5 Ways to Prepare Yourself For Productivity

Entrepreneur reported that disengaged employees can cost companies between $450-$550 billion in lost productivity, giving a whole new meaning to the phrase, “time is money.” If you’re looking for them, it’s not hard to find tips and tricks for staying productive. Experts talk about avoiding distraction when, in reality, so much of what prevents us from being productive isn’t unexpected. Staying concentrated, alert, and productive is much easier for those who prepare well before they work.

It’s 2 PM. Somewhere in the distance children are laughing, the sun is shining on a summer afternoon, and you’re trapped inside, staring at emails with your third cup of coffee in hand, wondering if it’s possible that time has stopped. Everyone hits a wall during the workday. With seemingly endless to-do lists and tedious tasks, it can be difficult to stay motivated. However, a lack of productivity can cost businesses billions of dollars every year (yes, you read that right—billions). In 2015, Entrepreneur reported that disengaged employees can cost companies between $450-$550 billion in lost productivity, giving a whole new meaning to the phrase, “time is money.” If you’re looking for them, it’s not hard to find tips and tricks for staying productive. Experts talk about avoiding distraction when, in reality, so much of what prevents us from being productive isn’t unexpected. Staying concentrated, alert, and productive is much easier for those who prepare well before they work. In the famous words of Benjamin Franklin, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”Make the most out of your workday by testing out these tips to prepare yourself for productivity:

1. Structure Your Time

Lists can be helpful reminders, but they aren’t always helpful in completing tasks in an efficient manner. Go in with a game plan. When creating your to-do list, estimate how much time each task will take and then write it down on your schedule, challenge yourself to stick to the schedule you create. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should rush through a project to keep to your schedule. But, as you consistently schedule your days, you’ll get better and better at knowing how much time a task will take.Be smart about how you schedule your work, too. Know your own peak time and schedule your most burdensome projects during that time. For example, if you know you’re more productive in the morning, schedule your intensive budget review before lunch and leave your emails for the afternoon. Not only will those difficult projects get your highest quality work, but they’ll be done much faster than they would at any other time during the day.

2. Assess Your Surroundings

The workplace can be full of distractions. From colleagues to cellphones, it’s easy to lose focus. If you struggle with electronic distractions, turn off your notifications before you get to the office or try using Forest to keep your mind (or mouse) from wandering. If colleagues are a source of distraction, invest in a pair of noise-canceling headphones and listen to music that will promote a steady workflow. Personally, I avoid music with lyrics while I work. Otherwise, the urge to sing along would be too strong, and I’d never get any work done.Look at your desk, too. Do you have desk toys, stress balls, or clutter that might pull you away from your project? If so, remove it. If you leave anything on your desk, make sure it’s something that contributes positively to your productivity like a checklist, project notes, or a healthy snack of some sort.

3. Take Breaks!

Taking breaks throughout the day is important for many reasons--breaks encourage physical activity, increase productivity, and improve your memory. Even a short break can give you something to look forward to and help keep you motivated. Don’t just sit at your desk looking at your phone during your break, though. Try taking a quick walk instead. Fresh air and increased blood flow to the brain can help rejuvenate your mind and motivation. It’s also good for your overall health. The key to taking productive breaks is scheduling them beforehand. I talked about structuring your time earlier -- breaks should be built right into that. Even if you aren’t feeling fatigued, jumping straight from one task to the next is the quickest way to burn out. Scheduling breaks at regular intervals ensures that you won’t tire yourself out too quickly, and it’ll give you a little boost.

4. Stay Organized

Disorganization is public enemy number one. Have you ever been working on a project and remembered a document or email that would be helpful to you? If you’re disorganized, you might spend twenty minutes trying to find what you need. You might file through stacks of papers or hundreds of emails, and even then, finding that piece of information is no guarantee. That time should be spent on something more productive; an organized person can find that document quickly and move on with their work.If you want to be that organized person, try setting up folders and tags for your email inbox. If you’re dealing with physical documents, make sure that all of your documents are filed in the right place and in an easily recognizable order. Take the time to label things properly so you aren’t lost looking for it later. Organize everything from your desk to your inbox and you’ll find that you can complete tasks much more efficiently.

5. Give Yourself a Pep Talk

All of us have trouble getting excited about work sometimes, even if we love what we do. You might have a big project or deadline looming over your head which can cause stress and decrease your motivation to be productive. So, before you start your workday, give yourself a pep talk. I’m not kidding--it’s been scientifically proven that positively talking to yourself reduces anxiety and improves performance. It also has multiple health benefits including a stronger resistance to the common cold!Tell yourself “I can do this.” Write down what you believe you can accomplish. If you feel weird talking to yourself, find a motivational TED talk to get you going. I’m partial to Kid President videos, but that’s just me. If you can get yourself excited to complete your work, you’ll be much more productive (and successful).In your busy life, it may seem like there is always more to do than there is time to do it. That’s why preparing yourself for productivity is a big part of any job. When implementing these tips, be sure to adjust them to fit how you are most productive. You don’t have to watch Kid President and listen to music without lyrics like I do, but that’s what works best for me. No matter how you do it, preparing for productive work is essential.

Taft Anderson

Taft Anderson is the former Product Marketing Manager of Swipesum. A graduate of Washington University in St. Louis' Olin Business School, Taft is a content and branding expert.

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