Time is something we can never get back once it’s spent.

Like most of us, it seems there is never enough time in the day. We’re constantly juggling all that is asked of us professionally and between phone calls, emails and all the other distractions that come through our smart phones, it’s easy to get worn down and ultimately become less productive at work. So in order to maximize our ability to have success, let’s look at some rules to live by:

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  1. Take Breaks

Being a motivated self-starter, you most likely have the ability to grind out work.  So this first rule is one that might seem counterintuitive. The reason why it’s a good idea to take breaks, however, is that the workday is more like a marathon than a sprint. As we produce, our level of performance declines over time. The longer we press on, the less productive we actually become. We get tired.  We lose focus. We find ourselves repeating dull tasks – like reading the same sentence more than once.

As we are looking to maximize our total productivity for the day, we need to schedule routine breaks throughout the work day. Block off five to ten minutes every sixty to ninety minutes to cut you free from mind numbing tasks. Have a conversation with a friend or colleague, take a walk or grab a snack.  Heck, even a ten to twenty minute power nap after lunch (if you can take it) will help you get back to the grind with more energy and better performance – which will have you running laps around your old self.

  1. No More Multitasking

While some of us might be proud of the fact that we are good multitaskers, the facts of the matter are quite different. Scientists have actually proven that performing several tasks at once can result in a decrease in efficiency and creativity and worse yet, an increase in errors and even the equivalent of a five-point drop in IQ!

How can this be true? Switching between tasks actually requires your brain to backtrack to where it last left off on a given task before proceeding. This reversing course actually slows you down and is the cause of the increase in mistakes.

So what is the best way to get through the workload that piles up on a daily basis?

  •    Stay focused on one screen by putting your cell phone away.
  •    Don’t check social media.
  •    If you come upon small tasks that can be completed in a couple minutes, tackle those immediately rather than adding them to the end of your list.
  1. Put A Time Limit On Your Tasks

Adding on to the sixty to ninety-minute work cycles discussed in rule #1, further split your time into ten-minute increments of complete focus followed by one-minute of rest/distraction. This short amount of time will allow you to focus fully on a task before a short stop to gather yourself and prepare for another ten-minute plunge. If a job takes more than ten minutes to complete, continue to maintain the ten minutes of focused work followed by one minute of rest until the task is finished.

People tend to be pretty bad at judging how much time passes when they are working, so tracking this with a timer or app is recommended.

  1. Eliminate Distractions

Eliminating distractions is yet another way to increase your productivity. No matter how small these interruptions might seem, they all pull you out of your flow and cause your efficiency to decline. Some of the distractions that might go overlooked are conversations with colleagues, phone calls and emails. One study even discovered that over 2 hours of office workers’ time is wasted per day by distractions.

Here are a few ideas to help you keep those distractions to a minimum:

  •    Set blocks of time when you work behind a closed door to minimize drop-ins.
  •    Set specific times throughout the day when you check your email. Stick to those designated times – don’t be tempted by your inbox.
  •    Send your calls to voicemail. You can check your messages and respond to the priority phone calls later.

Becoming more productive doesn’t require major changes. By following these steps, you’ll see that you not only become more efficient at work, but you’ll also feel less pressure and have a clearer head. Sometimes change can be hard as you are breaking old habits and forming new ones, so start with one or two of these recommendations and build from there. Before you know it, they’ll naturally become part of your routine and you’ll be better for it.

If you work from home and want to learn how to create the perfect work environment, read our post Upgrade Your Productivity With These 8 Home Office Design Tips.

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