The idea of efficiency is a contentious one in some ways. There are those who advocate for consistent and never-ending effort and those who feel that carefully measured bouts of hard work interspersed with relaxation is healthier. This article with 17 amazing productivity tips will help you to gain control of your own potential and increase your efficiency.

The shock of Covid-19 and lock-down has inevitably had a knock-on effect on the way people perceive the relationship between work and quality of life.

Many people who were previously caught in the rat-race of commuting and long hours at work were stunned to realize that the simple effect of removing the daily commute from their schedule had a hugely positive affect on their lives.

Unsurprisingly, some of these people are reluctant to return to the old order. They’re looking for new ways to approach the working day and are keen to find more balance in their lives.

 

Interior of cafe with the word relax in neon letters

 

Finding your balance

Whilst finding balance in our working lives is important, there can be no mistaking the fact that efficiency matters. Whether you’re CEO of a multinational company or a sole trader working from home, you still need to get things done and looking for productivity tips is a great start.

Getting things done is of course what efficiency means and it’s a fact that the best way to get things done is different for everyone. Some people thrive on little sleep and work long hours. Others need 8 hours nightly and might not be at their best until 10.00am.

One of the biggest favors you can do for yourself is to work out when you’re at your best – at what time of day are you raring to go? Make use of it.

When are you at your best?

You might be able to answer this question immediately. Perhaps you’ve worked it out over the course of your life – found the times when you get most done and the circumstances and environment which best suit you.

If you haven’t though, then it can be a great idea to work it out.

Start by keeping a daily diary for a week. Split each day into hours and jot down your accomplishments as you tick them off your to-do-list.

Mine looks something like this.

  • 7.00am –  8.00am check and respond to messages
  • 8.00am -10.00am begin planning day and reading/researching/making phone calls
  • 10.00am-10.30am coffee
  • 10.30am-12.30pm writing
  • 12.30pm – 1.00pm lunch
  • 1.00am – 3.00pm – writing
  • 3.00pm slight slump

That 3.00pm slump is very common. Many people find the afternoon is less productive because they’re tired and there are two responses you can choose between. Either you give in to the slump and become less and less productive or you fight it out!

I prefer to fight it out. I’ve found that a thirty minute walk enlivens me and enables me to go back to my desk and work for at least another 4 to 5 hours. In fact, this is my most productive period and I suspect it’s got something to do with that walk.

Keep your daily diary and look back for your personal slumps – when do you achieve less? When do you achieve more? Are you habitually eating and drinking the same things? Does that affect you?

Of course if you’re managing a large team, then this isn’t the only thing that’s going to help you to understand how to make them more productive – but it might help you as you work towards managing them more effectively.

 

Hand holding watch with lights in background

 

Stop thinking so hard and start making changes

Being productive means to think about things less and do things more. That can be tricky when you’ve got a lot on your plate. As a business owner, you’re likely to be thinking about a lot more than an employee is. Of course this depends on what the employee does for a living – some occupations require a lot of thinking about a lot of things.

But in general, it’s safe to say that business owners need a lot of compartments in their brains and they also need to keep them organized so the first but unofficial contender in our list of productivity tips is to stop mulling things over.

If you find yourself unable to concentrate on one particular task because you’re aware of a hundred more queuing at the door, then you need to learn to put the less urgent tasks aside more effectively.

That’s easier said than done right?

Not if you take the time to read the following tips and actually implement them. Or at least some of them. I promise that if you implement even one of the following tips into your day, then you will become more productive.

Here they are – 17 amazing productivity tips for more efficiency at work

#1: Your desk is your haven

The first of our productivity tips concerns your desk. Your desk is of course, your place of work so why should you think of it as a haven? Because thinking of it as only a functional item or thing is counterproductive. Of course, it’s main purpose is to provide you with somewhere for your computer or whatever device you use, your phone and any notes or other papers you might need.

But you’re spending hours there every day and it’s an uninspiring or untidy place, then that will reflect on your efficiency. Ensuring that it’s neat and tidy at the end of each day will mean that you’re ready to go when the new day begins. Don’t allow clutter to build up. If it’s not contributing to your output then it shouldn’t be there.

That doesn’t include plants or lamps though! Both can contribute to an increased productivity as both can affect your mood in a positive way. Experiment with your lighting, see which sort of lamp makes you feel invigorated and which is bothersome or strains your eyes.

 

Orange chair, computer desk and monitor beside window

 

Sit-stand desks are a game-changer

Another vital part of ensuring that your desk really is your haven is to ensure that your posture is good and that your chair and desk are at the correct height. Failure to ensure you’re comfort, could result in chronic back pain and considering that almost 40 million American workers suffer from lower back pain today, it’s something that’s worth looking into properly.

A 2016 study from The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has uncovered some startling facts surrounding the effects of desk height and sitting habits.

The study looked into the effectiveness of “sit-stand desks” for workers with back pain as an alternative to the more traditional set-up of a fixed chair and desk. It was found that participants who used a sit-stand desk experienced a significant reduction in their lower back pain.

