A positive work environment starts by taking care of yourself. Check out these five things you can do to make every workday more productive and less stressful.
If you’re on the traditional 9-to-5 grind, a “productive” workday could mean:
- Hitting deadlines ahead of schedule
- Onboarding two new clients
or even just
- Surviving until lunch without wedging your eyelids open with toothpicks.
But workplace statistics tell another story.
For example, the average worker suffers seven hourly interruptions. Ending the classic eight-hour shift with only 2 hours and 53 minutes of productive work. Or loses 40% productivity by hopping on the multitasking bandwagon, a presumed cubicle life “shortcut.”
Let’s get your work-life back under control. Do these five things every workday for a more productive shift!
Start the Day Early & With Breakfast
If there’s one sentence drilled into our heads since pre-school, it’s “breakfast is the most important meal of the day!” And for a few excellent reasons!
But once you graduate from college and join the workforce, skipping this early morning dish can be a productivity-ruiner! Unfortunately, the NPD Group reports that some 28% of males and 18% of females aged 18-34 do just that.
At risk is your short-term memory and focus. Both of which can tank your daily productivity, thanks to an unstable blood sugar level and a distractingly rumbling stomach.
The fix is quite simple.
Wake up bright and early, catch the sunrise with a steaming cup of java, and begin every workday with a nutrient-rich breakfast.
Oatmeal, a lean breakfast sandwich, fresh fruit, and yogurt can all provide you the boost you need to thrive until lunch. But be delicate with the caffeine; the post-coffee slump usually kicks in about five hours later!
Create a Daily To-Do List (ABCDE)
Brian Tracy is an international sales guru and author of the bestselling book, The Psychology of Achievement. He also happens to be the mastermind behind the ABCDE time-management and priority-setting method.
By following this strategy, you can stop missing deadlines and avoid feeling swamped in a never-ending workload.
Here’s how to build your daily to-do list around this concept:
A is the first letter in the alphabet, meaning these tasks are the first on your daily to-do list. These are the heavier items with fast-approaching deadlines. (Such as a board meeting presentation or time-sensitive data.)
B describes the next most necessary tasks. Things like responding to emails or phone calls, posing mild consequences if they’re even somewhat delayed (ex: an unhappy boss).
C are things you should do but don’t relate to your job performance. For example, scheduling a doctor’s appointment or visiting Starbucks with a coworker at lunch.
D stands for “delegate” and includes tasks that you can pawn off on colleagues if possible. Before you resort to this tactic, ensure your coworker isn’t overwhelmed themselves and has the skill set to do the task properly.
E is for “eliminate,” the tasks that don’t sway either your work life or personal life and don’t need delegation. Remove them from your list entirely and focus on A through C — the ones that matter!
Take Occasional Five Minute Breaks
Most workplaces build a 30-minute lunch and one or two 15-minute breaks into a full-time employee’s schedule. But science reveals that at least productivity-wise, this may not be enough downtime!
In 2014, the Draugiem Group discovered the magic workplace rejuvenation formula:
52 minutes of work, a 17-minute break, and repeat!
Now, convincing your boss of this might not go over well (especially from the financial perspective). But what you can do is ask to split your breaks into five-minute intervals instead.
This is where the Pomodoro Technique comes in handy.
Here’s how these timer apps work:
- 25 minutes of work followed by a 5-minute break (three times)
- 25 minutes of work followed by a 15-minute break (once)
With more frequent breaks, you can shut off your brain temporarily and avoid monotony and mental fatigue. Use these spare five minutes to walk around the office or chat with colleagues.
If listening to a rustling leaf soundtrack or meditating in silence for ten minutes sounds more painful than peaceful — you’re not alone! But even two-minute mindfulness sessions can repair productivity at your desk.
Does it sound like pseudoscience?
It’s not! Bringing yourself back to the present moment and clearing your mind of the clutter can:
- Rid negative emotions unrelated to work (the morning traffic jam, relationship troubles, or waking up late)
- Allow creative and unique ideas to swarm
- Slash stress that harms productivity and causes silly mistakes
- Free yourself from classic workplace distractions
- Improve your decision-making skills
Nurture Relationships With Your Peers
The whole “don’t mix your work life with your personal life” concept is typically self-explanatory. But if you’re among the 15% of people who value a coworker as a “real friend,” your productivity is likely peaking.
Researchers link strong bonds between coworkers (especially outside of work) to happier, more productive, and more motivated employees.
So don’t be afraid to make work friends!
Ways to cultivate a friendship at work:
- Eat lunch with your coworkers
- Ask about the pictures or mementos on their desk
- Attend company picnics or holidays
- Strike up a conversation
Unless your peers seem unapproachable, there’s no reason you can’t build relationships — just keep chats appropriate!
Remember that your personal life will always manage to leak into your work life (and vice versa).
Put productivity in the spotlight by:
- Turning your phone off during work hours (or at least tucking it away in a drawer when you’re on the clock)
- Exercising to let off some emotional and physical steam
- Communicating with your boss about troubles you’re having (they’re more receptive to “can I have an extension?” than “sorry, I’m late”)
- Speaking to a counselor or therapist if your lack of productivity stems from unhealthy relationships or mental health concerns
You may never have a completely uninterrupted workday before you retire at 65. But any bit of added focus and productivity is better than nothing!
Adam Marshall is a freelance writer who specializes in all things apartment organization, real estate, and college advice. He currently works with The Verge Asheville to help them with their online marketing.