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33 Productivity Tips to Help You Work Smarter

Written by - 12/06/2015

As a Project Manager in a busy web design agency, it’s my job to ensure that quality work gets delivered on time and on budget. To ensure we do this, I need to put a lot of trust and faith in the team around me. I need to know that they are going to deliver when I need them to. I need them to be focussed on the tasks that they are set, and I need them to be able to solve any problems that they face by using initiative and by and working together.

I know it’s easy to get distracted, and when tasks are difficult or challenging we can all be prone to procrastination and confusion. However, I also know from experience that big strides can be made towards increasing your productivity and output by working smarter and by simply focussing on what you need to do.

1. Do the difficult task first and swallow the frog! Once you have that difficult task done, you can focus on being productive with the rest of your day. You will be at your most creative and problem-solving best in the morning when energy levels are high, so use this time to get things done. Throughout the day your energy depletes so leave the easier, less challenging tasks till the afternoon.

2. Make a list. You might choose to go analogue and write everything down in a pad, or you might want to use an online list management tool such as Google Keep or Trello, but either way, make sure you do it and make sure your progress is visible, e.g. cross off the task when it’s done.

3. Helping others will boost your confidence. Start your day by helping teammates with their work. By being pleasant with your colleagues, sharing useful information and offering to help, you will start your day with positivity whilst helping others to make a good start to their day too.

4. Head off problems at the pass. Make sure you spot issues early and deal with them before they become less manageable and more difficult to quell.

5. Get up out of your seat, go for a walk and change your scenery. Sometimes, simply by just removing yourself from your work for a few minutes, you can refocus your mind and can often find solutions to problems that may have bugged you for hours. Take a break!

6. StayFocused is a flexible Chrome extension that allows you to control how much time you spend on ‘time-wasting’ websites, like Facebook, and can completely block out websites that you can’t resist but know are a time sink.

7. Smile 🙂 it doesn’t hurt and makes a big difference to you and those around you.

8. Plan for the next day before you leave. Create your next day’s to do list before you leave at the end of the day so you are ready to start as soon as you get to your desk.

9. Keeping a time diary of exactly how you spend your time will help you see how much time you’re wasting. Tools such as RescueTime can help you reflect on how to spend your time more effectively and highlight your problem areas. You may be surprised by how much time you waste.

10. Stop striving for perfection and know when to stop.

11. Manage your day/week by colour-coding your calendar by activity type, e.g. meetings are blue, phone calls are red etc.

12. Look around at your desk space, is it conducive to productive work? Does it need a tidy up? Working in chaotic spaces will produce chaotic results.

13. Switch off all tabs that you are not using – they only act as a distraction. Chrome extension TabZolo allows you to focus on only one tab, while temporarily hiding all others.

14. Work on tasks that are important, but not urgent. Try to do at least one task that is important, but not urgent, so you can work through your higher level task list and not just put out fires all day.

15. Start following the two-minute rule (from David Allen’s Getting Things Done system) that states if a task will take you less than two minutes, just do it.

16. For every minute you plan, you save five minutes in the task. It’s difficult to work smarter if you don’t plan.

17. Drink more water, it boosts your energy and helps you think.

18. Lowering your expectations can make you more confident, and can help you relax. Try to have fun, and not worry too much about proving yourself all the time.

19. Download Coffitivity to see why the ambient noises of a coffee shop have been proven to boost your productivity and creativity.

20. If you get stuck, just stop and deconstruct what you are trying to achieve. Rethink your process. Look at the bigger picture and break it down into more manageable, bite-size chunks.

21. If you are prone to procrastination, find out what triggers it. Tasks which create procrastination are known to be boring, frustrating, difficult, ambiguous, unstructured and lacking in personal meaning. Work out why a task is causing you to procrastinate and deal with it, e.g. if it’s an unstructured task, build some structure around it.

22. Avoiding shortcuts will save you time in the long run as cutting corners will inevitably come back to bite you on the bum!

23. Ask for help early and quickly. Don’t be too proud or hide it away by brushing it under the carpet, use the people around you to help solve problems.

24. Don’t work too hard, it will slow down your productivity.

25. Create a ‘not to do list’, e.g. ‘No moaning’, ‘No undermining teammates or colleagues’, ‘No Facebook or personal messages whilst working’. Having a ‘not to do list’ will help focus your attention on the things that matter.

26. Always plan for distractions as they will happen. Factor them into your day.

27. Understand and recognise what your distractions are and remove them.

28. Are you sitting comfortably? If not, change it and make sure you are comfortable. This may seem obvious, but if you are uncomfortable, you will not be productive.

29. Delegate wherever possible. Don’t take too much on and make sure you are vocal if you have too much to do as others can, and will, help you.

30. Ask yourself “if I only do one thing today what would it be?”, and do it… first!

31. Be sure to prioritise. Do you know what your priorities are? If you don’t, find out. Any assumptions or mistakes will cause bigger issues for you and your team later.

32. Who has accountability for a task? Make sure you know who it is and don’t make excuses if you haven’t found out and it turns out to be you, e.g. should you reply to an email that’s been sent to you and someone else? Is it your responsibility to deliver a piece of work, or someone else’s?

33. Remember to be happy! Being in a good mood makes you more productive and will rub off on those around you too.