I bet you’ve read dozens of articles about how to improve every facet of your work life. According to them, there’s nothing you can’t hack. But some projects and situations honestly require a lot of energy, time, and effort, and there’s no getting around it.
That’s not a bad thing. Learning more about your industry and developing your skills takes time. Sometimes you just need to double down, grind through a project or your learning material, and absorb the knowledge you need and move forward.
On the other hand, research shows that we’re really productive at work for only about three hours a day…yikes. So how can you avoid falling prey to distractions and blowing through your productivity? You might not be able to hack every second of your workday, but you can make some changes to increase your focus on critical tasks.
Need an example? My family recently upgraded our SUV to one with built-in Wi-Fi and multiple charging ports. Now, we can pack up our laptops and crank out work from virtually anywhere.
Staying ahead of technology, being practical about our needs, and maximizing every opportunity for efficiency has relieved a lot of stress for me. Ready to make similar changes and maximize your workday? Check out these strategies:
1. Experiment with your productivity.
We all have different routines, different points in the day when we hit our productivity strides — but it can take some trial and error to find yours. Pick a week to schedule work times outside of your typical routine. Maybe you’ll work better from your breakfast nook at 6 a.m., or maybe a bustling coffee shop at 2 p.m. is perfect for you. I realized long ago that I do my best work when most people are sound asleep. So instead of counting sheep, I’m counting dollars. Once you find the time and place you really hit your work stride, shake up your routine to match.
2. Mute your notifications — yes, all of them.
Do you read each email as soon as it pops into your inbox? You’ll get way more accomplished if you resist that urge. It’s the same with phone calls, text messages, social media notifications — you get my drift. Even the smallest distraction, like a message that just says, “OK,” can break a streak of concentration. I’ve developed a habit of turning off notifications on my smartphone and refusing to check my email when I need to stay focused. Don’t worry about missing out; working without interruptions will leave you with more time to read and respond to notifications later.
3. Clear your head with time outside the office.
So you’ve been working on the same task for hours, and the monotony is getting to you. Sound familiar? Take a break and change your scenery. It’s amazing what some fresh air can do for your outlook and creativity. I keep a basketball in my office, and if I’m really stuck on something, I’ll walk to the park next door and shoot some hoops with my team. Exercise helps clear my head. Next time you find yourself spinning your proverbial wheels, take a few laps around the block or spend your lunch hour at a nearby park. Chances are good that you’ll find better solutions after some quality time with Mother Nature.
4. Squash your perfectionist tendencies.
Every one of us wants to do a great job at work. We want to be valued for our input, and we want to meet and exceed our goals. But sometimes we have to run with what we’ve got instead of focusing on perfection. I’ve learned to trust my team members and their input instead of constantly spending my energy and attention on tiny details. It’s a huge time saver. Less distraction, more focus, and more learning opportunities for the team all mean more success. Trust your gut, delegate when necessary, and rely on your team for help, and you’ll produce stellar results with less time and energy.
5. Become the master of your downtime.
Want to get ahead on your work quickly and efficiently? Start paying attention to your downtime. If you travel for work, get through a few tasks as you wait for your boarding call. Waiting to meet a friend for dinner or happy hour? Knock out a few emails while you’re sitting at the table or the bar. My wife waits in line for an hour every weekday to pick up our kids from school, and she likes to spend that time working on editorial tasks, leaving more time for us to spend together in the evenings.
Work hard during your downtime, and you’ll have more time to play hard later.