Boost productivity through scheduling, focus, office design, wellbeing initiatives, and positive reinforcement - implement these expert techniques for maximum workplace efficiency.
By Making Moves LondonOctober 31, 2022
We’ve all experienced the dreaded productivity slump. Perhaps you feel like you’re constantly working your way through a long, endless to-do list. Or maybe you’re struggling to motivate yourself to finish that big project on time. Whatever it is that’s making you less productive at work, you might be wondering how you can get back on track and on top of your workload once again.
Luckily, the productivity sector is an industry all on its own, so you’ll never be short of tools, resources, and tips to help you get ahead of your game. Here, we’ll share our favourite methods of staying productive throughout the day, whether you’re working from home or in the office. Why not give some of these a go?
Your workday starts before you’ve even reached your office, so consider how you could use this time wisely to get ahead. Here are some productivity tips to start your day off in the right way.
We all know how hard it can be to wake up and get started at the beginning of the workday. The trick is to ease yourself gently back into your tasks, and this can start as early as your commute. While you’re heading into the office, think about what you managed to achieve the previous day and your goals for the day ahead. This should make it much easier to get back into the flow of things once you reach your desk. Even if you’re working from home, take some time before you sit down to reconnect with the working day.
Getting everything done can be overwhelming when you have a long to-do list in the morning. Deadlines help us regain control, give us something to work towards, and can be great motivation to get stuff done quickly. Even if your tasks don’t have formal deadlines, try assigning one to each thing you do before you start. This could be finishing a task by lunchtime or getting that big project done by the end of the week. Having clear goals like this will also help you plan your time more effectively, so you can see exactly how the task will fit into your week and you’ll be less likely to put certain tasks off.
You can also do this by breaking larger tasks down into more manageable portions. So, set small deadlines for when you’d like to finish each part of the task by. This will make it feel much less daunting and you’ll feel much more motivated to work through each step and tick it off your to-do list.
Some people enjoy a good old-fashioned written to-do list, while others like to have everything in one place on their computer. There are a number of note-taking apps and tools out there that will help you stay on track of your deadlines and keep you accountable.
Once you’ve woken your brain up, it’s time to get on with the tasks at hand. Try a few of these tips to become more productive at work, from morning through to home time.
If you find your work email a constant distraction it may help to schedule some time dedicated to your emails alone. You can do this in any way you want, depending on the volume and type of emails you generally receive. Try to respond to any emails from your boss or a client within half an hour of receiving them and apply the two-minute rule to any that need very quick action (we’ll talk more about the two-minute rule further on). Those that need more thought should be set aside and dealt with later as their own task. Organising your emails into ‘quick response’ and ‘long response’ folders can help you keep track.
We all know that prioritisation is key for productivity, but the way your co-worker prioritises their work might not necessarily work for you. Of course, there are a few standard rules when it comes to prioritisation. The most urgent tasks or those with the shortest deadlines should be dealt with first so you’re not rushing by the time you get around to them. But, if you’re not working to deadlines, then it’s often best to prioritise your tasks based on how you work best.
For example, you may want to complete the shortest tasks first, so you can focus all your attention on the bigger tasks without the rest hanging over you. Or you may find that you’re more alert and ready to focus at the beginning of the day or week. In that case, turning to the more difficult or larger tasks first may work better for you.
It may seem simple, but one of the easiest ways you can boost your productivity is by using templates for recurring tasks. This could be using a document template for certain projects or setting up a task template in your project management software. Not only can this reduce the time you spend setting up your tasks, but it can also ensure consistency across the whole team.
Multitasking can be counterintuitive. While it might seem productive to work on two tasks at once, you won’t be able to give either of the tasks your full concentration, so they’ll take longer to complete, and you’ll likely find them more difficult.
In fact, Dr. Earl K. Miller, Professor of Neuroscience at the Picower Institute of Learning and Memory, suggests that humans can’t actually multitask. In a podcast with WKSU, he explains that we’re only able to experience one track of thought at any one time. What we think is multitasking isn’t multitasking at all, it’s what Dr. Miller refers to as “task switching”.
