILY PRIORITIES
Starting each day with a fresh to-do list may seem a touch excessive, but I promise it will help to clear your mind of any unnecessary thoughts and focus your attention on what absolutely needs to be achieved over the next few hours. I have two main lists – an overarching one which includes all of my work related tasks or wishes I need to tick off at some point in the near future, as well as a daily one which includes more urgent tasks or priorities I know I need to spend time working through. Kicking off each day by clarifying exactly what you need to do will not only enable you to focus, but gives your day structure (as well as a small pleasure every time you tick something off.)
AVOID ENDLESS MEETINGS
We’ve all worked in those companies that like to have meetings about meetings just for the sake of meetings. Filling up your diary with endless appointments can make you feel super important (check me with my super busy life!) but it also absolutely drains the time available to get work done. Learning to say no or question what the purpose of the meeting is will ensure every slot in your diary is there for a purpose, not just a jolly; and if you don’t think the meeting adds value to your role, or you can’t add value to the meeting, just decline and explain you’ve got tasks that need your attention instead. As a blogger I’ve learned to say no to the majority of meetings, preferring to only catch up when there’s something new to discuss and compiling as many as possible into a singular day – and it’s given me so much more time back as a result.
FOCUS ON ONE TASK AT A TIME
How many times a day do you find yourself working on a presentation, checking your emails and flicking back and forth between spreadsheets? According to research, multi-tasking is actually a myth – it reduces overall productivity and intellect, because we’re never focusing our attention completely on a singular task. I’m incredibly guilty of stopping mid sentence to check my emails, but I’m making a concerted effort to close the window and only check once an hour so I can focus on the task in hand. If you stop trying to do everything at once I promise you’ll be done far speedily than otherwise.
SMALL TASKS, SMALL REWARDS
If you struggle to stay focused for long, reward yourself with short breaks after every small task has been completed. Rather than trying to get a whole project complete or an entire presentation finished, I prefer to promise myself a cup of tea or a snack break when I’ve got to the end of a particular section. It gives me motivation to crack on without feeling overwhelmed or like it could be an eternity until the next opportunity for a fresh brew. Sitting at your desk for eight hours a day is unhealthy for both your body and mind, so take short breaks and give yourself little rewards whenever possible.
WALK AWAY WHEN YOU NEED TO RECHARGE
The biggest lesson I’ve learned over my entire career is that when your brain just isn’t flowing, or you don’t seem to be able to get the task completed in the way you want, just walk away. Whether it’s popping out for a cup of coffee, going for a walk or just breathing in some fresh air, sometimes fifteen minutes away from your desk is all you need to refresh. Often forcing yourself to be creative or pour words onto a screen is counterproductive, so a bit of space can make all the difference. It’s also important to notice when you just need a day off, rather than just forcing yourself to work through a sluggish period and produce less than your best work; many employers are super flexible if you explain you just need to refresh, while the self employed have got it easier than most.
So there you have it – relatively simple ways to increase your productivity and stop you feeling like you’ve achieved next to nothing at the end of the day. Do you have any other tips to help increase efficiency?
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