25 tips to help improve your productivity at work

Being organized at work isn’t all that different from being organized at home. You just have more people to deal with. The number one productivity tip I can offer for each is the same: Write it down. Writing things down saves your brain from trying to remember everything you have going on. And seeing things on paper helps you sort out and prioritize.

Use one calendar to write down meetings, appointments, and important deadlines. And use a planner to write down your daily tasks and things you’re keeping track of.

“Do I have to write everything down?”
“No, just the things you want to get done.”

Here are 25 additional tips to boost your productivity at work

  • Before you go to bed at night, think about meetings you have planned for the next day. If you have a casual day or a meeting with top executives or investors, make sure you have the right clothes clean and ready to go.
  • Don’t set an alarm. If you don’t think you can wake up without an alarm you probably aren’t getting enough sleep. Try going to bed earlier. Getting enough sleep is a huge productivity booster!
  • When you first wake up, jot down ideas that are rolling around in your head. What’s your brain been mulling overnight?
  • Meditate. Breathing and being quiet for even 10 minutes in the morning helps get you centered. Set a timer so you aren’t watching the clock. If ideas intrude, welcome then, then go back to quiet breathing. When you finish meditating, jot down any ideas that come up.
  • When you get to work, don’t log into the Internet; look at your calendar for deadlines and meetings. Your calendar shapes your day and lets you know how much time you have outside of meetings to get work done. Look ahead at the next five days. Is there something you need to do today to get ready for a meeting or project later in the week?
  • Now review your planner. What are the top five things that have to happen today? If you want to bump up the priority on a certain task, give it a tight deadline and stick to it.
  • Rather than keep your email open, plan in several periods of time each day to look at email. When you work on email, start with a quick scan – what’s hot? Make sure your to-dos don’t get bumped out by reading unimportant email or sending email replies that can wait.
  • If you have a few minutes to fill during the day, scan your list for quick calls or quick email replies rather than surf the Internet. Grouping calls and emails in your planner helps.
  • When it’s lunch time, take a legitimate break to eat, walk about, and clear your head.
  • Say “no” if you know you do not have time to take on a new project. It’s better to say no than to say yes and blow a deadline. Strive to be 100% reliable with deadlines and commitments.
  • If you’re used to working through a pile on your desk, try putting your papers into marked folders – including folders for “Working on it” and “Waiting for further input”. This gets the paper off your desk, and when you get to a task in your planner that ties to that work, you’ll know right where to find it.
  • If you need time for deep thinking, schedule meeting time with yourself. If you’re in a crowded office, put on a headset and talk to yourself periodically so people think you are on a conference call.
  • Use earplugs if your office is noisy. Cutting out extraneous noise helps you concentrate on the task at hand.
  • If you have meetings during the day, try to limit them to set hours. Block out the rest of the hours on your calendar to get your work done. If you are running a meeting, it’s imperative that you not waste anyone’s time. Who really, really needs to be in this meeting? Have an agenda and any backup materials ready. Show up on time and end on time. If your meeting is a one-on-one, try a walk-and-talk meeting. Get away from the office. Go outside.
  • Take periodic walks around the office. What’s going on? Who is stressed out? Who needs help? Who is missing in action? Stop and chat. This is the best way to pick up on the vibe of the day especially if you are responsible for a large staff.
  • Take breathing and stretch breaks – preferably outside to give yourself a change of venue.
  • Toward the end of the day, look at what got done and what was missed. What can you wrap up? And what moves to tomorrow? To later in the week? To next month? Can anything be taken off your list?
  • Be proactive – if you are missing something or you’ve been waiting awhile for someone to get back to you, ask for what you need.
  • At the end of the day, review your calendar for deadlines and meetings and set up your to-do list for the next day. Try not to overload your day with everything that needs to get done – just list the stuff that has to get done tomorrow. What are the top five things that need to happen the next day?
  • Clean off your desk and computer desktop. Clutter is distracting!
  • If you are working more than 40 hours a week on a regular basis, you may not be doing your best work in the long run. If your load is too heavy, think about what you can delegate. Or maybe you need to hire more help. Or you may need more automation. To be your best at work, you need a balanced life and you won’t have that if you spend too many hours in the office.
  • Want to know what you do all day? Keep track for a week. This is a great way to see your work habits and find pockets of time.
  • When you get home, eat healthy, read, do fun stuff. If you’re happy at home you’re much more likely to be happy at work, and there is a direct link between happiness and productivity.
  • Don’t expect work to be your everything. Work is generally your vocation – not your avocation. Make sure you use your vacation time; get to know your family, darn it!
  • Try to learn something new every day. Take classes. Read. Ask questions. Listen to the answers.

Please don’t hesitate to pick around within this list. Try one or try them all :).

Need inspiration to work fewer hours? Here’s a great article from Fast Company about a company that shifted to a 5-hour work day. The article wraps up with a 90-second video on some of the above points. I love Fast Company and learn something new from them just about every day.

I know this was a big post! Thanks for getting to the bottom. Here are some flowers in return. The Black-eyed Susans are wonderful this time of year in Maine.

Black Eyed Susans

2 thoughts on “25 tips to help improve your productivity at work

  1. Interesting list – lot’s of unique insights here!

    Do you think not setting an alarm is realistic? I get around 7 hours of sleep a night and that seems sufficient for my body. However, if I don’t set an alarm, I could easily sleep for 9 or 10.

    I really like the points you made about taking time to review your calendars, notes, and jot things down before bed and first thing in the morning. I always find the more you keep in your head, the more stress you have. I’ve made it a habit to write literally everything down that I can and file it away in Evernote to reference later.


    • Hi Phil:

      Great comments. Thank you!

      On the sleep front, my gut is that if you could easily sleep 9 or 10 hours then you should do that whenever you can. Our bodies know how much sleep we need and honoring that is a big part of keeping your brain healthy.

      Once you are fully rested, I’d try setting an alarm since you’re used to that – but going to bed earlier. Then test yourself to see if you can wake up before your alarm goes off. It may take some practice if you’re used to using an alarm, but it’s a very cool feeling to not be jolted awake – as you probably know from weekends or days away from work? It might be what makes vacations so special :).

      I’d love to hear if you experiment with this. I like to be scientific when I’m changing a habit. Set up a premise. Test it. And see how you feel. Tweak and repeat.

      And yes, I try to keep my head clear of clutter at all times. Once I’ve written something down, I trust that I’ll get to it without having to see a reminder sitting in a pile – and without having to think about it over and over. I’m glad that also works for you!


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