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Updated Jun 03, 2024

20 Ways to Boost Your Productivity

Getting more done can be easy with these productivity tips.

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Matt D'Angelo, Business Operations Insider and Senior Writer
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Every business expert claims to have “productivity hacks” that can help you get more done in less time. While common-sense strategies can boost your productivity, they aren’t hacks. Instead, they’re habits and tools you can implement to increase efficiency and ensure you’re performing at an optimal level. We’ll outline 20 easy ways to be more productive and highlight productivity killers to avoid at all costs.

Easy ways to become more productive

If you want to become more productive, consider implementing some of the following productivity habits and strategies.

1. Streamline your workspace.

Before you do anything else, take a few moments to organize and declutter your workspace at the start of each day. According to Kristoph Matthews, head of engineering at NewtonX and founder of on-demand storage company Boxbee, a clutter-free environment helps you think more clearly and produce better results. Cleaning and organizing your space can help you create a workspace that improves productivity and limits wasted time spent searching for items.

2. Add pops of color or live plants.

According to Jenny Gauld, interior designer for office furniture and accessory retailer Turnstone, color can significantly impact your mood and productivity. For example, blue can impart a calming feeling and help you focus, while red is ideal for work requiring accuracy and attention to detail. Plants can also help people focus: A study by the American Society for Horticultural Science found that workers exposed to plants in their workspace reported feeling less stressed and more productive.

3. Decorate your workspace.

In addition to adding some color and plants to your workspace, decorating your desk or cubicle with a few personal knickknacks can help you feel more relaxed and boost productivity. Gauld suggested adding meaningful career memorabilia, such as diplomas, awards, and other decorative items that will motivate you and help you feel appreciated.

4. 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 because the thought of doing it seems awful. According to Matthews, that task is actually the one you should complete first. Instead of waiting until the last minute to finish it, 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.

5. Prioritize and delegate less crucial tasks.

Your focus should go to the most crucial tasks on your to-do list first, so consider your responsibilities and rate them by importance. If possible, set aside low-priority items. According to Kathleen Kobel, productivity business coach and founder of Smart Business Mom, creating a plan to outsource or delegate those tasks will allow you to spend more time on duties that add value to your position and the company.

6. 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. Constant email alerts popping up on your phone or desktop can break your focus. According to Alex Moore, CEO of email productivity solution Boomerang, it takes 64 seconds for a person to recover from being interrupted by an email notification.

7. Identify your most productive work time.

People’s most productive work times vary. For example, are you a morning person or a night owl? It’s essential to identify which hours of the day you feel most alert and attentive, and dedicate those hours to your most critical tasks. This practice is especially useful if you work remotely and can determine your schedule. (You may also have a certain day of the week that’s most productive.)

If you can’t create a schedule around your most productive work time, organize your priorities based on which hours of your workday you feel most alert. Productivity peaks often come in 90- to 120-minute intervals.

TipTip
To determine your most productive work time, monitor yourself during the day to identify when you feel most alert and creative, and pinpoint what can throw you off course — such as missing breakfast or being dragged into an unscheduled meeting.

8. Take short breaks.

Employee breaks can improve productivity. Whether taking a walk, going to your favorite coffee shop, reading a magazine or visiting with a colleague, taking short breaks unrelated to your work can make a significant difference in your performance. Your productivity diminishes the longer you go without a break. Kobel explained that this is why experts recommend that people work no more than eight to 10 hours daily. At a certain point, your body and mind simply cannot produce anymore.

9. Move around.

Exercise isn’t just good for your body; it can also positively impact your work performance. Physical exercise has been shown to affect mental health and focus, according to Sam McIntire, founder of Deskbright, an online learning platform dedicated to helping entrepreneurs and employees. 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 suggested. It doesn’t hurt to sneak in some exercise on your breaks, either.

10. Listen to music.

Wearing headphones doesn’t always mean you’re antisocial. According to Gauld, listening to your favorite tunes when working can help you get in the zone and knock out your to-do list. Be careful, however: While music can help people enter flow states, it can also serve as a distraction.

Did You Know?Did you know
Although the best music for productivity varies by person and activity, popular genres include classical music and nature sounds.

11. Switch locations.

Luckily, hybrid, remote and flexible work arrangements have become a common benefit for many employees. 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 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 quiet place full of natural light. Khaitan said switching locations can help spur new ideas or shed new light on an old problem.

12. Write down your daily goals.

It’s not always easy to track everything you must do, so start each morning by writing down your goals for the day. When your focus is broken, or you find yourself procrastinating, McIntire advises using this list to keep you on track. McIntire suggested writing your list on a Post-it Note or something visible from your desk — consult it when you need a reminder of what you should be working on.

13. Stop trying to multitask.

Doing more than one thing at a time may seem like the best way to get all your tasks done, but it can hurt your productivity more than it helps. According to Kobel, multitasking simply doesn’t work — and when you do it, you end up wasting time.

14. Follow the two-minute rule.

In his bestselling book, Getting Things Done, David Allen coined the two-minute rule. If you see a task or action you know can be completed in two minutes or less, do it immediately. The principle is that completing the task immediately takes less time than finishing it later.

If a task will take longer than two minutes, schedule it and get it into your productivity system so you can tackle it when you’re ready.

