January often has us focused on reflection and how to plan for a more productive year, both in our personal and professional lives. But as we all know too well, it’s easy to disregard what the calendar says and fall back into our old ways (also both at home and at work).
If you’re trying to better manage your office time in 2016, consult these five productivity tips recommended by the coaches at Arden.
Productivity Tip #1: Plan Big To-Dos First
If you start your day by sitting down with your coffee and leisurely leafing through your unread emails, your time management could use a tune-up. I know a lot of people right now are shaking at their desks, but hear us out.
Research has shown that it’s better to tackle big projects, or those that are more important, when your mind is fresh. Instead of making a beeline for your inbox and scattering your mental energy in different directions, it’s better to put your focus toward the brunt of your task list. This may be an annual project you need to start or succession or strategy planning, for example.
By looking at what’s on your plate and prioritizing top to bottom, you can set yourself up for a more productive day.
Productivity Tip #2: Schedule Time for the Unexpected
Though planning is essential for managing your time, things don’t always go as planned. If your calendar is stacked back to back, a meeting running over, a colleague asking for last-minute help, or getting stuck in traffic on the way back from lunch (see tip #5) can work against you when it doesn’t have to.
To make your calendar realistic and ready for these breakdown moments to-be, overplan rather than underplan in terms of the time you think you’ll need because chances are, you’ll probably will wind up needing it. Schedule these “breakdown blocks” throughout your day in 15- to 30-minute chunks. This way you won’t be flustered and behind when the unexpected (somewhat expectedly) drops in.
Productivity Tip #3: Honor What Your Calendar Says
As you’ve most likely learned the hard way, boosting your productivity at work takes dedication. It’s a fickle balance between allowing yourself enough time for the task at hand and staying true to the amount of time you actually spend.
By honoring the start and stop times listed on your calendar, you’ll be able to get more done in a day than you would without that extra push to move onto the next thing on your to-do list.
Productivity Tip #4: Dare to Work Uninterrupted
While most people may have an inkling that interruptions play a role in productivity, most don’t realize just how
distractions can steal away a potentially productive day. It actually takes much more mental energy for us to flit back and forth between topics.
Say you have your inbox rigged to glow in orange and send a notification window center screen every time you get a new email. You’re compelled to open the email and skim it. You quickly deduce that it isn’t a high-priority item and you go back to your previous task. Now you’re probably rereading what you were working on and feel like you lost your train of thought. It’s even more difficult for your brain to go back to the task it was on before.
Combat this by turning off all notifications, things that beep, ring, buzz, etc. permeating your work zone. Save the notifications for one priority person instead of many.
Productivity Tip #5: Take Time to Recharge
Taking time off is important on multiple levels. Without breaks, we’re more likely to feel burnt out and frustrated with our work and ourselves. Use the time that your company provides to disconnect and refresh your perspective and bond with those outside your work life. You’ll return with new ideas and a clearer head, which will make it easier for you to focus on the projects you need to accomplish.
Taking time off on a small scale is also something you should do throughout your work day. Go outside, take a lunch break, take a walk to the break room every hour—whatever it is that helps you give your mind a mini rest will help.
Day in and day out, Arden’s coaches help executives navigate their days more efficiently and effectively. If you’re curious about what an executive coaching partnership entails, check out Arden Coaching’s free eBook How Does an Executive Coaching Engagement Work? to learn more.