Your 1-Hour Guide to Boosting Work Productivity


Your 1-Hour Guide to Boosting Work Productivity

You know the feeling. You’ve been at work for 9+ hours, you’re tired and frazzled, but somehow it feels like you didn’t get anything done. Where in the world did your time go? More importantly, how can you get it back?

Fortunately, there are a few simple, tried-and-true things you can do to boost your productivity significantly. Follow the plan below, and within an hour you’ll be back on track and working more efficiently than ever.

2 Minutes: Disconnect From Social Media

Studies show that an occasional glance at social media can boost employees’ mood, thereby increasing their productivity. But productivity plummets when social media use gets out of control. To avoid getting distracted, turn off your phone and close social media tabs on your web browser.

Of course, many people use social media regularly for business. If you are one of these people, plan when during the day you’ll use social media, and avoid looking at it except during those times. Don’t go on your personal pages, and don’t spend more than a few minutes on each site.

10 Minutes: Cancel Useless Meetings

Americans waste a lot of their work week stuck in meetings—some as much as 40%. Think about the last few meetings you attended. Were they useful? Was the time used efficiently? Did you accomplish what you needed to?

Chances are, you have too many meetings and they drag on too long. To prevent this, go through your regularly scheduled meetings and see what you can cut. For meetings where you need to transmit information but not engage in a lot of discussion, send an email instead. For regular catch-everyone-up sessions, make them standing meetings. No one likes to stand for more than a few minutes at a time, so standing meetings go quickly and eliminate a lot of extra chatting and transitions time.

When you absolutely have to have a sit-down meeting, have an agenda. Outline exactly why you are having that meeting, what you want to accomplish, and what contribution you need from each person. Have a strict time limit for the meeting so that everyone works quickly.

If you’re the one scheduling the meetings, give invitees the option to say no. Don’t require employees to attend a meeting if they don’t need to or they won’t contribute. If you’re not the one in charge, suggest changes that will shorten or eliminate meetings. You’ll likely be lauded for your contribution to higher workplace productivity.

20 Minutes: Clean Your Space

A clean, organized work space will help you focus better and will save you time looking for that document or filing that form. Plus, the cleaner you are, the less likely you are to get sick; you can’t improve your productivity if you’re out sick all the time.

One approach to cleaning and organizing your workspace is the one-touch method. The rule is you can only touch each item once. Once you’ve picked up an item, you have to decide what to do with it right away. This prevents the oh-so-common method of making an “I’ll decide what to do with this later” pile and essentially creating future cleaning sessions for yourself. Get it all done at once, and you’ll feel much better and more ready to work.

After you’ve organized your desk and surrounding area, attack your email inbox. Create folders for emails that you need to keep but don’t have to look at right away. Delete all emails that you don’t need anymore, and keep in your inbox only those emails that you need to refer to today. Try to do all of this in about 5-7 minutes. Don’t let yourself get caught up in reading old emails or clicking on links to videos. The point is to quickly and efficiently declutter your space so that you can get to work as soon as possible.

Make a habit of cleaning your desk and cleaning out your inbox at the end of each day. If you stay on top of it, it shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes, and you’ll be prepared for the next day right when you walk in.

20 Minutes: Plan

Planning is something many of us overlook. We have a general idea of what we need to do in a day, so we feel like actually writing it out is a waste of time. But you’ll save an estimated 2 hours during your day if you take just a few minutes to plan it out.

Start with your high priority tasks, conversations, and brainstorming sessions, and schedule blocks of time within your day and your week to accomplish those tasks. Try to plan important tasks for those times during the week and day when you are naturally most productive.

Be sure to have a clear beginning and ending time for each task. Studies show that unless people plan exactly when and where they will do something, they likely won’t do it. And, let’s face it, we humans procrastinate whenever we can. Set a clear ending time for each task to avoid dragging it out.

As you are planning each task, leave five minutes at the beginning and end—five minutes to prepare for the task and five minutes to reflect on it and determine how effective it was. If you get into this habit, you’ll find that you quickly learn where you are wasting time, and you’ll use your time more wisely the next day.

After planning your most important tasks, go through your day and week and schedule lower-priority items. Look for areas where you can delegate. Leave a few minutes open here and there during the day to allow for interruptions and breaks. Plan time to check your email, social media, and phone, and don’t check them outside of their allotted time slots.

If your schedule is constantly changing, you may have to work with a to-do list instead. If this is the case, start with the shortest, easiest tasks first to maximize productivity.

A plan will help you move seamlessly from one job to another and avoid wasting time figuring out what to do next or procrastinating your next assignment. Planning is as much attention management as it is time management. Plan each day out so you are in control of your time.

3 Minutes: Read About the Evils of Multitasking

Most of us try to multitask during the day. I say “try” because none of us are truly multitasking. What feels like multitasking is actually switching from one activity to another quickly. We do it because it makes us feel more productive, but we’re actually slowing our productivity significantly because of the transition time, both physically and mentally.

To be more productive, commit today to stop multitasking. If you’ve planned your week and day out well, multitasking shouldn’t be as much of a temptation.

The main antecessor of multitasking is interruptions. Emails, phone calls, chats, remembering things you need to do—all of these distract us and make us feel like we have to jump from one task to another.

Avoid derailing your linear plan by only answering emails during your scheduled time, answering calls only if absolutely necessary, and keeping a to-do list handy. When you remember something, make a note to do it later instead of jumping to it right now. And when you end up using your scheduled interruption time, reshuffle your plan accordingly.

5 Minutes: Breathe

If you look up “productivity” on, interestingly, you’ll find several talks about the importance of slowing down, being still, and even getting more sleep. It seems that the faster we go, the worse we perform. Conversely, if we slow down a bit, we perform much more efficiently, not just at work but in all areas of life.

You can’t always take tasks off your plate, but you can decelerate mentally. Planning is a good start to this; when you have everything written down, you don’t have to think about all the things you have to get done, and you can focus on the task at hand.

Another excellent method of slowing down is meditation. Those who meditate report several profound benefits, including being less stressed and having a sharper mind and longer attention span.

So take a few minutes every hour or so to just breathe and relax your mind, and you’ll find that the rest of your day becomes much more constructive and enjoyable.

The Result

Americans work fewer hours than they did 50 years ago, but studies show that we feel we are working more. This is largely because we are not using our time well. We are multitasking, spending hours and hours in useless meetings, getting distracted by social media, and working through our breaks.

Take control of your time. In-control people = happy people and happy people = productive people. Follow this guide, and you just might begin the most productive and happy time of your career.


Lauren Truman
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