“It takes time for your brain to switch from task to task, you have to reconfigure the networks in your brain, and that time is time that could be spent doing actual thought instead of just switching” explains Dr. Miller.
“Your brain has to error-correct. When you switch from one set of networks to another, when you switch from one task to another, your brain has to backtrack and fix errors, so errors begin to creep in.”
What’s more productive is giving one task your full attention at any given time, saving other tasks (besides any quick two-minute ones) for when you’re finished. This is called monotasking and is especially helpful if you’re working on two or more big projects at once. Avoid thinking or talking about one project while you’re working on another, to help you maintain focus and efficiency.
While you might think productivity occurs while you’re working, you can actually use your downtime to develop more beneficial habits. These lunch break rituals will help refresh your mind and improve your workflow.
It may be tempting to delay or skip your lunch to finish a project. It’s something over half (56%) of us do, according to data from Totaljobs. But working through your lunch break could actually be holding you back. Throughout the day you’ll experience dips and spikes in your energy levels, and this can impact how efficiently you work. Timing your break to line up with your natural energy fluctuation can help keep you motivated throughout the day, so you’re spending your high-energy periods working and your low-energy periods refuelling.
In the same Totaljobs survey, one in three people admitted that they never leave their office during the day, but this could also be impacting productivity levels. Spending around half an hour outdoors can lead to a 45% increase in productivity, according to a recent poll commissioned by Lenovo (WorldHealth).
Heading out for a midday walk can help give you a much-needed change of scenery. Instead of thinking about the task that you’re yet to finish or keeping an eye on the emails coming in, why not head out to a local park during lunch? To give you some inspiration, we’ve put together a roundup of the eight best green spaces in London for a mindfulness lunch break.
Eating the right foods can help give you that little boost you need to power through the afternoon, so try to choose an energy-packed snack that’s full of goodness. Some brain-boosting foods include:
At the end of the day, it’s important to switch off from your work to prevent burnout, which could affect your productivity in the long run. To be more efficient during the day, try one or two of these evening routines.
Just as you did at the start of your day, take some time to reflect as you pack away your things and head home. Did you achieve everything you set out to do? If you didn’t, see if you can identify why. Perhaps you set too many goals, or your expectations were too high. Reflecting on this now will help you manage your workload more effectively tomorrow.
It’s all too tempting to keep checking your work emails as you settle in for the night. But, while you might think this will make you more prepared for tomorrow, it could actually do the opposite. Constantly being ‘switched on’ can cause you to feel overwhelmed as you struggle to get away from work at all. So, make sure you switch your work laptop, phone, and tablet off as you clock off for the day.
Working hard and being productive is important but pushing yourself too much can actually make you work much less efficiently. Having a healthy work/life balance can maintain your wellbeing and put you in the mood to work when you need to. So, be sure to take some much-needed time out, both during the day and in the evening, to do whatever self-care means to you. This could be reading a book, going for a walk, or taking a bath. Anything that helps you unwind and detach yourself from the day can help manage your stress levels.
Sleep is conducive to a productive working day. Getting too little can impair your attention, memory, and decision-making, evidence suggests, so make sure to prioritise rest to benefit the next day. Try to stick to a sleep schedule as much as you can, going to bed at the same time each night and setting an alarm for the morning. If you stick to the same routine, you may find that you wake up naturally before your alarm.
If racing thoughts stop you from drifting off, you may benefit from a relaxing night-time routine to clear your mind and prepare your body for sleep. Try some screen-free activities like reading a book, taking a warm bath, or doing some slow yoga.
If you just can’t seem to let go of your thoughts and worries, write them down ready to deal with in the morning. This will help you regain control over your thoughts and will remind you in the morning to deal with any tasks.
If you’re struggling to stay on track and keep yourself motivated, you’re not alone. There are a whole range of productivity techniques out there that have been conceptualised to help people work more efficiently. Give one of them a try and see if it helps you.
When you’re working on a huge project with many moving parts, it can be easy to lose track of progress. This is where the Kanban method shines. This technique was originally created by Toyota to track and manage production systems and involves consolidating tasks into three distinct categories: to-do, in progress, and done.
