Amanda Pearl | Project Manager
Work smarter not harder.
One of my favorite phrases. From my parents to my soccer coaches, it’s something that my mentors have always harped on to help me be more efficient at what I was doing.
Look, sometimes work can be just plain hard. You’re learning a new role, there’s a tight deadline, there’s a presentation with a lot on the line, there’s a department restructure, you literally do manual labor all day long. Don’t get it confused, just because you are working hard, does not mean you are not working smart.
With that being said, more times than not, there are things we could be doing to be more productive at work. There are ways we can be more mindful of our personal and teams time as well as be more productive with less effort. Sounds good, right?
Below are some easy steps on how to be more productive in your workplace:
Step 1: Minimize Notifications
We live in a world with ever-changing technology. As a digital marketing agency, we work with clients, partners, and freelancers from all over the globe. We can communicate from anywhere from the palm of our hands. These possibilities come with great benefits and setbacks alike.
I get notifications constantly throughout a workday.
I set aside time to dive into something and then before I know it, I have 5 emails, 3 Basecamp mentions, and 2 chat notifications. Once you get a notification, you feel obligated to check what it is and its priority level. This can break your concentration and take you away from your own prioritized work.
Instead of combing through emails sporadically throughout a workday, it can be productive to set aside times to plan to check all notifications. This way you can hone in on finishing your tasks fully and completely and then be fully focused and engaged during your scheduled communication times.
If necessary, close out of all apps that send you notifications until you are ready to give them your full attention.
Step 2: Hard Tasks First
If you’re like me, by the end of your workday, you’re already thinking about what needs to be done tomorrow. At the end of every shift, I prioritize my workload for the next day, starting with the hard stuff.
I have found that knocking out your biggest/hardest tasks first thing when you get in to be most productive. You will feel accomplished and ready to tackle the smaller stuff. Even if you are not a morning person, most of us feel more productive during the first half of our day than the second half.
Enjoy your first cup of coffee, prioritize your tasks, and then get to it.
Step 3: Set Boundaries
Set ‘em and respect ‘em.
As a Project Manager, it is imperative for me to be available for my team members whenever they need me. With that being said, sometimes you absolutely need your space. If you have a hard deadline to meet or you simply feel like you’re falling behind and need space to work as efficiently as possible to catch up, politely set boundaries with your coworkers. If they want to schedule a meeting during this time, ask if you can skip it and receive a recap. In most circumstances, they should be understanding.
Alternatively, if your coworker is knee-deep in something and what you need can wait – wait. All team members respecting each other’s time should create a more productive atmosphere for all.
Step 4: Cutout Unproductive Meetings
We’ve all heard the phrase: “another work meeting that could have been an email.” Which holds true in some circumstances. In others, internal meetings just need to be more productive, structured, and have key takeaways. Here a few helpful tips on making meetings more productive:
- Fewer meetings – an easy one. If there’s too many meetings happening and nobody feels like they’re getting enough out of them, consider reducing the number of meetings and maximizing the productivity in each.
- Keep them short – this is where the structure comes in. Whoever schedules the meeting should provide a clear agenda of what will be discussed and what’s expected. This way the meeting can hit the ground running at its scheduled start time and have a quick, focused conversation. On the other hand, attendees should review agenda and show up on time and prepared.
- Keep them small – only invite team members who need to be there. The smaller and more focused the group, the more productive the conversation can be.
- Arrive on time – it can be frustrating arriving to a meeting on time and waiting an additional ten minutes for the rest of the attendees to arrive. Meeting start and end times should be respected by all.
- Don’t get sidetracked – it’s easy to do. Meeting times can run over because the purpose of the meeting gets skewed or sidetracked. Try to keep meetings focused and on track. If you find a meeting focus has shifted, either acknowledge that and end it, or excuse members who are no longer vital to the new conversation so they can get back to their tasks.
- Communicate and Confirm Takeaways – every meeting should provide purpose and a takeaway to those attending. Whether it’s a new process being implemented, a deadline review, or simply company updates, everyone should come out of the meeting clear of what’s expected. Otherwise, the meeting was not successful, nor productive.
Step 5: Take a Break
This one doesn’t sound productive, right? How can you get your work done if you take a stroll outside? Well, you don’t need to be a doctor to know that sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day can be incredibly detrimental to your health. It can cause a wide range of physical and mental wellness problems. Here is a great article that highlights some of the side effects as well as the benefits of an active workplace. Being sedentary too long can affect your productivity negatively which is why it’s important to take breaks.
You don’t need to fit in your entire gym routine, it can be a stroll around the block or a few trips up and down the stairs. I schedule a reminder every two hours every day to get up and move, as it can be a hard to remember to take a break when you’re busy. The mild exercise will refresh your brain and rejuvenate your energy, which in turn should increase your focus and productivity.
In conclusion, there are some very easy steps you can take to work a bit smarter than harder. If you put down the smartphone and structure and prioritize your days, tasks, and time, you are well on your way to a more productive workday.