We all want to be productive in the office, but what does that actually mean? We often hear about ways we can work smarter and more efficiently, but without concrete examples it’s hard to know where to start.
To help you get on track with your productivity goals, we’ll look at some practical examples of how you could use your time efficiently, with case studies and real-life tips.
If you’re looking for real-world solutions for becoming more productive at work then look no further – these examples of productivity will have you working like a pro!
What does productivity mean?
Productivity is the measure of how efficiently resources are used to achieve a desired outcome.
It is typically measured by comparing the amount of output (e.g. goods or services) produced with the amount of input (e.g. labor, materials, time) required to produce it.
For project managers and program managers, productivity can be improved through various tools and techniques such as setting clear goals and objectives, breaking down tasks into manageable chunks, using automation where possible, delegating responsibilities effectively, tracking progress regularly and rewarding success appropriately.
Being busy is not the same as being productive. Busyness might mean you’re spending time on the wrong things. Productive people spend time on the right things.
1. Set goals
What, exactly, do you want to get done? If you don’t know how you will measure success and answer the question, “Have I been productive today?” then start here. It’s important to set realistic and achievable goals that will help you stay on track.
Start by breaking down your larger goal into smaller, more manageable tasks that can be completed in a day or week. This will make it easier for you to focus on the task at hand and work towards achieving your overall goal.
2. Write things down
Write down tasks to reduce the mental overload of having to remember them. Do a brain dump of all your current tasks to get started, and ideally, group the To Do items. I teach this strategy in my course, Mastering Multiple Projects, but a simple way to implement it is to color-code your list or add sub-headings.
I use a sticky note to write down my top 3 activities that I need to complete the next day. I stick it on my keyboard in the evening, so when I get to work the next day, I have a clear reminder of my major tasks for the day.
Everything else I’ll take as a win, but getting those 3 things done are the non-negotiables.
3. Make it easy to do the work
Ever written down the name of someone to call and then forgotten why you were supposed to call them? Write clear descriptions of tasks so when you come back to them you know what the work actually is.
Leave room in your calendar for crisis management. Because there’s always something, isn’t there?
In project management, typically we schedule resources (that’s humans i.e. yourself) at 80% availability, which enables us to have resilience in the system for when things go wrong. Or we need a toilet break, which is also very likely.
If you don’t have the buffer, it becomes hard to do the work because there is no time.
4. Prioritize your time
Prioritize where to spend your time by looking at a task’s importance and urgency (the Eisenhower matrix). Identify which tasks need immediate attention and which ones can wait until later in the day or week if needed. Ideally, you want to be spending the most time on priority tasks.
I try to spend most of my time on high priority, project-related actions and then use the gaps between meetings for shorter, less urgent tasks like responding to emails.
5. Identify your productivity saboteurs
Identify your productivity saboteurs. These are the things that stop you from being effective and productive.
When you know what they are, you can spot them coming or make plans to avoid them! Trust me, you’ll get more done without them!
This is why I deleted Twitter (X) from my phone.
6. Schedule time to do work
Once you have established your goals, it’s time to schedule time for them. Make sure to plan out when you are going to complete each task so that you don’t get overwhelmed or fall behind.
You may also want to create a timeline of deadlines so that you know when each task needs to be completed by in order for everything else to stay on track as well.
I block out time in my diary for ‘focus time’. I don’t always know what I’m going to use the time for, so I make the decision on the day, based on current priorities.
7. Schedule proactive time
Proactive time is not the same as getting tasks done but not having the time to plan ahead of think strategically. You can instead prepare and be moving steadily towards your goals (accomplishing important things each day, taking time to think and plan).
I learned about this strategy in From To Do to Done by Maura Nevel Thomas.
8. Use your technology
Technology can be a great tool for increasing productivity in the office, as long as you know how to use it!