Start with your columns written on a whiteboard or a piece of paper and add your tasks using sticky notes. As you work through each one, move them along into the appropriate column. Your goal should be minimising the number of sticky notes you have ‘in progress’. This method can be very effective for keeping track of tasks, meeting deadlines, and monitoring workflow. When done right, you should be able to identify any areas where you’re getting stuck, so you can improve them and make your workday more efficient.
If having too many sticky notes in your workspace will clutter your mind, consider a virtual version instead. Virtual whiteboard apps like Miro, MURAL and Stormboard are useful for the Kanban method, and lots of product management software also comes with built-in Kanban tools.
First coined by David Allen, author and productivity consultant, the two-minute rule is a simple way to avoid your tasks piling up. Any task that will take less than two minutes to do should be completed immediately. Knowing you have a full list of emails to send or paperwork to fill out can cloud your mind and make your workload feel more overwhelming than it needs to be. You’ll then spend more time thinking about completing them — and trying to remind yourself that they’re there — than you would spend completing the task in the first place.
If a task does come in that will take you longer than two minutes to complete, write it down immediately so you remember to go back to it. This will help you maintain control over your tasks and workload, and ensures you’re not distracted from your current train of thought.
The pomodoro technique involves working in short 25-minute bursts (called pomodoros) separated by five-minute breaks. After four pomodoros, take a longer 15–30-minute break before starting the next pomodoro. This productivity method requires you to break your projects down into smaller, more manageable chunks, and you’ll be able to see your progress after each pomodoro.
The reason why this works is simple. We often put tasks off because approaching them brings up negative feelings. These may be feelings of anxiety, apprehension, self-doubt, or just plain boredom. Starting a large task can feel overwhelming, so we do everything we can to avoid it. The pomodoro technique turns starting a project into a short and simple first step. So, you’re simply focussing on the next 25 minutes rather than the full project.
Making a few changes to your day can help you get more work done, but your office space could also make a big difference to your energy levels and focus. If you want to improve your productivity in the long term, try one or two of the tips below to make your office space work for you. If you decide to make any changes to your office space, be sure to chat to us about our fit-out project management service.
You may find that some tasks require completely different ways of thinking and being productive. So, your workspace should offer the flexibility to adapt your working style to suit the task at hand. For example, some projects may require total concentration somewhere quiet, while you may need space to be creative and collaborative for others.
A good workspace should offer a few different options to suit different working styles. Private working pods provide a comfortable space to focus undisturbed and separate meeting rooms offer a private place for phone calls and video meetings without background noise.
Collaboration spaces should be designed to encourage creativity. These areas are open plan and generally offer a range of seating options. A whiteboard or two offers space for brainstorming and breakout areas are perfect for informal chats. Be sure to read our tips for creating the perfect collaborative workspace to design a solution that works best for your team.
Zoning not only provides everyone with the kind of workspace they need but moving between them is an opportunity to take a short break and gain a new perspective. If you feel like you’ve hit a wall, moving to another part of your office may help you regain control of your productivity levels.
Sunlight has so many great benefits for our body. As a valuable source of vitamin D, research indicates that natural light can boost our physical and emotional wellbeing, make us feel more awake, and can boost cognitive performance. So, having plenty of natural light in your workspace could be an easy way to boost your productivity. Try positioning your desk by a window to make the most of the sunlight during the day, and install a few mirrors to multiply the amount of light in your office space.
They may be a small addition to your office but plants can provide a great range of benefits to your workspace. Not only do they brighten the area up, but they can actually boost your wellbeing and productivity. A 2021 study published in the Journal of Cleaner Production found that biophilic design and actively viewing greenery improved productivity performance. The study also concluded that a 12% green coverage ratio was the optimum amount of greenery for the best results. So, adding a few plants to your office space could make you work harder.
Does a tidy office really equal a tidy mind? A study conducted in The Netherlands found that a clean office environment was linked to higher productivity and work satisfaction. The cleaner a workplace is, the higher the productivity levels.
Having too much clutter on your desk can increase stress levels and make it difficult to focus on the task at hand. Plus, if you can take pride in your workplace, you’ll feel more motivated to work hard.
