How to Be More Productive at Work (Hint: Coffee is Not the Answer)

Use these tips to get more done in less time.
Photo Credit: Unsplash

Author: Cassie Scott

If you think drinking coffee or working late boosts your productivity, think again.

Plenty of research and statistics prove that working long hours without breaks is counterproductive. “The Business Case Against Overtime,” an article by Dan Kedmey, explains that uninterrupted work doesn’t make people more productive or businesses more profitable. In fact, Yoshie Komuro, CEO of Work Life Balance, found that some companies generated more revenue after cutting overtime hours by 30 percent.

How can you do more in less time? Don’t work harder. Work smarter. Consider these tips to stay focused, increase productivity, and balance your work and home lives.

Turn off notifications for every app that isn't work related. Photo Credit: Medical Xpress

Distractions and Interruptions

Distractions and interruptions hamper productivity. You can’t be 100 percent focused on your task if you hear your phone buzzing and coworkers jabbering. Cal Newport, author of “Digital Minimalism,” argues that “deep work” requires focusing on mentally demanding tasks without distractions. People can’t engage in such work while being bombarded with email alerts, phone calls or other distractions. Performance decreases when switching between tasks, projects or mindsets because they can’t switch between thoughts without lag time.

To concentrate on “deep work,” you must make it happen, Newport said. Silence your cell phone and close your email tab. Wear headphones to deter coworkers from interrupting you. You’ll also think more clearly by organizing and uncluttering your work environment. You’ll be less distracted by things on your desk, and spend less time searching for pens, papers or other misplaced items.


‘Eat the Frog’

Have you heard the saying, “Eat the frog?” This concept from author Brian Tracy urges people to stop procrastinating and tackle the day’s most important items first. Tracy’s idea comes from a famous quote – often falsely attributed to Mark Twain – that reads: “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

Tracy’s frog analogy represents uncomfortable, distasteful things work often requires. “Eating the frog” to start each workday helps you feel focused and accomplished, which makes it easier to complete future tasks. Once your daily plan ranks your priorities, stick to it. Simple to-do lists and strict time blocks keep you on schedule.

Get up and stretch or go for a walk around the building without coworkers. Photo Credit: Botha Chiropractic

Take Intentional Breaks

When working to meet deadlines, you might be tempted to skip lunch, guzzle coffee, ignore exhaustion and keep working. Don’t give in. Pushing yourself to exhaustion is counterproductive. Komuro thinks our brains can only concentrate for 13 hours. If you’re tired or overworked, you’re prone to mistakes and poor decisions, which means more time fixing errors you could’ve avoided.

Instead of pushing through, stop, breathe and let your mind rest and recharge. The Evernote article “3 Surprising Secrets to Maintaining Your Focus” suggests scheduling breaks that get your blood flowing and take your mind off work. Try taking short walks and avoid talking to coworkers who will likely bring up work or office gossip. If nothing else, stand up or stretch. Breaks shouldn’t make you feel lazy or guilty. They help you perform at higher levels for longer. Be efficient, not stubborn.


Use Apps and Tools

Want to get organized? Want to use your time effectively? There’s an app for that! Phones can be workplace distractions, but they can also be fantastic productivity aids. Use the alarm to schedule breaks. Use the calendar to block hours for “deep work.” Learn how to configure your phone for focus and productivity here.

Then, consider productivity apps to conquer your day. SnackNation recommends a few options. The RescueTime app runs in the background on computers and mobile devices to track time on applications and websites. At the end of each day or week, a detailed report specifies where you spent your time. Evernote is a digital notepad for phones, tablets and computers that syncs with the cloud to keep your notes up to date. You can also save pictures, to-do lists and voice-recorded messages as notes. Asana is a project-management app that helps work-teams assign tasks and communicate with each other. You can also create lists, track ideas and upload images to keep everything you need in one place.

To learn more about work-focused apps, search online or read “The Best Productivity Apps for 2019” by Tom’s Guide.

By working more strategically, you’ll accomplish your business goals quickly, and gain time to enjoy your personal life with family and friends.

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