Sit-stand desks aren’t really desks at all but rather contraptions which go on top of your desk and which can be raised or lowered at will. This enables the user to sit or stand as they choose whilst keeping their computer monitor at a comfortable height. Changing from sitting to standing throughout your day is far healthier than sitting for the entire time.

Make sure that your desk and chair are the right height and if you’re already experiencing back pain, look into the possibility of a sit-stand desk. Of all our productivity tips, this is one of the most important – because your health and your work relies on your back! A bad back due to poor posture is not going to help you succeed.

#2: The Super To-Do-List

Everyone has a to-do-list right? It’s often first on the list of productivity tips. Sometimes it’s a beautifully presented work of art with infographs and illustrations, other times it’s a coffee-stained scrap of paper that haunts your elbow as you work.

Turbo-charge your efficiency with the Super-To-Do-List. It’s not quite the same as an ordinary to-do-list because it involves a bigger picture.

Most people create a to-do-list for a day or maybe for a week at a time. Then they spend each day trying to tick as many of the tasks off the list. The Super-To-Do-List starts off with a “super objective”.

That’s your main goal in life, your main ambition. Once you’ve written that down, break it up into chunks – like this.

  • Yearly objectives
  • Quarterly objectives
  • Monthly objectives
  • Weekly objectives
  • Daily objectives
  • Hourly objectives

 

Notebook with shadows

 

This gives you a powerful trajectory which you can follow daily. Every task – or objective that you successfully tick off your list, takes you one step closer to your main ambition in life. If you want to take a leaf out of Elon Musk’s book, you can even split this up into minutes. He divides his day into 5 minute chunks. He even takes 5 minutes to eat lunch!

#3 Don’t sideline your physical fitness

Really cannot emphasize this enough. Your body affects your brain; they’re intertwined forever. You eat a bad diet and you don’t think as well as you should do. You don’t get enough exercise and your brain becomes foggy, your energy is low. You think bad thoughts often enough, you get sick.

It doesn’t matter if you’re not a gym-bunny. There are a myriad online workout programs you could join up with right now. This minute! Many of the routines only take 5 minutes so you can easily incorporate them into your day without wasting time travelling to the gym.

Walking is a stress-free and low impact exercise that most people can enjoy on a daily basis. It can be sociable too. Ask a friend to join you and treat your daily walk as downtime. You’ll be killing two birds with one stone.

#4 Eat well and eat often

Little and often is better than starving yourself for hours and then over-indulging. You should stick to wholefoods. If it’s been prepared in a factory then it’s probably not that good for you.

Keep some unsalted nuts and fresh fruit to hand so that if your bloody sugar dips, you don’t need to go in search of sustenance.

#5 Turn off notifications

It’s a fact that social media is a time-sucker. It’s incredibly easy to lose hours on one of the various platforms. Don’t kid yourself into thinking “Oh, I’ve got a new message so I’d better reply.”

You don’t need to. If it’s not related to work and it’s not urgent, then ignore it until later. If your work involves social media so you can’t realistically ignore all messages, set aside a certain time of day for managing your personal accounts. Stick to it!

Speedlancer’s founder and CEO Adam Stone says this on the subject.

“I went through a period of terrible burn-out, and my advisor Wil Schroter from Startups.com advised me to take a week off and bring just a notepad. In the wilderness around Boulder, Colorado, I came to the conclusion that messages, like email, should be triaged. Now I allow my team to ping me on Whatsapp for anything urgent, however on Slack I personally don’t have notifications on my phone. This enables me to get work done without being interrupted, while still checking Slack a couple of times a day.”

So rather than remaining at the mercy of people who all want a piece of you, take a leaf from Adam’s book and consider triaging your email at the very least.

#6 Delegation is your friend

It really, really is. If you’re someone who tends to feel they have to do everything themselves, then you need to start this practice. Whenever you begin to feel overwhelmed, look for the simplest tasks and pass them on.

So you’re a sole trader with no staff? Find a student who might like a mentor and begin a symbiotic relationship with them. You can pass on all sorts of tasks to a bright, keen student who is interested in your industry.

If you’re in a position to begin hiring some help, then look at hiring specialist freelancers to pick up your slack.

#7 Know when you’re beat

That’s not to say give up easily – but remember this, knowing when you’re beat will ultimately save you time. Some things just aren’t worth your precious time and occasionally we all come across a situation or a process and making it work properly just evades us.

The most productive thing we can do in those situations is to stop trying.

As UK politician Dennis Healey said, “The First law of holes – when you’re in one, stop digging.” That’s the crux of knowing when you’re beat. There are always going to be work-related situations which are uncomfortable or challenging. That’s not the same as knowing when you’re beat.

You need to be able to work out which of the time and energy-sucking situations or processes are the ones you can’t change.

The trick to not letting them get you down is knowing when you can and can’t change them.

 

Light shining through aperture in rock with text.

 

#8 Use your commute

Your daily commute can be the perfect time to collect your thoughts and plan out your day – basically to begin implementing these productivity tips. It can also be a time for reflection and relaxation which is just as important as anything else.

Public transport is great for listening to a good podcast, just sitting quietly and thinking about nothing in particular, reading a book, drinking your coffee – whatever you like.

