There are thousands of blogs, podcasts and videos out there that will give you the best ways to be more productive at work. I’ve read, listened and watched enough of these, and tried plenty of the tips and productivity hacks which have worked for no longer than a couple of days at most.
Since becoming a dad, I’ve wanted to become more productive for one reason; to spend more time with my family.
What didn’t work for me?
First up, lets discuss some of the things I tried that went poorly:
- Setting a timer for how long a piece of work will take. Move on when the timer ends. This just gave me multiple pieces of incomplete work!
- Another timer method: set timer, have a break when timer goes off and then reset timer and go again. I found this one can have the opposite result and can make you less productive as it will take you out the ‘zone’ when you are getting stuck into a piece of work.
- Listen to podcasts/audiobooks when working: there are few things more distracting than an interesting/funny podcast. I cannot do anything that involves reading/typing/thinking when I listen to podcasts (I am a huge consumer of podcasts. Give me a shout if you need any suggestions!).
- Love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life: terrible advice as there isn’t a lot of money in stomping around like a dinosaur with your son; or in dad dancing with your wife in the kitchen to early 2000’s hip hop. Motivational quotes that appear on Instagram tend to NOT be great techniques to introduce to the working world.
I’ve always struggled with productivity. Over the past couple of years I’ve whittled all the blog posts, articles, vlogs and podcasts down to a few key methods that really work for me. Since sharpening up these methods, I have maybe worked past my contracted finish time 3-4 times.
This means my family know when I am going to be home and we get to spend more time together…whether they like it or not!!
Find your productive hours
The most useful method? The real “secret” to productivity? Its really quite simple…Learn when you are productive.
You can work out your productive hours by keeping a simple log of what work you are completing and when. Be honest with yourself (you don’t need to share the info with anyone else) when logging.
After a week or so, you should be able to see the hours where work is being done and, as you have been more mindful about your productivity, you will have noticed when you are being more productive throughout the day.
How do we make the most of them?
Ideally, you could squirrel yourself away from everyone and everything during these productive hours, however this isn’t always possible and in an office full of other people, distractions are plentiful. Someone may need to pick your brain, they may just want to run an idea by you to clarify something in their heads or it may just be some office chatter for them to give themselves a break from work for a few minutes; whatever it is, we don’t want it to take up our important, productive time.
Letting people know that you are busy or working to a deadline during these hours should stop a few distractions. Putting on headphones and blocking out the world is my preferred technique. If you are sat there looking busy and blasting out work, people are unlikely to disturb you unless it’s important…you’d hope.
This is something I have done for a number of years. It seems to work best with those admin tasks that come with your job that don’t take a huge amount of effort but are time-hungry and frequent throughout the day/week.
Things I tend to batch are:
- Emails: Checking and sending. After checking emails first thing, I’ll do my best not to go back into it until after lunch with a final check around 15 minutes before I leave. Sometimes, this is hard to do especially if you see something come into your inbox so, if possible, close your email programme in order to remove the temptation to check.
Not sending emails periodically during your productive hours also removes likely replies coming in during times where you want to limit distractions.
Booking visits/phone calls: I’ll write a list of all the visits I need to do then call all clients one after another to book them in. Make a note of the time/date of the visit and move onto the next call. Once all clients have been called, add the visits into my calendar and then write a confirmation email.
- Meeting prep: Look at all the regular meetings you have and see where information you give overlaps. A simple meeting schedule may be a quarterly board meeting, monthly managers meeting and weekly team meetings. The most detail will go into your quarterly meeting prep, this information will then be cut down slightly for the monthly managers meeting where less detail is needed.
Logging of KPI’s etc.: If you work to key performance indicators (KPI’s) or have work trackers, you’ll need to log what work you have done at some point. Doing it in a batch once a day stops you having to jump in and out of systems and programmes to do this, saving time and effort.
If you use similar documents or find yourself writing a lot of the same points into a document, get a template written up with these points written into it where you can expand on the information if required or delete if not applicable.
- Fire Risk Assessment: testing of fire alarm, emergency lighting, fire extinguishers etc. These regular checks are not carried out in at least 75% of businesses I visit. This means that for 75% of my reports, an ongoing action that details what checks to complete and when. This action is the same for every type of premises in any type of industry. The template I use for writing up fire risk assessments has this action on there so I don’t have to type it in every time I complete a FRA. Don’t forget to do all the right fire safety tests at home too.
- Emails: I send a lot of the same emails out (meeting confirmations, sales proposals, meeting follow up etc.) so set a folder up that’s easy to access (on desktop is where I keep mine) and when the time comes, you double click, the template opens, you type in what’s needed and off it goes.
Look back over past work or start logging the types of work you do. Work out what the most common ones are and create a template. Having a bank of templates for regular tasks you do will help save time and effort and make completing a task quicker.
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And ofcourse, what we don’t want more is more moments like this!
The End….for now
These methods won’t work for everyone. However, if these have helped ME become a more productive person, then they can probably help anyone!
There are other techniques, programmes and methods I use day to day however trying too many changes at once can also give the reverse result where you are busy setting up ways to be productive and not achieving anything.
These three techniques above go together quite well as they support each other (work out when you are productive = have systems for being more productive during those hours) without too much effort being required to change your way of working.
I work in health and safety so I have a relatively large amount of autonomy in my role. Not everyone is lucky enough to have this type of role. These techniques are best suited to this type of role where you are managing your own workload day to day. Even if this isn’t your industry, some of these methods can translate into the majority of workplaces.
Now, lets investigate this Screentime thing on iOS.
I am a father to one boy, a husband to one wife and a Health and Safety Professional by day. Sharing my experience of parenthood and life on Instagram and LinkedIn