15. Make a simple to-do list.

Creating a to-do list is essential to staying productive. Different methods work for different people: Some people use smartphone apps, while others prefer a handwritten journal. Regardless of how you create and track your to-do list, ensure it’s concise, realistic and flexible. List daily tasks only; overwhelming yourself with a long list can compound feelings of anxiety and fatigue.

“A to-do list is terrific because it deals with past, present and future,” explained Mark Ellwood, productivity consultant and author of The Poetic Path to Getting More Done. “Think about your high-priority tasks … it doesn’t mean you do those tasks first, but you plan for them first and then block off your time accordingly.”

If you’re looking for a simple formula for managing your to-do lists, Ellwood recommends identifying priorities that affect long-term results. Break down those priorities into responsibilities that should be completed today. Include additional daily requirements, such as filling out timesheets. Discard or delegate other tasks; you shouldn’t spend time on them.

According to Ellwood, it’s also critical to consider what you want to accomplish a month from today and break down those priorities into smaller daily tasks. For example, if you want to hire a new staff member by the end of the month, create bite-sized daily tasks like the following:

Breaking down a big goal into doable tasks makes it far more manageable and creates a sense of progress each day.

TipTip
High-quality business productivity apps like Asana, Basecamp and Trello can help you stay organized, save time and streamline operations.

16. Take back control of your schedule.

Staying productive, clearheaded and calm is really about feeling in control. Whether you delegate tasks to others or set time limits for interruptions, you are freeing up space in your schedule to tackle the things you’ve deemed important.

Avoiding workplace burnout and fatigue is essential to boost productivity and memory retention. You can do this by influencing the direction of your day instead of being resigned to letting the direction of your day control your actions.

17. Get off social media.

Social media is a part of our daily lives. However, it’s important to stay disciplined and not check your social platforms frequently during the workday. Many companies even ban employees from accessing social media when at work because it’s a productivity-killing distraction. If you can access social media at work, use it as a momentary entertaining break. Don’t let it overtake your day and impact your work.

18. Eat healthy foods.

A healthy diet can impact productivity. If you load up on junk food, you can end up with that 4 p.m. slump. To avoid feeling sluggish, prioritize healthy eating and nutritious snacks. No one works well on an empty stomach; treat afternoon snacking as an opportunity for a good, clean energy boost.

19. Eat lunch with your co-workers.

Although you may want to skip lunch to eat a salad at your desk while you work, research shows a boost in employee productivity and morale when employees share workplace meals. Eating with your co-workers can help you build social relationships, bond with your team and grow your network. Additionally, it forces you to take a much-needed break to relax and unplug from work.

20. Practice presence and meditation.

Staying focused and engaged can help you get more done; meditation is an excellent way to boost focus, be present, reduce stress levels at work, and stay centered and on-task. The breathing benefits of meditation can help you harness your energy and carry a sense of calm throughout your day.

Productivity killers to avoid

Several bad habits, situations and tendencies can derail productivity at work. Be mindful of the following productivity killers and how they can affect job performance:

  • Lack of sleep can kill productivity. You can’t deliver your best work when you’re emotionally and physically exhausted because productivity and energy go hand in hand. The less sleep we get, the less focused and efficient we are. According to the National Institutes of Health, adults should get at least seven hours of sleep per night. To help increase your productivity during the day, ensure you get to bed at a decent hour — and don’t spend late nights scrolling on your phone.
  • Perfectionism can kill productivity. Delivering high-quality work is crucial for employees. However, perfectionism can actually hinder productivity. The more time you spend worrying about the details of your work, the less efficient you will become. Additionally, perfectionism can lead to self-doubt, preventing you from reaching your full potential.
  • Distractions can kill productivity. A loud office, constant texts or calls, and excessive social media use can negatively impact productivity. Do your best to eliminate the distractions you can control so you can focus on the tasks at hand. For example, only allow yourself to check your phone once every 45 minutes, don’t browse social media until your lunch break, wear headphones (if allowed) to stay productive in a noisy office and set boundaries with social co-workers.
  • Clutter can kill productivity. A cluttered workspace can hurt your ability to focus. In contrast, a tidy, organized environment can improve productivity and focus while creating a sense of calm. Clean up your space — whether it’s a cubicle, office or small desk area — to better focus on your work.
  • Excessive breaks can kill productivity. While breaks are an important — and necessary — part of the workday, too many breaks can interrupt your flow. If you’re in the groove, don’t disrupt your productivity or let someone pull you away.
Did You Know?Did you know
Other distractions that kill workplace productivity include browsing the internet and answering personal emails, phone calls and texts.

Boosting your productivity in the workplace

Maintaining productivity in the office — or at home if you work remotely — is crucial to delivering your best performance. However, numerous productivity killers, from lack of sleep to clutter, can derail you.

How you improve productivity will depend on your personality, job type, responsibilities and environment. For example, some people might find that music helps them concentrate, while others may find it distracting. Choose the productivity strategies that work best for you and help keep you present.

Sammi Caramela contributed to this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

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Matt D'Angelo, Business Operations Insider and Senior Writer
Matt D'Angelo has spent several years reviewing business software products for small businesses, such as GPS fleet management systems. He has also spent significant time evaluating financing solutions, including business loan providers. He has a firm grasp of the business lifecycle and uses his years of research to give business owners actionable insights. With a journalism degree from James Madison University, D'Angelo specializes in distilling complex business topics into easy-to-read guides filled with expertise and practical applications. In addition, D'Angelo has profiled notable small businesses and the people behind them.
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