Top productivity tips from Workplace members
It’s safe to say that most of us look for ways to improve our output, reduce our stress, and create a slightly more productive version of ourselves. I think I’ve only ever worked with one person in my career who didn’t need to do this; she is just naturally organised in every way. In fact, we used to send her to other members of the team to help them organise, become more productive, and tidy their desks. (You know who you are Amanda Wallis!)
If you Google productivity there are reams and reams of research, lists, and ideas on the subject. A whole industry exists that provides weird and the wonderful productivity tips from when to take breaks, what to eat, and how to stand. I even read one that said to drink water…oh really!
However, in reality, I think many of these are more distracting than productive. So, what does work when we want to stop feeling guilty and get things done? How can we be confident that we are that pinnacle of organisation and productivity?
We asked our members for their top productivity tips:
#1 Louise’s tip. Every time you get an email from a list you are not subscribed to, and you don’t want them to interrupt your day, make a conscious effort to unsubscribe; reducing your inbox and the time it takes to sort it. This will also mean that important communications don’t get lost amongst the sales emails we all get sent daily.
#2 Amanda’s tip. Every day, go through your emails and clear them out, deal with, sort and file.
#3 Heather’s tip. The oldest productivity tip is making a list, but I think it’s important to use a medium that works for you. Personally, I spend most of my time glued to screens, so I prefer my lists to be digital. As a team, we use Trello to manage tasks and projects, and I keep a personal Trello board to organise my own tasks. Within that board, I break down tasks into different lists; one for the most important things to get done that day, one for ‘focus’ tasks (things that require more time and focus) and one for ‘sometime soon’ (tasks that aren’t urgent). Finally, I also have an ‘ideas’ list to keep track of ideas I haven’t yet had time to flesh out. One day I’ll get to those!
#4 Pete’s tip. Turn off Outlook. Don’t let your inbox control you. You control it and look at it when you have allocated time to deal with it.
#5 Laura’s tip. If you have a job that will take less than five mins, do it now.
#6 Hayley’s tip. Keep a journal. Page index your journal so that all your notes and list are indexed and easy to find. You can even buy these ready done. A few good ones are Bullet Journals or Best Self Co, both of which have helped me. You can use this one journal as your diary, to do list, holiday log, blog list, in fact, just about anything. There are loads of websites to help you organise your journal effectively. It is also quite therapeutic as you can be as creative as you like.
#7 Jane’s tip. Touch a piece of paper once – deal with it and file it.
#8 Tim’s tip. If you have a task that you need to do, block out time to achieve this. Blocks of two or three hours are good where you don’t have your phone or any interruptions, and you just close in on getting the task completed. This is especially great for strategy or R and D which often gets left to the end of the list when you are working for yourself but is what will make your business a success.
Of course, these are all great. And I’m sure many of us are now thinking “yes that is amazing I must do that”. But will you ever get around to it? Or will it just add to your guilt and the list of things you want to do to become more productive?
There’s research to say that productivity doesn’t sit in the knowing what you should do it, it sits in two areas, mind set and subconscious. Going back to Amanda, my organised ex colleague, this was the difference between her and the rest of us, it was her mind set.
I listened recently to a podcast by organisational psychologist Gary Latham, and there are some interesting academic findings that he discusses.
Here’s a quick review of what he thinks being productive is:
1. Specific Goal Setting
Not making your goals general (e.g. each day I will go through my emails and deal with them or file them). Instead, the goal would be:
Before I start work each day I will go through my inbox and deal with everything I have not dealt with, and then I will start my day; or
Before I close my computer each day I will write tomorrow’s to-do list.
This makes these goals habits, and makes sure that you do them. He says that the specificity of the goal is what will make you achieve the productivity.
This takes us back to Tim’s tip of blocking out time in your diary to complete specific projects. So, rather than today’s to-do list saying “write a blog”, it would say “11am-1pm write a blog on X”. This mind set and specific goal is what gets us to productivity.
2. Subconscious Productivity
Gary talks at length about this because, while he did not initially believe in it, he undertook research that proved he was wrong. The subconscious does have a massive effect on our productivity. While he uses several examples, two stood out to me:
A CEO of a company sends out a “motivational” email to the sales team each week. Gary and his team took this and added 12 productivity and achievement words such as success, achievement, victory, etc. They then sent the original email to one half of the team and the new email to the other half. The sales results of the team with the productivity words soared in comparison. This amazed him and got him to look at other areas of the subconscious such as your surroundings and the impact of your environment on productivity and results. Positive wording and phrases such as those classic sucessories posters DO get into your subconscious and will help you to achieve more.
He also tells a story of asking people to wait in a room. In one room there were books on gardening and in another diet books. They then offered people a snack of either chocolate or an apple. In the room with the diet books most people chose the apple, and in the gardening the chocolate. When asked if they remembered seeing books, they said no. So this proves that the information was processed in their subconscious.
You can listen to the full podcast here.
So, to conclude, tips are great, but we need specific goals that are habit forming if we want to succeed. And we need to stay away from negative conversations and move towards the positive.
Happy positivity everyone – you can do it!