Productivity is a word that tends to get thrown around a lot, but most middle managers only use it in sentences asking the average employee to hunker down and get to it. Few people actually give you tips on how to achieve that quality of being able to produce good results consistently from your work.
In the modern world, productivity is a common ideal. It does not have to be the measure of much work you can accomplish in your job. Productivity can also be about completing the things you need to do at home, or even during your leisure time. The point is that you can get more things done in the same time or even less.
Without further ado, we present 50 quick productivity tips that you can apply to your daily life. Note that while we used the word “work” here, in practice these tips can be used to organize and slap rockets onto your home and social life. And so, we begin.
Things To Do Before Work
This section presents tips that are intended to help you complete your tasks in an organised manner through proper preparation. “Fortune favours the prepared mind”, as Louis Pasteur said, so keep that quote in mind as you peruse this array of pre-work prep tips.
1 Make a list of your tasks for the day.
A simple checklist of the things you need to do can be surprisingly helpful at keeping you on track. Aside from ensuring that you don’t forget to do any of the written tasks, when you see how much left you have to do, you can get serious about work. This can also help you avoid forgetting something
and embarrassing yourself.
2 Check your agenda for the next few weeks.
There are times when tasks that have deadlines weeks from the current date will require preparation. As such, it is the best policy to always know what you should be doing within the next few weeks, so you can manage your time and resources properly. Remember to stay flexible, as changes can happen within those few weeks.
3 Use an app to keep track of your checklist.
If you have a smartphone, put it to work and use it to keep track of the things that need doing for the day. Apps like these can also help you prepare your schedule for weeks in advance. Remember that a smartphone is only as smart as the person who is using it.
4 Set up reminders for meetings and tasks.
When you set up a reminder on your mobile phone you are reducing the risk that you will run late or miss appointments and tasks altogether. Setting a reminder can also take a load off of your mind and allow you to concentrate better on the task at hand. Do make sure that your reminder ringtone won’t bother nearby people, or you could be lessening their productivity.
5 Prepare all the materials that you need.
Though arguably this can be considered part of the work that you do, for argument’s sake let us put it in this category. Having all the tools and supplies close at hand makes it easy to complete tasks because you won’t have to break your concentration (or spend time) going to get something.
6 Set your mobile phone on silent or vibrate-only mode.
Loud ringtones don’t just break your concentration but also that of the people around you, unless you have your own office or something to that effect. Besides, it would be a bit embarrassing if you were surprised by your own mobile phone. We don’t quite recommend turning your mobile phone off because there may be urgent matters that can only come to your attention through your mobile phone.
7 Have a personal SIM and a work SIM.
If you can afford it (and if you have a high volume of message / call traffic on your mobile phone), then get different SIM cards for your work and personal lives. You could put them in different mobile phone, or on a single dual SIM phone, or just swap them in and out as needed. The idea is that you pay attention when the work phone rings, and can choose to ignore the personal phone until you have the free time to check it.
8 Choose neutral ringtones.
This is a little less obvious. Using humorous ringtones or ringtones that carry some sort of emotional significance for you can be distracting. It can also bother nearby people. Using “neutral” ringtones – ringtones that simply notify and do not entertain – means that there won’t be emotional baggage
with every ring, and you’re less likely to bother other people.
9 Short message and reminder ringtones are best.
Ringtones that last a few seconds at most are best. Imagine if you left your phone on your desk while you stepped away for a bit, and a message came in. A long ringtone for a message that will be waiting when you get back is sure to annoy your co-workers. Choose something short.
10 Manage your e-mail settings.
Setting a filter to redirect and categorise your e-mail messages can be helpful, especially if you use one e-mail address for your work and personal life (which is not recommended, especially if it is a corporate e-mail address). This way if something pops up in the personal e-mail inbox, you can let it slide ‘til later, while something that comes into the work inbox deserves at least a cursory glance.
11 Proper work space setup.
While having your own cubicle means that you can usually add things that express your individuality, adding too much personality to your workspace can be distracting. How can you focus on that spreadsheet when a poster of your favourite actor or actress is but a few feet away, tempting you with their paper gaze? Here’s the tip in a nutshell: Decorate your workspace only with things that help you stay focused on the job.
12 Check your tools and equipment
Whether you work in a cubicle or in a greasy garage, you should always check your tools and equipment before starting work. That way you can ensure that you won’t waste time while in the middle of something important later on. Additionally, performing basic checks every day can prevent serious injury or equipment damage by allowing you to identify potential problems before they fail catastrophically. It will also keep you from embarrassing yourself by calling I.T. when your computer is simply unplugged.
