Think about how much time you spend in the office each day…and now, consider how much you actually get done. Chances are you’re not as productive as you could be. The good news is, you can boost your productivity—and decrease your stress—by consistently implementing a few simple changes at your workplace.
1. Prep your space for success
The foundation for productivity is an efficient environment—one that lets you find what you’re looking for quickly, and offers easy access to the things you work with most. To turn your office into a productive space, start with a purge: go through your desk drawers, filing cabinets, shelves, stacks of paper, and random cluttered areas, and throw away everything you don’t need.
Once you’ve pared down your office, the next step is rearranging. Think about how you work, and adjust your furniture layout accordingly. For example, if you have to get up from your desk every time you throw something away, you’re likely to leave trash on your desk or floor—so move the wastebasket close to your desk.
Finally, organize your desktop so that it contains only the supplies and devices you use on a daily basis. Everything else should have a permanent home where it can be returned when you’re finished.
2. Develop a system
When you have everything purged and organized, you’ll need a system to help you keep things in place. There’s no right or wrong way to create a system—simply use a strategy that suits the way you work.
A few helpful tips for developing organization systems:
- Establish a paper workflow with an inbox, an “in-process” box, and a filing system (which may be a trash can, if you don’t generally keep paper documents).
- When you’re looking at a paper document to deal with, decide what action you should take and follow through—don’t just put it back on your desk. If action isn’t immediately possible, place the document in the appropriate next-step area of your system.
- Don’t forget to organize electronic files as well, using a system that makes sense with your working style
- Develop an index, or master list, of your files (paper and digital) to reduce duplicates and help maintain organization
3. Implement basic time management
For many, “time management” sounds like a complicated corporate objective that wastes more time than it saves while you’re trying to learn it. The truth is that time management doesn’t have to be difficult. Just a few simple strategies can save you hours every week.
Keep a running to-do list of all your projects, appointments, and deadlines. If you’re using a mobile device to help you keep track, make sure you’re able to sync with your primary computer—it’s easy, automatic, and ensures that your list is at your fingertips no matter what you’re doing.
Choose an hour or so each day to focus solely on projects and tasks. Make sure to build a time cushion into your schedule to account for any (usually inevitable) interruptions. You can also tackle larger projects more confidently by breaking them down into shorter tasks that can be completed one at a time.
4. Create a communication schedule
Most people are not surprised to learn that email is one of the top office time-wasters, and phone calls are a fairly close second. Rather than continuing to handle emails and phone calls all day as they come in—and break concentration on the tasks you’re working on while you deal with them—set aside a few short blocks of time each day to deal with communication.
You can take 10 to 15 minutes in the morning, and again in the afternoon, to tackle your inbox and return phone calls. The rest of the time shut off all of your notifications so you can work uninterrupted. You may be shocked at how much time this saves!
You don’t have to reserve productivity for those rare days when you’re feeling energetic and ultra-determined. When you make organization and time management a habit, you can have a productive day, every day.
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