Don’t feel guilty about it though. Take the time for yourself to use in any way you want.

#9 The power of music

It’s a well-known fact that classical music can have a powerful effect on the brain. It can encourage creativity and productivity as well as induce happiness or indeed sadness.

Use music as often as you can to help you focus and drive you forward in your working day. It has been found that music of between 50 and 80 beats per minute is the most effective in enhancing thinking and learning.

Classical music is a good choice as there are no lyrics to distract. Some of the most popular composers to listen to whilst working include Bach, Vivaldi, Beethoven and Mozart.

#10 Get to grips with automation

Whether it’s paying bills, scheduling meetings or networking there are many programs out there designed to make your life easier. Use them! Stop doing things the old-fashioned way when you could save hours each week with automation.

#11 Perfect your routine

Do you sometimes feel that your life is unpredictable? Do you get too affected by outside influences? Begin working on your routines – especially your morning and evening routines.

It’s a fact that we need between 7 and 9 hours sleep each night. Of course there are exceptions to the rule but most people need around this amount of sleep in order to function well.

Focus on getting into a routine at least during the week and you’ll find that your sleep improves. If you like to watch movies in the evening, try to stop doing that an hour before bedtime. And make sure you do have a bedtime! That hour before bed should be set aside for relaxing tasks only. A bath or shower, a hot drink, maybe some calming music. Stick to your set routine and you’ll be more prepared during the day.

#12 Chew gum

Yes, we know some people think this is a gross habit but the research is in and the fact is that chewing gum improves alertness and reduces stress. It’s also good for your teeth because it increases saliva and therefore slows down the effects of plaque. It’s a win-win situation!

#13 Positive speech and thought

The power of thought and of speech is well-known but do you practice good habits? Do you sometimes find yourself saying negative things? For example, when you make a mistake do you find yourself saying “Gosh I’m so stupid!” or similar? If so STOP IT right now.

Remain alert for negative thoughts and stomp on them. Repeat positive phrases such as, “I’m on top of my work today!” and “I’ve got control of everything today!” and you will see and feel very real benefits quite quickly.

Another important practice is that of being thankful. Research from Harvard has shown that when participants in a study on gratitude were asked to write down either positive, thankful notes, the effects were remarkable. Participants reported feeling happier and less stressed. Take time to appreciate the good things as well as remaining positive in your thoughts and speech.

 

Productivity tips - text on wall

 

#14 Face one monster each day

We’ve all got them. They’re the tasks we dread so much that we put them off until they grow and become insurmountable. Whether it’s doing your taxes or making a tricky phone call, get one thing you’ve been dreading done each day.

The best time to do these unpleasant tasks is first thing in the morning. Don’t overthink it though! Decide what it’s going to be the night before and when you start work, don’t even consider anything else. Get it done!

You’ll have a sense of achievement that will carry you through the rest of the day.

#15 Close your door

When we say close your door we mean figuratively as well as literally. If you’ve got an open door in general and people know that they can come in and interrupt you or request a meeting whenever they like, put a stop to that if possible.

Working from home as many of us do currently, has a lot of challenges. Don’t fall prey to those people who will arrive in your office to distract you. It could be colleagues or family members – set clear boundaries either way. Implementing productivity tips which rely on other people’s help can be tricky but remain firm.

#16 Alcohol on weekends only

This is tricky for many people as a nightly glass of wine or spirits can be relaxing. The kicker is that it really isn’t. Alcohol disturbs your sleep and while you may think it helps you to unwind, the opposite is true.

Try hot chocolate or herbal teas instead. Trial it for one week and see if you feel different at the end of it. Improving the quality of your sleep could seriously boost your output.

Save the drinking for Fridays.

#17 Know when you’re done

Long working days have their place but for some people, the longer their working day, the more the quality of their output suffers. If it’s hit 6.00 pm and you feel like you’re battling uphill, maybe it’s time to stop.

Having a rest and enjoying some downtime in the evening will prepare you to do well again tomorrow. Tiring yourself out for “just one more hour.” has an adverse affect and will cause more stress than it’s worth.

 

Neon text saying "Bad Habits" with text

 

Bad habits are not more difficult to break than good habits are to form

Implementing these productivity tips and becoming more efficient isn’t rocket science. It involves taking a hard look at a set of habits – becoming familiar with your own habitual behaviors which will ultimately work for you or against you.

All adults pick up bad habits as they travel through the sometimes confusing and always challenging adventure that is work. But remember this – bad habits are not more difficult to break than good habits are to form.

Begin the good habits and many of the bad habits will just fade away. Bad habits are often based in fear and as you become accustomed to practicing habits which will be of benefit to you, much of the fear will disappear.

That’s not to say living by these productivity tips is going to be easy. Making some of these changes might be tricky – it might even be really difficult, but you can guarantee that in the list above, there will be at least one tip that you’ll take to with ease.

Work through them – which appeal most? Which don’t? Think about why the unappealing ones are the least attractive to you. There are probably some interesting lessons to learn there.

Above all, remember that implementing many of these productivity tips will actually help to make your working life healthier, more enjoyable and fun as well as more productive and efficient.