13 If you didn’t do so the day before, tidy up.
There are times that you might end up going home without cleaning up your workspace. While this is sloppy, it is also sometimes unavoidable, especially during crunch periods. In any case, if you come into work after having left your space dirty the day before, your first order of business should be to tidy up in preparation for the day ahead.
14 Distribute data and supplies.
People can’t do their jobs if they are not supplied with the data and supplies that they need. If there are supplies or data that needs to be distributed to various personnel, then it should be done as early as possible. Just make sure to check your inboxes to see if there are instructions that say otherwise or make corrections before going about distributing whatever needs to get to the concerned parties.
15 Check the evening news the day before.
Every moment you spend not working are points against your productivity. This is why getting stuck in traffic is really a bad thing for anyone doing the 13 Work Less, Accomplish More daily grind. To avoid this scenario, check the evening news for any announcements for the day after. You will never know when they will close off some streets in your commute to work unless you check. This prevents the stress that comes from knowing that you are getting to work late in the morning. In case such an announcement is made, plan your route accordingly for a smooth commute to work and a better disposition in the morning.
16 Eat a hearty breakfast.
Low energy and a bad mood in the morning are often the results of skipping the most important meal of the day. Make it a point to eat your breakfast before going to work and you will see the difference. Drop the coffee-and-donut routine and look for something healthier like some fruit pancakes. No time to prepare in the morning? Make breakfast the night before and put it in a plastic container so you can eat it on the way. Just do not forget to pop it out of the refrigerator before you leave for work.
17 Prepare everything you need the day after.
In the morning rush to get to work the following morning, it is easy to forget things needed for work. It is not a big deal if you can easily replace them but what if it was your PowerPoint presentation outlining company performance to be presented to the top brass? This is a worst-case scenario the must be avoided at all costs. Do this by taking time to prepare everything you need before you go to bed. Make a list and check it twice before you doze off.
18 Have the proper mindset for work.
Sometimes, all it takes is the proper mindset to keep working. How could you finish that report when your mind is wandering? With this in mind, it is best to prepare your brain for work the night before you go to the office. When it is finally time to work, you will go straight to business without wasting precious time to motivate yourself while the clock starts ticking. This means you have more time to finish your work and thus increasing your output.
19 Send out tomorrow’s work today.
If you have subordinates, you can help them become more productivity by giving them their allotted work tomorrow on the previous afternoon. This lets them plan the next work day and think of how they go at it. In other words, you are helping them work more efficiently by giving them the
opportunity to see what they are up against. So help your team become more productive and produces better results by giving them a sneak peek on the days ahead. This helps overall performance as well as boosts intra office relationships and teamwork.
Things To Do During Work
This section covers the various productivity tips that apply while you are working. Everything seems rather obvious and common sense here, but the fact is that a lot of people need to be reminded of these things.
20 Check your inboxes regularly, not frequently.
There’s a difference in checking your inbox at set intervals and checking your inboxes whenever you get the chance. Checking your inboxes, whether e-mail or phone, involves little time and few actions, but the distraction can be enough to lower your potential. This is especially true if you are the type who checks inboxes almost obsessively.
21 If possible, set an inbox notification sound.
In mobile phone this is easy, but for e-mail it can be a little tricky. However, if you can set your e-mail program or system to make a notification sound when something comes in, you can skip checking your inbox unless it sounds. Again, the usual guidelines for ringtones apply – choose neutral, not too loud, and not too long.
You might say “Well, duh” or something similar. However, no tip is too small or obvious in the pursuit of productivity. Concentration is both a talent and a skill. Some people can focus on tasks easily – they’re usually the more productive ones – and some are not quite as good. However, you can train
yourself to keep your cognitive and processing resources on the tasks at hand. It takes practice and, semi-ironically, concentration to build up your powers of concentration.
23 One task at a time.
Though the human brain is capable of handling many tasks at a time the cognitive part of it works best on just one thing at a time. Just like how a computer slows down when there’s too much going on, your brain is not as efficient when there are several tasks to handle at any given time. Worse,
you are more likely to commit errors than a computer is, especially when you attempt to multi-task. The bottom line: One task at a time.
24 Learn and use shortcut commands.
All software needed to finish the job come with built-in shortcut commands. While the standard point-and-click method works, using shortcut commands is a more efficient alternative. Simple keystrokes can work like magic and improve your output by a lot. The less time you have figuring out which menu to pull down, the more time you will have to finish up. Also, take a good look at your keyboard. Chances are there are already pre-programmed buttons that launch certain applications from the get-go. Familiarise yourself with these shortcuts and you will make better use of your
25 Get it right the first time, every time.
This is strongly related to the previous tip. When you focus on just one task at a time, you are less likely to make mistakes. Also, you should regularly check and double-check your work as you go through it, not just at the end. Every mistake can mean that you will need to redo a section, or at worst, the whole thing. Productivity is as much about ensuring the quality of each output as it is about completing as many items as possible.