Automating processes is one way to save time and energy, and works for many different job roles. For example:
- Set up automated reminders – I do this with calendar alerts and email alerts
- Create templates for frequently used documents – I never create a document from scratch if I can help it
- Schedule emails to send at certain times of day – for example, a weekly reminder to the team to complete their weekly report. You could schedule a month’s worth of those in one go.
Find a tool you like using and that meets your needs (this is the service I use for that).
Match the tool to the job
Streamlining communication is another key component of being productive in the workplace. Using tools such as Slack or Zoom can help reduce unnecessary back-and-forth emails while still allowing team members to connect quickly when needed.
Match the tool to the job. Quick messages that don’t need to be kept or referred to later: messaging app. Need to send an attachment or something that would benefit from being archived? Use email or attach it within your project management software.
9. Work collaboratively
Book meetings that are working sessions, not review sessions. Productive meetings are those where you can get stuff done, whether that’s a decision or a direction for next steps or working jointly on a document.
Meetings that are just reviewing actions from last time, or round-the-table status updates, are boring for attendees and make you feel like it wasn’t a productive use of your time.
Working in teams can be a great way to increase productivity. It’s important to ensure that everyone is on the same page and has a clear understanding of their role and responsibilities.
Share the goals so everyone knows why they are there.
Learn how to delegate tasks appropriately so that each person is able to contribute their strengths while also taking ownership of certain aspects of the project or task at hand.
Assigning roles based on individual skillsets will help ensure that each team member is playing an active part in the success of the project or task. It also helps foster a sense of responsibility among team members as they are held accountable for completing their assigned tasks within agreed timelines (and hopefully you’ve let them set the timelines, based on their own professional task estimates of the job to be completed).
11. Manage stress levels
Stress levels can have a big impact on productivity in the office. It’s important to find ways to manage stress so that you can stay productive and focused. Here are some tips for managing stress levels.
Taking breaks and recharging: Taking regular breaks throughout the day is essential for staying productive. Take a few minutes away from your desk to go for a walk, grab a snack, or just take some deep breaths. This will help clear your mind and recharge your energy so that you can tackle tasks with renewed focus when you return to work. Don’t use this time to put a load of washing on.
Practicing self-care habits: Make sure you’re taking care of yourself outside of work as well by getting enough sleep, eating healthy meals, exercising regularly, and engaging in activities that bring joy into your life such as hobbies or spending time with friends and family. All these things will help keep stress levels down during the workday.
Seeking support from colleagues: Don’t be afraid to reach out if something is stressing you out at work – chances are there are others who feel similarly! Talk it out with colleagues or seek advice from someone more experienced than yourself; having an open dialogue about stressful situations can often lead to solutions that benefit everyone involved.
Don’t forget about mental health resources available through employers or other organizations – they’re there if needed!
12. Stay motivated and focused
In Not Today: The 9 habits of Extreme Productivity by Erica & Mike Schultz, they write about how to stay motivated. Motivation, they say, is learnable.
Work on your Greatest Impact Activity (GIA) first. They say the sparks to get started on your GIA include: put it on calendar, talk positively to yourself to remove self-limiting beliefs, ans simply sitting there at your desk and saying, “1, 2, 3, go!”
I’m not sure that would work for me, but it might work for you.
Check out my tips to stay motivated during the summer, as this is the time that I find it harder to concentrate on work. The children are out of school and my office is like a sauna, which doesn’t help!
13. Create habits
In Not Today, the authors write that habits are composed of 4 elements:
- Trigger (something happens that cues a sequence of doing something you tend to do e.g. your phone buzzes in your pocket)
- Thought (I should reach for my phone)
- Response (take action: check the phone)
- Reward (gain or payoff)
Identify the habit you want to change. Identify why you want to change the habit. Make a blueprint (plan) to change the habit that sounds like this: “When I, then I.”
For example, when I get asked to complete my timesheet for the month, then I schedule time to do it before the deadline.
32% of Extremely Productive people plan in advance how to respond to triggers compared to 10% of ‘normally productive’ people (based on their survey/data from clients shared in the book).
