No matter where you work, whether it’s at an employer’s office, a home office, a coworking space or somewhere else, you want to be as efficient and productive during work hours as possible. But with so many distractions to contend with during the day, that’s easier said than done.
A Robert Half survey of more than 2,400 professionals in the United States suggests that many people are contending with productivity challenges while on the job, whether they’re working remotely or not. Those who clock in from a home office may have a slight edge, though: While one in five professionals (21%) said they’re equally productive wherever they work, 35% of respondents reported that they accomplish more when working at home.
If you are looking for ways to boost your on-the-job productivity, we have 15 tips that can help you work better from anywhere. Use any or all of these strategies to help enhance your focus, do more in less time and feel the satisfaction of actually getting things done:
1. Condense your daily to-do list
Too often, people overestimate what they can accomplish at work and become frustrated by their lack of progress. Try using a shorter, more realistic to-do list daily that leaves room for unexpected projects and interruptions. It will help you be more productive!
2. Aim for quality, not quantity
Multitasking seems like a surefire way to increase productivity, but repeatedly switching gears is mentally taxing and can slow you down. Do your best to focus on one item at a time.
3. Implement a formal time management strategy
Consider using well-known time-management approaches to help structure your work (which can also help you avoid the stress and inefficiency of multitasking).
The Pomodoro Technique is just one example of a time management strategy for improving your focus during the workday. You engage in work sessions of 25 minutes each; after each session, you take a five-minute break. It’s a win-win: You get more done and give yourself time throughout the day to recharge.
4. Take advantage of apps
A wide selection of software is available to help people increase their productivity, keep track of projects, meet deadlines and be more organized. A quick internet search will reveal many options (including free ones!) that you can use to keep your work flowing and tasks on schedule.
5. Know your prime time for productivity
Use your internal clock to your advantage by tackling critical or challenging assignments during the time of day when you’re most alert and productive.
Robert Half’s survey on productivity found that most workers hit their stride in the late morning (9 a.m. to 12 p.m.) and early afternoon (1 to 4 p.m.), even when working remotely. And very few professionals report that they are tackling their to-dos during lunch or evening hours.
6. Decrease interruptions (to the extent possible)
When you’re working on important assignments, you can boost your productivity exponentially by turning off mobile devices and signing out of personal email and social media. Doing so allows you to give full attention to the task at hand.
Let your coworkers know when you would prefer not to be interrupted and that you may be delayed in responding to their correspondence while you’re working “in the zone.” For example, if your team uses a messaging app like Slack, you could set your online status to “busy.” Or you could simply block off time on your shared calendar for work to note when you’re unavailable.
See more tips to help raise your productivity, regardless of where you're working from.
7. Break down big projects into smaller tasks
Intimidation can lead to putting off work just because you feel like you can’t deal with it. So, break big, complicated projects into more manageable “chunks.” You’ll feel less overwhelmed. Plus, you’ll gain a sense of accomplishment each time you reach an incremental milestone. (Another tip: Work through the most complex tasks first if you can, so when you hit the home stretch on your project, you aren’t facing a massive wall of challenging work.)
8. Just say ‘no’ (so you can say ‘yes’ to productivity)
Sometimes you simply can’t take on another assignment, no matter how small. Permit yourself to say “no” at times. While you want to build a reputation as a team player, you don’t want to overpromise and underdeliver.
9. Stay on course while online
Be disciplined when using the internet during work hours. It’s all too easy to get distracted from your core focus — reading an industry report, for example — and suddenly find yourself perusing a popular online shopping destination or checking out what your favorite celeb has been posting on Instagram. Next thing you know, an hour has gone by — and you’re off-schedule.
10. Mitigate meeting mania
Humorist Dave Barry once observed: “If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be meetings.”
Many of the workers Robert Half recently surveyed concur with this point of view: When asked to share what most impedes their productivity, the top response was unnecessary calls and meetings (32%), followed by conversations with colleagues (30%).
So, consider rethinking the need for routine meetings that have outlived their purpose. Or, try to prune meeting times by 25% to force yourself and others to stay on point.
Also, avoid scheduling video calls with colleagues to talk through matters you could easily address in a quick phone call, text or email. Video meetings can be super-efficient, and they’re a great way to engage with your teammates, especially when you’re working remotely. But even if they’re short, hopping on video calls several times throughout the day can easily undermine your overall productivity.
Videoconference etiquette can be vital to your career in today’s work-from-anywhere world. Get 14 tips for success in this post.
11. Give yourself a break
It may sound counterintuitive, but taking time to unplug and recharge can help you get more done. Solutions to complex problems often surface when you’re not intently focused on the issue.
Just stepping away from your desk to get some fresh air or checking out what’s happening in one of your company’s non-work-related messaging channels might be all you need to get a second wind on productivity in the workday.
12. Take care of your health
This tip complements the one above. Give yourself a break outside of work, too. It is important to eat healthily, exercise regularly and get adequate sleep. Being out of balance in any of those three areas can throw off your ability to concentrate and perform at your best level.
Also, be sure to take advantage of any wellness-related programs, perks and benefits your employer offers.
13. Clean up your workspace regularly
If you often lose time because you’re scrambling to find files or locate the many important reminders you write down on sticky notes, take time during or after work to do a clean sweep of your desk. Get into the habit of investing a few minutes each day — and at the end of each workweek — to organize and tidy up. (Try doing this with your calendar and inbox, too.)
14. Recondition your reflexes
Chances are that you read your emails or other digital messages the instant you get a notification. Fight the impulse to immediately react when you hear the pinging sound of an incoming message or catch a glimpse of a pop-up on your computer screen. Pick specific times to check your inbox and messaging apps throughout the day.
15. Don’t procrastinate
You may not be able to control everything that can derail your productivity during the workday, but this is one you can definitely own. Procrastination is one of those traps many of us fall into as we lose focus on the job. Then, we wonder, “What happened to the time?” or “How did I miss that deadline?”
Procrastination is not the same as laziness; instead, it is an active process of choosing to do one thing over another.
There are many ways to eliminate distractions and counter procrastination, whether you’re working on a small task or a large project. Consider these strategies:
- Identify what you’re most likely to put off.
- Use deadlines or set time frames to motivate yourself to work on something or get it done.
- Ask for help when you need it to get over the hump.
Also, when you reach a milestone or finish a project, reward yourself for a job well done. Treat yourself to a delicious meal, go for a walk or just take time to have some fun with friends or family.
Apply all or some of these 15 tips regularly while on the job, and you’ll find it easier to be productive — no matter where you’re working from!
To see more results from Robert Half’s survey on worker productivity, check out this video.