As much as we look forward to it, stress levels often rise as we enter the holiday season. We can’t help you deal with your in-laws, but here are three proven productivity hacks that will make your work life better. And these tips work equally well whether you are working from home or in the office.
1. Designate Specific Times to Check Email
First, a little brain science. Dopamine is a hormone we all produce. It is a neurotransmitter that plays a major role in satisfying our natural reward system and in generating feelings of pleasure. Whenever we hear the ping of an incoming email our brains actually get a small dopamine hit. And dopamine is addictive. That’s why we so eagerly react to new emails, and are constantly checking our inboxes for new messages. The problem is that email interruptions and inbox checks — even quick breaks of 5-10 seconds — kill concentration and productivity.
Turn off your computer’s audio and visual notifications for new emails to reduce distractions. Establish set times (and time limits) to check and respond to your email. Use the out-of-office message function to let people know that you check email on a regular schedule.
While adjustments need to be made for supervisors and high priority projects and teams, you’ll be surprised how quickly people adapt and calm down. There will be less, “I sent you an email 4 minutes ago and you haven’t replied yet!,” and more quality work time for you.
2. Get Your Desk and Workspace in Order
According to OrganizedWorld.com, the typical office worker spends 1.5 hours a day — 6 weeks a year — looking for things! That’s a lot of time searching for paperclips, file folders, and scraps of paper with important notes written on them. Imagine what you could do with six more weeks in your year!
Organize your desk and your workspace so that everything has a place and there is a place for everything. This includes how you organize your computer — folders, subfolders, documents, email, etc. It’s just as wasteful to spend 10 minutes looking for a specific version of a project PDF, or an email sent to you last month, as it is to waste time looking for a hardcopy report or your stapler. Put materials away when you are finished with them. Close tabs on your browser. Don’t let items pile up on your computer desktop.
In addition to increasing your efficiency, studies show that when workspaces are clean and organized people increase their feelings of control and sense of calm.
3. Put Your To-Do List On Your Calendar
At Arden Coaching, our executive coaches know that a person’s calendar reflects what is truly important to them. Someone may say that a particular project is a high priority, but if there’s no time spent on the calendar, is it really?
“Timeboxing” takes your to-do list and embeds it in your calendar. The idea is to take your priority to-do’s and schedule specific blocks of time to address them. Then, those blocks of time are treated as you would a meeting your must attend and cannot reschedule. Timeboxing commits you to doing certain work at a certain time — it also helps with time limits.
For example, if a monthly financial report for senior leadership is one of your responsibilities, embed the time required to gather the information, develop an analysis, generate the report, and deliver it to senior leadership into your calendar — with specific blocks of time dedicated to each step of the process. Timeboxing will help you complete the financial report in a productive, timely way, and with less stress.
Also, timebox for the unexpected. In other words, it’s not fair to deny that you know that you will spend 1-2 hours a day on emergencies/urgent matters. You may not know which hours they will occur, but you know they WILL occur. So don’t timebox every minute of your day!
It takes practice, but you will begin to feel like you are getting significant projects and tasks done on work that truly matters. And you will be!
For more productivity tips, read Arden Coaching’s blog “3 Simple Productivity Tips That Work.” For more tips with a focus on wellness, read Arden Coaching’s blog “5 Wellness Hacks for Work From Home (WFH).”