Today, I am putting on the working girl hat and sharing with you how I increase productivity at work. In my current role, I never know what the day is going to bring. Being a working mom, I try to keep the late nights to a minimum. It does not always work that way, but I am getting a lot better. As a result, I have to be as efficient and productive as possible during the typical workday. As with any skill, it is still something I am working on. However, I have found some practices that really help me be as productive as possible.
Leave the Drama at the Door
I know this is not easy, but when you start your workday you need to release all other distractions from your mind. There is no thinking about the laundry or dirty dishes you have to tackle when you get home. I also think it is very important to let go of the guilt and drama that you might have brought to work with you. Trust me, there are many days when I am rehashing a situation from the morning that did not go according to plan. If you are someone who overanalyzes everything, this can consume your day.
It is okay to think about your kids or what you are going to do after work. However, keep those thoughts to a minimum. If your mind is constantly racing through what is for dinner, how you are going to get to the PTA meeting or if you forgot to shut the garage door, you are not going to be able to fully focus on what you need to get done at work.
Right before I power on my laptop for the day, I like to meditate for a bit. I find that this is a great way to clear my mind and get focused on the day. Depending on what is going on, I may also pick a specific mantra to focus on. If you are not into meditation, perhaps just a few deep breaths will do the trick.
Set 3 Goals for the Day
It is so easy to get lost in your whirlwind, which is why I am a big fan of the book The 4 Disciplines of Execution. To prioritize my day and to also make sure I truly accomplish something of value, I like to set three goals that I am going to tackle for the day. It may be a task that I need to get done for a project I am working on, a professional development activity or something else outside my normal scope of work. I am a big believer that busy does not mean that you are always productive. By setting these goals, it provides me with a sense of accomplishment. It also motivates me to push myself harder the next day.
I do not have a formal system in place to track my goals. I use the Erin Condren planner and just write down my three goals in there. For some reason, writing them down versus tracking electronically feels like I am holding myself more accountable. For some time, I was just writing down my three goals on a post-it note. I’m so fancy! You can use whatever method works for you. I also set some personal goals each day, but we will talk about that another time.
The office is full of distractions and it can be so tempting to get involved in all of the office conversations that take place. There is nothing wrong with small talk, but try to keep it short and sweet. As tempting as it is, try to stay off of social media during the day. This is something I am not very good at, but I try to only go on once or twice a day. I find that listening to classical music really helps me focus. Amazon Prime has a great playlist called Classical for Focus that I really like. If I am in the office, it also helps me tune out other conversations.
Tackle the Difficult Tasks First
I am a morning person; always have been and I always will. As a result, I find that I am most productive in the morning. I like to tackle the most difficult or least enjoyable tasks first. Sometimes these may be some of my goals I have set for the day, but not always. I try to leave some of the busy work, such as tracking and documentation, for the end of the day. I also feel that by crossing some of the major tasks of my list in the morning, allows me to feel like I have really accomplished something. If I do not plan accordingly, I can get myself stuck in an email and voicemail whirlwind very quickly. I also feel like I have earned that second cup of coffee if I am being a badass and getting things done.
Turn Off Email and Other Alerts
This was a game changer for me. In my current role, I get a lot of email and instant messages. I feel like it is often a full-time job just to keep up with those two tasks. If I am constantly married to the two, I would truly never get anything done. As a result, I like to set periods throughout the day in which I shut down my email for a bit to work on a project or another important task. I tried just ignoring the alerts that came in, but that did not work for me.
A lot of professional development gurus say that you should only check your email once or twice a day. That really is not an option in my role. However, I find that it really helps to shut down email and voicemail when I am working on projects. It may only be an hour or so, but it makes a big difference for me.
I am still a work in progress and I am sure that I always will be.
Since I have started making a conscious effort to be a more mindful mama, I have made great stride on the productivity front. I still have my days where I am consumed by something that is going on in my personal life or have something from my mind I am not able to shake. There are days when I am not feeling myself and am not as productive as I should be. We all have those days. However, most of the days I am as focused and productive as I can be. I love my job and I love being a mom, so my goal is to be equally good at both of them. In order to do that, I need to be present in the moment, whether it is at home or at work.
Life is called a journey for a reason and I am sure I will continue to evolve.
What are some tips that you have for increasing your productivity at work?