There are thousands of productivity apps and tools on the market promising to help you increase your performance, but sometimes all it takes to improve your focus is a few quick changes to your work habits and your environment. Want to get more accomplished at the office? Here are 12 simple, low-tech tips for boosting your productivity at work.
Streamline your space.
Before you do anything else, take a few moments at the start of each day to organize and de-clutter your workspace. Having a clutter-free environment helps you think more clearly and produce better results, said Kristoph Matthews, founder of on-demand storage company Boxbee. By cleaning up and organizing your space, you will greatly increase your productivity and limit the time you spend searching for items.
Add pops of color or live plants.
Color can have a major effect on your mood and productivity throughout the day, said Jenny Gauld, an interior designer for office furniture and accessory retailer turnstone. Blue creates the feeling of calmness and helps you focus, while red is great for work that requires accuracy and attention to detail. Plants can also help people focus: A study from Washington State University found that workers who were exposed to plants in a windowless workspace were less stressed, more productive, and felt more attentive.
Decorate your work space.
In addition to color and plant life, a few personal knickknacks in your workspace can make you feel more comfortable and relaxed, which can ultimately boost your productivity. Gauld suggested adding meaningful career memorabilia, such as diplomas and awards, and other decorative items that make you feel successful, appreciated and driven.
Get your most dreaded task out of the way.
Everyone has at least one task on the to-do list that keeps getting pushed back, simply because the thought of actually doing it seems so awful. That task is actually the one you should try to complete first, Matthews told Business News Daily. Instead of waiting until the last minute to finish a task, get it off your plate as soon as possible. Your other tasks will seem less daunting by comparison, and you'll stop stressing about that one task all day, making you more productive overall. [See Related Story: Good Morning! 7 Ways to Jump-Start Your Productivity]
Prioritize and delegate your other tasks.
Your focus should go to the most important tasks first, so think about everything that you do and just how pivotal or trivial each thing really is. If you can, set aside the low-priority items and come up with a plan to delegate or outsource them so that you can spend more time on the things that add more value to your position and the company, Kathleen Kobel, a productivity business coach and founder of Smart Business Mom, said.
Turn off your email notifications.
Instead of reading every email as it lands in your inbox, try turning off your notifications and checking messages only at set intervals. Why? Constant email alerts popping up on your phone or desktop can really break your focus. It takes 64 seconds for a person to recover from being interrupted by an email notification, according to Alex Moore, CEO of email productivity solution Boomerang. You can send and receive the same amount of emails in 20 percent less time by checking your email less frequently, Moore said.
Take short breaks.
Whether it's a walk around the block, a run to the nearby coffee shop, reading a magazine or visiting with a colleague, taking short breaks that are unrelated to your work can make a huge difference in your performance. Your productivity diminishes the longer you go without a break, Kobel told Business News Daily. Kobel explained that this is why it's recommended that people don't work more than 8 to 10 hours per day — at a certain point, your body and mind simply cannot produce anymore, she said.
Exercise isn't just good for your body — it can help have a positive impact on your work performance, too. Physical exercise has been shown to affect mental health and focus, McIntire said. A great way to feel sharper and more productive? Try going for a run in the morning or starting your day with a workout, McIntire said. It can't hurt to try to sneak in some exercise on your breaks, either.
Listen to music.
Wearing headphones doesn't always mean you're antisocial. When working, listening to your favorite tunes can help you get into the zone and knock out your to-do list, Gauld said. It also sends a subtle signal to your co-workers that you'd prefer not to be disturbed.
If your employer allows it, take some time during the week to work in a different environment. Meghan Khaitan, founder of seat belt device MyBuckleMate said that a change of scenery can be a big help in boosting productivity. Head to the library or a local park (weather permitting), or find a place that's quiet and full of natural light. This can help spur new ideas or shed new light on an old problem, Khaitan said.
Write down your daily goals.
It's not always easy to keep track of everything you need to do, so start each morning by writing down your goals for the day. When your focus is broken or you find yourself procrastinating, you can use this list to keep you on track, Sam McIntire, founder of Deskbright, an online learn platform dedicated to helping entrepreneurs and employees, told Business News Daily. Write your list down on a Post-it or something that's clearly visible from your desk, then return to it when you need a reminder of what you should be working on, McIntire said.
Stop trying to multitask.
Doing more than one thing at a time may seem like the best way to get all of your tasks done, but it can hurt your productivity more than it helps. Multitasking simply doesn't work, and when you do, you end up wasting time, Kobel said.
Additional reporting by Brittney M. Helmrich.