26 Identify the time of the day where you are at peak performance.
Just like TV has prime time, there is also a certain time frame where you are at your best. You can concentrate the most, able to work faster and more efficiently and produce better results during these hours. Do yourself a favour and make the most out of your prime time and really work into
overdrive. The most difficult tasks of the day should be done when you are at your best. Anything that requires less attention should be moved to other times of the day.
27 Take notes.
Whatever it is that you do, don’t forget to take notes of significant things. For example, if you come across some possibly important bit of information, make a quick note regarding its location and content. That way, you can put it out of your mind until the time you need it. Keeping your mind as free of clutter as possible makes it more efficient; the same principle applies to relegating reminders to your smartphone rather than your internal active memory. You might find that this technique also reduces the number and intensity of headaches!
28 Tackle everything during the meeting.
Getting up and out of your desk and asking your co-workers about work things are not only bad for your productivity but theirs as well. It is a complete waste of time and should be avoided as much as possible. This is why the time for meetings should be used for asking questions and making
things clear with your co-workers. The more frequent the meetings the better it will be for everyone. Schedule meetings on Thursdays or Fridays instead of Mondays to avoid burning out your employees at the start of the work week.
29 Clear your mind as needed.
It does not have to be some exoteric Zen trick. Simply pausing your thoughts and taking deep breaths for a few seconds is enough to lower your blood pressure and clear your mind of clutter. If you find yourself getting confused or having a headache, pause somewhere you can easily pick up, and take a few moments to re-canter yourself.
30 Get up and stretch regularly.
You might think that getting up keeps one away from work and distracts from the task at hand, but think again. When you get up and stretch, you relieve stress on your body and mind. With fewer distress signals to bother it, your brain can become more efficient than it could have if you just
slogged through the aches. The trick is to pause your work in a way that you will find it easy to resume from. If your work was a set of math problems, then you should pause after completing a problem, not while in the middle of one.
31 Complete communication tasks as early as possible.
Communication is essential in any work, especially if it is a team project. Remember that others may be waiting on your output, or they need to be informed of changes immediately. By completing communication tasks early and quickly, you can ensure that the whole team stays on track. Send files and data as soon as you have finished checking them, and respond to inquiries in the most prompt manner possible.
32 Close all programs and browser tabs or windows that don’t have something to do with work.
Your workplace is not the place to be harvesting digital crops or feeding virtual fish. Or at least, not during your active work time. If you can’t just leave your games for after work, then do it during your breaks, not while you are working. Even better, don’t play games while at work!
33 Bookmark useful sites.
If you use the Internet a lot while at work for work purposes, then keeping bookmarks for useful websites can be a big help. For example, if you find a great reference site, keep a bookmark of its homepage. That way, you can visit it again easily the next time you need to look something up. Even when you come across a site that isn’t useful at the moment bur may prove useful in the future, add a bookmark to your Web browser.
34 Organise your bookmarks.
Aside from creating bookmarks, you should also keep them organized. Categorise them for easy lookup. File away old bookmarks that are no longer being used, or simply delete them. The idea is to make the bookmarks that you need easy to find by reducing the number of things you go through, either by deleting unused items or by grouping them for shorter sets to search through.
35 Prioritize work as needed.
Sometimes, work just keep piling up until you have a full stack on your desk. Of course there is nothing more discouraging than a stack of paperwork on your desk. If it does happen, approach the problem by doing work one at a time. Prioritize work according to what is more urgent and/or important. Anything that can be put off for later should be put off for later. When you are done with everything marked “Urgent,” use your remaining time you have to tackle papers you still have left. This is a more efficient way of dealing with a stack of papers on your desk.
36 Install a good antivirus program.
Unless your IT administrator forbids installation of unauthorized programs, installing a good antivirus program should be top on your pre-work list. There are a few good free antivirus programs, but if you want premium protection then you might want to ask your administrator about a corporate installation of high-grade antivirus suites. A virus infection can cripple your ability to work, so it must be avoided at all costs.
37 Scan all files that you load onto your computer.
Before you even think about opening up removable media or files downloaded from the Internet, always run a context menu scan. Assuming you have an antivirus program installed, right click the file or file group and look for something like “Scan file”. This should run a quick scan on demand specifically on the selected file or files. If it turns up clean, well and good. If it turns up infected, you’ll want to quarantine or delete the file as soon as possible.
38 Keep your virus definitions up-to-date.
New viruses are coming out all the time, so if you want to stay protected, you should keep your virus definition databases up-to-date, if not up-to-the hour. Most antivirus programs do this automatically, but only if they are set to do so (which is the default). Without the data, your antivirus software may not be able to recognize a viral infection. Bottom line: Make sure your antivirus program’s database is updated and set to update automatically.
