How to Be More Productive at Work: Avoid These 7 Things

By Robert Half on July 25, 2019 at 7:00am

Everyone juggles busy schedules, but some people make it look so easy. They’re always getting things done, faster and more efficiently than others. Meanwhile, you’re wrestling with your workload, burdened by expectations and deluged by what you’re NOT getting done. What's the secret for knowing how to be more productive at work?

It turns out that highly productive people work hard at forming good habits. To start with, they maximize their organizational skills with an approach that goes deeper than a tidy desk and clutter-free calendar. They understand how to make the best use of their time by avoiding the productivity pitfalls that cause the rest of us to feel stressed, distracted, overwhelmed or inadequate. And, according to a recent Robert Half survey, they also know the day of the week and time of the day when their productivity peaks.

View the Productivity Power Play infographic for a more detailed look at the findings.

Many of their good habits are really things they don't do. Here’s a list.

1. They don’t procrastinate

Procrastination is one of those traps that many of us fall into as we lose our focus and then wonder, “What happened to the time?” or “How did I miss that deadline?”

It’s not the same as laziness, because procrastination is an active process of choosing to do one thing over another or putting off making a decision about taking action, for one reason or 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.
  • Break down big projects into specific, well-defined tasks, then write those down.
  • Reward yourself for reaching milestones. Whether it’s a walk with the dog or an after-work drink, celebrate with something you know you enjoy.
  • 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.

2. They don’t go to every meeting

By the time most meetings are over, you've spent an hour or more on what ended up as only 15 minutes of useful information. Some meetings and conference calls are unavoidable, but you may be able to skip the unnecessary ones.

3. They aren’t disturbed by digital distractions

Being interrupted robs you of the concentration you need to be productive at work. Just because you have push notifications doesn’t mean you need to respond immediately to every ping. Set up alerts for urgent matters only, and schedule specific times throughout the day to process the rest. Simply put, don’t be tethered to your computer or smart phone for calls, texts, social media notices, emails or other messages.


4. They aren’t perfectionists

At some point, you have to sign off on the final draft of a project or proposal. No matter how conscientious or talented a person is, they can always refine their work further, but after awhile, there's negligible improvement for your continued efforts. People who know how to be more productive also know when to quit.

5. They don’t over-commit

You may want to look like the most dedicated person who says yes to everything, but that’s not the way to be more productive. Instead, it’s a recipe for stress, burnout and even lower quality work. You shouldn't accept something that comes across your desk if you can't manage it in a timely manner. Productive people don’t shirk responsibilities, but they know when to say no.

6. They don’t stretch their focus

Highly productive people give their full attention to one task at a time instead of trying to cover a number of items at once. The most important thing you need to do should be your top priority at any one time. Let your focus drift, and you might lose sight of that.

7. They don’t get buried

Rest assured: That pile of reports you glanced at and filed away for “later” will stay there and grow. Keep on top of your paperwork. For email, don’t glance at it every time you hear a ding, but check your inbox only at certain times of the day. During those times, tackle each message the moment you read it, whether that means sending a quick reply, scheduling a task or deleting it.

Knowing how to be more productive at work

If you feel like you’re struggling with productivity issues, you’re not alone. Just know there are concrete steps you can take to regain control and feel good about the job you’re doing.

Not only will you get more done when you increase your productivity, but the quality of your work will go up. You’ll make fewer mistakes, lower your stress level and earn more respect.

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