How to be more productive at work: tips to help you get more done

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Want to achieve more in less time? Who doesn’t! Here we look at some tried and tested tools and techniques to help you be more productive at work.

We all lead busy lives and sometimes it can seem extremely challenging to tick off all the tasks on our to-do lists each day. But don’t despair: here are some simple tips and tricks to boost your productivity and help you become more productive at work.

In this article

Productivity at work starts with wellbeing
Choosing and using the right technology will help you be more productive at work
Which productivity technique is right for you?
Productivity at work and neurodiversity
Three ways to be more productive at work today

 

Productivity at work starts with wellbeing

Strategies and software will only get you so far with productivity; it’s crucial to have the right foundations in place before you go seeking a technique that will help you be the most productive version of yourself.

For many, those foundations are physical and mental wellness. You won’t do your best work if you’re running on empty, so eating well is vital. Indeed, certain superfoods can seriously supercharge your productivity. For example, fish that is high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, is said to help to boost your mental performance. And, while it would be wise to steer clear of sugary snacks, dark chocolate is said to boost your energy and help you focus.

You’ll also need to drink plenty of water if you want to be on top form. In fact, one study suggested that having a drink of water can actually increase your productivity by 14% because it “ups attentional resources that were otherwise occupied with processing the sensation of thirst.” As well as drinking enough fluids throughout the day – the NHS recommends between six and eight glasses a day (and more in hot weather, or if you have been physically active) – you must also be sure to get enough good-quality sleep. It’s widely recommended that adults get at least seven hours of sleep a night. Employees who are struggling to get enough sleep – such as those experiencing menopause – may need additional support at work to ensure they remain productive.

Regular breaks are also crucial to sustained productivity at work – even when you have a pressing deadline. Opinions vary on the optimum length and frequency of breaks, but scheduling short periods of downtime will increase your productivity and creativity. For example, researchers at Florida State University found that ‘elite performers’ – such as athletes, chess players and musicians – who work in spurts of no more than 90 minutes, are more productive than those who work for longer than 90 minutes. Interestingly, the researchers also found that top performers tend to work for no more than 4.5 hours a day – perhaps just a pipe dream for most of us.

Your working environment also plays a role in helping you be more productive at work. In fact, 2014 research by the University of Exeter found that employee productivity improved by 15% when just a handful of indoor plants were introduced into a workplace. In a separate , 70% of US workers said that natural light and access to outdoor views improved their work performance.

 

Choosing and using the right technology will help you be more productive at work

While the internet is packed with endless tips about how to be more productive at work (and this article is no exception), if you don’t invest in the right tools, your productivity potential will always be limited. For knowledge workers, the right tools will be software and technology that:

  • Enables them to collaborate with colleagues and peers more efficiently
  • Organises projects and to-do lists
  • Automates repetitive, low-value tasks

There is also a whole host of tools and apps aimed at helping you work smarter, not harder, including:

  • Electronic to-do lists, such as Evernote
  • Communication and collaboration tools, such as Slack, Trello, Monday.com, and Notion
  • Web blockers such as Freedom, which block apps and specified websites so you don’t get distracted by social media
  • Meditation apps such as Calm and Headspace, which can help you to de-stress and refocus

You’ll also need to consider the specialist tools and software you need for your particular role or profession. For HR practitioners, for example, that means a high-quality, easy-to-use HR system that streamlines administration and puts data at your fingertips. Payroll managers and finance teams will need the right payroll software (or, potentially, to switch to an outsourced payroll service that takes care of all the hard work and calculations), while talent managers will want to seek out HR and recruitment software that enables them to manage multiple open vacancies, shortlist candidates, and communicate with applicants with ease.

Whatever the task in front of you, there’ll almost certainly be software on the market that promises to make your life easier. Look for trusted providers – such as Ciphr – that share stories about happy customers and have a demonstrable, ongoing commitment to customer care.

 

Which productivity technique is right for you?

Speaking of productivity hacks, it’d be remiss of us not to include a roundup of the best productivity techniques to help you stay focused at work and on-task. These include:

  • The Eat the Frog technique, which recommends you tackle your most dreaded task first each day, giving you a strong sense of achievement and boosting your energy to fully focus on more enjoyable projects later
  • The Pomodoro Technique, which aims to instil a sense of urgency to complete your tasks. It proposes dividing your time into 25-minute chunks of work, separated by five-minute breaks, and, after four of these ‘pomodoros’, taking a longer break of 15–20 minutes
  • The Getting Things Done (GTD) technique, which advocates using trusted tools and a consistent routine to help you keep track of ideas and tasks. It has five steps – capture, clarify, organise, reflect and engage – to help you become more efficient and attain your goals
  • The Zen to Done approach which comprises 10 habits that include regularly processing your ‘inbox’ of tasks (whether virtual or physical), and determining the three most important tasks (MITs) that you want to complete each day

 

Productivity at work and neurodiversity

Neurodiverse workers – including those with autism or ADHD, for example – may find that the tips and tricks listed here about how to be more productive at work are not applicable to their unique working styles.