39 Keep your private info private.
This goes with little saying, but protecting your privacy and online financial security is strongly reliant on how well you protect your financial and personal information online. Make sure to read privacy agreements whenever possible. Avoid giving out credit information unless you can verify that the webpage you are on is what it is supposed to be, and not a look alike. Checking the security certificate is a good way to lessen the likelihood that you’ll end up giving away information to unsavoury parties. And besides, you really should not be doing your online shopping while at work! Your company might be using software to monitor your behaviour, which may include monitoring keystrokes – in essence, an untrustworthy workmate with access to the monitor data dumps can pick out your password or whatever important information you typed in.
40 Minimise open windows and applications.
This one applies to those who work primarily with computers. Avoid leaving too many windows and applications open, especially if your terminal is on the lower end of the specification spectrum. Not only will it slow down the performance in general, but you increase the risk of unresponsiveness and
automatic program termination. That means data loss and wasted time.
41 Save regularly.
Not all programs have auto-save features, and those that do may not be set to save often enough. A sudden program freeze or crash can be troublesome, but the impact can be reduced by ensuring you save regularly. Manually saving about every five minutes (or setting the auto-save to that interval) is a good way to minimize data loss in case of unexpected program or system shutdown.
42 Ask for UPS, or get a small one for yourself.
UPS stands for Uninterruptible Power Source, which is basically a smart encased battery that automatically kicks in when the power goes out. Unlike a backup generator system, UPS activates instantly – perfect for computers which can cut out with power interruptions of mere fractions of a second. In fact, one could argue that a UPS never actually kicks in because it’s always feeding power to whatever’s plugged in – it’s just that when the electric current is on, it continuously replenishing the onboard battery. A 2 UPS can give you enough time to save all your information and do a proper shutdown, ensuring you do not lose data and avoid potential system or program corruption.
43 Keep regular backups.
Keeping backups of your files and regularly updating those backups is one secret to productivity. It does add overhead and can be a little tedious, but you will surely not regret it when you lose the active information. Keeping multiple backups is also a vital practice for programmers, since they may want to roll back changes due to unforeseen circumstances. Your backups should be on a separate machine, remotely hosted, or on physical media that is stored properly.
44 Keep detailed information on backups.
You might know what’s currently on your active files and maybe the most recent backup, but what about the backups before that? Having lots multiple backups can make it confusing and difficult to track down the one you want, so you should maintain a readable file that details the contents
and changes found in your backup files. If you have enough space, you can keep backups for years to come, and that can mean lots of duplicate files that may not necessarily be the same. Avoid wasting time on finding the right backup by keeping a summary file.
45 Keep records and store them properly.
For any kind of work, maintaining records of important daily information is very helpful. This does not just improve accountability and the ability to recover from loss, but it can also help you monitor performance and take appropriate actions. Remember to regularly relocate your records to some secure location, safe from the elements.
46 Perform regular maintenance for your work computer.
Not all the required maintenance work for your computer has to be handled by the IT Department. There are actually a few things that are simple enough that you can do them on your own. For instance, deleting unnecessary files are just a few simple clicks away. Defragging can help your computer de-clutter its hard drive and keep it running at optimum speeds. Do this regularly like once a week and you will have a reliable computer to work with. No need to keep calling the IT guys and stop working altogether.
47 Assign priorities
Know how to quickly review tasks and use your foresight to arrange them and assign priorities. Priority values rely on metrics like difficulty, time to deadline, required resources (including time), and if you play office politics, who it’s for. High-priority items should be worked on first, unless they rely on some as-yet unavailable resource. If a high-priority item cannot be worked on yet, turn to other high-priority items before taking care of low priority items.
48 Don’t procrastinate.
Don’t put off work that you can do now. Unless something urgent that requires immediate attention comes up, you should direct your energies to completing whatever it is that can be done at this moment. Aside from lowering your overall productivity, procrastination sets you up for dangerous crunches that could be much less taxing if you completed your tasks as they came up.
49 Let yourself be seen.
This one is for supervisors and middle managers of all kinds. If you have a bit of free time on your hands, take a walk around and peek into cubicles and work stations, or at least act like it. Better yet, do it at random times. This will keep your underlings on their toes and can discourage tomfoolery in the workplace, increasing productivity.
50 Organise productivity contests
This is another one for managers and works best in companies which deal in products made or assembled by people. Organize contests with prizes and you might see an increase in overall productivity as the floor personnel get fired up trying to win that prize. Though in reality they should be putting in effort anyway, a little incentive now and then is not a bad thing.