Keeping your desk free of any unnecessary clutter can help improve your focus, so be sure to remove any rubbish that you no longer need. Any paperwork that you need to keep that isn’t necessary for your current task should be stored in an organised folder, so it’s out of sight but easily retrievable. To keep your desk clutter-free, but ensure you have everything you need, we’d recommend these key pieces of stationery and avoiding any unnecessary items.
Working at a desk traditionally involves a lot of sitting, which can have negative effects on our health as well as our productivity levels. But have you ever considered standing at work instead? Researchers at University College London discovered that working at a standing desk improved concentration and vigilance by 10% and workers made 45% fewer mistakes. Participants also scored 28% higher in creative thinking tasks when they were standing rather than sitting. Switching to a sit-to-stand desk could therefore be the solution to your productivity dips.
Workers aren’t the only ones responsible for their own productivity levels, because businesses can also implement larger, systemic changes that nurture positivity and creativity. People are more productive when they feel their work is valued. Your employees are the lifeblood of your brand, so be sure to show them some love by implementing a perk or two.
This is something Google do very well. Famous for being a great place to work, Google puts strong emphasis on wellbeing and creativity, and offers a range of benefits for its workers. Of course, you don’t need to be as extensive as Google, but offering a couple of small perks can boost engagement and productivity.
Everyone works differently, so it’s important to give your employees the flexibility to work however they feel most productive. This could be something physical, like offering sit-to-stand desks that allow everyone to work how they feel comfortable. Or it could be something bigger, like a hybrid working policy.
If you’re making changes to your working policy and switching to hybrid working, you may benefit from an office move. Our handy office space calculator will help you work out what kind of office is best for you based on your company size and needs.
Providing on-site snacks can be a big morale boost. According to research conducted by US delivery service Peapod, 66% of workers who were provided with free snacks in the office reported being “happy” or “very happy” with their job. Over half (56%) of workers said they hit an afternoon slump if they don’t have an energy-boosting snack, so providing your team with healthy snacks, such as the ones mentioned earlier, could help them work more efficiently.
Between 2020 and 2021, 58% of people reported poor mental health while at work, according to data from Mind. However, only 35% of those people had taken time off work because of their mental health. And, of those people, 27% told their employer their absence was because of a reason other than their mental health.
In the same report, 74% of respondents said poor mental health affected their concentration, while over half said it caused them to put off tasks and avoid completing them. Creating a company culture that prioritises wellbeing is therefore key to productivity. Make sure your team members feel comfortable discussing their mental health with you if they feel it’s impacting performance.
By investing in mental health training for managers, you can make your work environment more supportive. Many mental health charities such as Mind, Mental Health Matters, and iHasco offer training courses designed to help businesses reduce the stigma around mental health in the workplace.
Many businesses have implemented workplace yoga to boost employee engagement, and while you may think this is simply a trend, it could actually have a significant impact on productivity. Yoga helps to reduce stress and promotes a sense of peace and happiness, so practicing it among a busy workday can help restore balance and reframe negative thoughts. Try inviting everyone along to a lunch time or evening yoga group and see if it works for your company. Our guide to workplace yoga can help you implement it smoothly.
Positive reinforcement can go a very long way in the workplace. When employees know that their hard work will be recognised and rewarded, they’ll be more likely to keep up their efforts. This can be as simple as a praise email sent around to the team, or small rewards like a gift card or a free lunch — anything that shows your team their hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed. An added benefit of this is that top-performing team members can serve as great examples for other employees if they can see their work is being rewarded.
If you’re wondering how to be more productive at work, why not give one or two of these tricks a go? Whether you simply want to finish a big task you’re working on, or you want to boost productivity in your whole business, these hacks and tips should help alleviate that motivational slump. For more helpful productivity tips and tricks, be sure to head over to our blog.
The right environment can make a big difference to your ability to focus, and here at Making Moves our office space agents can help you find the perfect office space for your needs. Simply fill out our office search form and we’ll get back to you with a shortlist of potential contenders. If you’re not sure where to start, our brief developer can help here too, so you can work out exactly what you’re looking for.
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