How to Structure a More Productive Workday

As a new year begins, most of us are eager to challenge ourselves. Having a smart plan is an essential step to reach your goals. Set yourself up for a more productive workday (and week) with the following tips.

Here’s How You Can Have a More Productive Workday

Write Daily and Weekly Goals

Putting goals on paper keeps you accountable. Use your first 10 minutes in the office to review top priorities and structure your day. You should know your own best work hours, and when the office is likely to be calm enough to focus on complex tasks.

Starting your day with written goals minimizes downtime spent deciding what project to work on next. You also have an external reference to measure progress. If your top goal was to review half of a teammate’s corrections, and you’ve completed 30/100, then you know exactly how much further you need to go to stay on track.

Close Your Tabs

Without looking at the top of your screen, can you tell me how many tabs you have open right now? Do you have multiple windows open, each with too many tabs to count at a glance?

Not only can running too many applications at once slow down your computer, it slows down your mind. Your brain needs to fight constant temptation to click over “just for a second.”

Make Tab Zero your new Inbox Zero. You probably won’t spend as much time on non-work websites without the safety mechanism of a quick switch to another tab. You’ll lower the number of distractions, and you may even see faster computer performance (especially if, like me, you have about 40 tabs open—oops).

Ditch Multitasking

Whether you call it focus, flow, or batch tasking, giving one project your full concentration is the best way to get results.

How you limit interruption depends on your work environment. Here are a few strategies to detach from the outside world and signal colleagues that you need time to focus:

  • Close your door, if you have one
  • Hang a sign on your door or workstation asking not to be interrupted
  • Put in earphones (you don’t need to play music; the earphones alone may act as a social cue)
  • Turn off email notifications
  • Turn off Internet/Wifi access
  • Silence or turn off your cell phone

Use a Writer’s Procrastination Trick

Creative tasks, like writing, demand high levels of concentration. At the same time, many professional articles require detailed research to support their points. Flipping back and forth between your word processor and research books and websites is a recipe for a distracted, frustrating work session.

Journalists and writers have several ways to get around this awkward shuffle between writing and research. One is the “TK” hack. The abbreviation “TK” stands for “to come,” and writers use it to hold the place for a fact, statistic, or quote that they’ll look up in their notes later. This allows them to forge ahead with the draft and make their points without interruption. “TK” is also an unusual pairing of letters in English, so a Ctrl+F search later on is unlikely to flood you with irrelevant results. Plan separate sessions to draft, insert research, and edit the final draft into a cohesive article.

Plan a 6-Hour Day

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, American workers waste an average of 50 minutes per workday (after eliminating the workers *cough liars cough* who claim not to waste time at all). Building your task list based on eight hours doesn’t leave you any wiggle room for energy slumps, unexpected interruptions, or the short breaks that productivity experts recommend you build into your day.

Imagine you had to leave work two hours early, but your boss still expected you to handle your full plate of assignments. How would you structure your time to get the work done? Putting yourself on deadline can help jump-start your more productive side.

The other question you should ask is, “What would I do if I had an extra two hours in my workday?” Most of us have projects we’ve been meaning to get to but never seem to find time for. Make another list. Maybe you’ve wanted to organize your workspace, prepare a new marketing pitch, or start a blog for your business. Decide in advance which project you’ll devote your “extra” hours to so that you don’t end up down the social media rabbit hole.

If you work from home and need even more advice, check out our remote working productivity tips. Here’s to a productive workday and new year!

Jessica Sillers writes about business, finance, and parenting for various companies and publications. Her favorite things include outings with her husband and daughter, Elena Ferrante novels, and perfecting the chocolate chip cookie. Read more of her work at www.dcfreelancewriter.com/portfolio.

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