Neurodivergent employees should speak with their managers or HR team about what they need to be productive and happy at work, whether that’s more time working at home, fewer meetings, or a quiet corner of the office where they won’t be disturbed. Under UK law, employers have an obligation to put reasonable adjustments in place to help neurodivergent workers thrive. However, it may be the case that, if you have recently been diagnosed or not formally diagnosed, you may not be totally sure of the adjustments that you require or work best for you; in this case, a working agreement might be the best way to start on your journey to productivity.

 

Tips for helping neurodiverse workers to be more productive

Neurodiversity should not be a barrier to productivity at work, but many conventional workplaces are not fully set up to support those who need reasonable adjustments to their working environments to be as productive as possible. The following tips might help:

  • Offer office-based neurodivergent workers the option to wear headphones to improve their focus
  • Set flexible deadlines (but be clear about when work must be completed)
  • Offer the option to work flexible hours – people with ADHD, for example, may find it easier to focus shortly after taking their daily medication (if they take medication)
  • Consider their communication preferences: neurodivergent workers may prefer to process information and make decisions ‘offline’ (ie outside of meetings), and may find it easier to understand tasks that are communicated in writing (via chat message, email, or a collaboration tool) rather than verbally in a phone or video call
  • Where possible, structure tasks, projects and roles in your wider team to play to your neurodivergent workers’ strengths: some people with ADHD can experience bursts of hyperfocus, for example – allocating them a task that they enjoy and are capable of completing to a high standard during a hyperfocus period can bring great satisfaction (it’s worth noting, however, the flip side of hyperfocus: a risk of burnout and a need for downtime afterwards)

 

Resources for supporting neurodivergent workers

There is a wealth of expert advice online for neurodiverse workers (and their managers and colleagues) to help neurodivergent people work more effectively. Internet forums and advice groups where people share their lived experiences and practical advice are a good place to start. Other resources include:

You might also want to consider offering training courses to line managers, or your whole organisation, on neurodiversity at work. Marshall E-Learning (part of Ciphr Group) offers neurodiversity in the workplace training which covers topics such as terminology around neurodiversity; the value of neurodiversity in the workplace; and how to help neurodivergent workers thrive.

 

How to be more productive at work today

Ready to start on your journey to greater productivity at work? Here three ways to have a more productive day – starting today.

 1. Cut down on meetings

With video calls now the norm, meetings on apps such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams take up a significant proportion of workers’ time. In fact, one survey suggests that nearly half (46%) of workers spend up to four hours a week in video conference meetings, with a further third (37%) spending four to 12 hours a week on video calls. But is this really the best use of your time?

Next time you move your mouse to ‘accept’ a calendar invite, think: is this meeting essential? Could it be shorter, or could you attend only part of the meeting? Will agreeing to this appointment prevent you from meeting an important deadline?

If meetings comprise most of your day or week, ask yourself and your manager if you really need to attend all of them – if the answer is still yes, then set a strict time limit and ensure there is an agenda (and that it’s stuck to). If you’re invited to a meeting that is just for informational purposes, ask if you can have the key takeaways shared via email instead, saving you time that you can use to focus on tasks instead.

2. Set clear priorities for the day

Whether you prefer to work in the morning or afternoon, you should set clear priorities for the day to maximise your productivity.

Write down your to-do list for the day or use digital tools to organise your tasks. If you work better during the mornings, get your hardest tasks done during that time, and save the afternoon for the simple tasks that you can easily achieve during the middle-of-the-day slump. If your organisation offers flexible working hours, you might want to take advantage of that by starting early each day.

Similarly, if you find you work better in the afternoon, save those periods for your deep work and try to schedule meetings earlier on in the day.

3. Communicate with colleagues and managers

The pandemic has proven the need for clear communication. Whether you work remotely or in an office, you’ll need to be in regular contact with your colleagues and managers ensure you stay on top of tasks. Think about the most effective means of communication: should your query be passed on in a chat message, quick phone or video call, or an email? Choosing the right medium can help you work more productively – try to avoid meetings that could have been emails, and phone calls about issues that could have been resolved with a quick chat message.

On the other hand, you won’t want all your communications channels pinging with notifications all day; consider blocking quiet time in your diary and muting app notifications to help you concentrate and get more done.

 

Ciphr’s solutions are here to boost HR teams’ productivity levels

Whether you need help streamlining and automating basic HR tasks – such as importing candidates’ details from your ATS into your HR software, or enabling single sign-on between your people management tools – Ciphr is here to help. Our expert consultants can help you identify flaws in your existing HR tech stack and processes, and recommend solutions to help you grow and achieve greater efficiencies. Request your personalised demonstration of our people management software now.