14. Tidy your work environment
One more tip from Not Today. 56% of Extremely Productive people organize their work environment to maximize productivity compared to 17% of The Rest.
What can you do to make your work environment – your desk and office area – as conducive to productivity as you can. Here are some things I’ve tried:
- Plants: I had live plants for the oxygen benefits but now I have a plastic plant. It does make me feel better and it looks great on camera.
- Chair: Be comfortable.
- Desk area: Keep things tidy. I bought a desk tidy from Ikea for pens and dongles and all the other stuff I need around.
15. Celebrate small wins
Recognize your progress no matter how small it may be. Acknowledging each step forward will motivate you to continue working hard towards your goals. Whether it’s completing a task or meeting a deadline, celebrate those successes!
You could reward yourself with something as simple as taking an extra break or treating yourself to lunch out of the office. Don’t be like those people who reward themselves with being allowed to have a drink… drinks and bathroom breaks are not rewards, these are normal, allowable behaviors!
Read my list of things to do to celebrate with your team for more suggestions.
16. Set rewards for accomplishments
There’s a reason companies have incentive schemes. They do make people focus on goals.
Establishing incentives for completing tasks can be helpful in keeping motivation levels high throughout the day, week or month. You can share your targets with someone else to help keep you accountable.
17. Speak positively to yourself
When feeling overwhelmed by workloads or deadlines, take a moment to pause and reframe any negative thoughts into positive ones instead. For example, replace “This is too much work” with “I am capable of achieving this goal”.
I’m not very good at this, but I am getting better. I tend to use positive self-talk to reflect on how it’s OK to take breaks and that I will be better at doing a task if I’m mentally refreshed and not feeling overwhelmed.
More info on workplace productivity
What is an example of productivity in business?
Productivity in business is the measure of how efficiently resources are used to create goods and services. It is an important metric for businesses as it helps them determine their output, profitability, and overall success.
Typically, workplace productivity is measured through output reports e.g. how many widgets were created in a month, how many calls were answered in an hour.
The challenge there is that the metrics don’t necessarily incorporate quality. You could answer 100% of all calls within 3 rings every time, but if callers don’t get the answer they need, the call was not productive, as it does not help the customer move on.
Productivity can be improved through effective management techniques such as goal setting, task delegation, time tracking, process optimization, and resource allocation. By using these tools to maximize efficiency while minimizing wastefulness or redundancy, businesses can increase their productivity and ultimately achieve greater success.
What is productivity in daily life?
Productivity is the measure of how efficiently time and resources are used to achieve a goal. It is an important part of daily life as it allows us to maximize our output with minimal effort.
Productivity can be improved by setting achievable goals, breaking down tasks into manageable chunks, prioritizing activities, and using effective tools and techniques for managing projects. By taking these steps we can increase our productivity and make the most out of every day.
However, there should be a point to all this productivity. Doing stuff just to do stuff is a little pointless. There will always be more stuff to do.
I frequently get overloaded with household work and feel behind on chores, but what’s more important, spending time playing a game with my kids or hoovering the bedrooms? That’s the decision to make.
Both options are productive, but in different ways.
How can productivity be improved?
Here are some quick examples of how productivity can be improved:
- Make the workplace a nice place to be. No one is productive in a grotty environment with mean, micro-managing bosses.
- Give people the tools they need to do their jobs and train them how to use them.
- Set priorities across the organization or team.
- Make sure there is good communication and a culture of openness and sharing as this reduces re-work.
- Be open to feedback and continuously improve based on what people are asking for.
Overall, there are many ways to be productive in the office. Establishing a routine, utilizing technology, working in teams, managing stress levels and staying motivated and focused can all help you become more productive.
Most importantly, set goals that you can achieve, prioritize your work and spend your time being productive on the right tasks.
Next steps: Take a look at this on-demand training from Elizabeth Harrin paired with the productivity bundle, The Productivity Blueprint for Project Managers.