During your third meeting that should have been an email, your mind has probably started wandering back to the pile of work on your desk. You throw back the last of your coffee, start drafting emails in your head, and desperately attempt to make the most of the precious few minutes you have left in the day.
While there's no simple way to stop your boss from calling pointless meetings, there are several steps you can take to ensure you stay productive at work. Following a few of these tips may even allow you to schedule that bathroom break back into your day, or may let you finally take advantage of the elusive "lunch hour."
1. Make a List
One of the biggest pitfalls to productivity is a lagging memory. Say you wake up in the morning knowing you have thirteen things to accomplish throughout the day. Then, when you arrive at work, you realize you can only remember ten of the items from your list. Taking those quick moments to write a to-do list can bring more time and energy back into your workday. According to a recent study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, while undone tasks cause huge distractions, the simple act of documenting these tasks can lessen anxiety and boost productivity. Take the first few minutes of your day to write out everything that needs to be accomplished - preferably in order of importance.
2. Plan Your Day
Before you leave work, take a moment to plan out the following day's commitments. Glance over your calendar and see what meetings are upcoming. Is there anything you can do before you leave to ensure your 9:00 AM Tuesday conference call is stress-free? Similarly, before you get into bed, take some time to determine your routine for the next morning. Even the simple action of picking out your outfit or what to pack for lunch can lead to boosted productivity in the office. Additionally, studies actually show that highly-successful people embrace the morning. Set back your alarm by a few minutes and make yourself some breakfast and a cup of coffee. It's proven by science to improve your productivity throughout the day.
3. Stay Healthy
According to Forbes, eating the wrong foods can lead to a severe decline in productivity. Overabundance of carbs and lectins can trigger hormones like serotonin in the brain; while a lack of food and (healthy) sugars lowers willpower and self-control. Taking simple steps like pressure cooking to remove the lectins in potatoes or chopping up some nutrient-rich veggies as a side dish will keep your mind strong throughout the day. Since healthier people are more productive, you should also take some time to implement an exercise routine into your schedule. This can be as simple as brisk walks in the office throughout the day or a set gym schedule. There are even some quick exercises that you can do without leaving your desk.
4. Say No
While you shouldn't cancel any important meetings with clients or your boss, take some time to look over your commitments and see if anything can be trimmed. Take your own priorities into consideration and determine if you can reasonably accomplished the task asked of you. If your calendar will not allow your participation in the office decorating committee or your call schedule will not leave you time to edit a 30-page document; take a deep breath and say "thank you, but no."
5. Take a Break
This might seem like an insane tip for those looking to be more productive; but taking breaks can immensely improve time management throughout the workday. A study from Desktime found that the most productive people work for 52-minutes and then take a 17-minute break. The 52 minutes of work should act as a distraction-free sprint where you turn off your smartphone, clear your calendar, and just focus on the work before you. Then, when those minutes are up, you have 17 minutes to get a drink of water, make some coffee, and take a walk around the office. By separating your time between extreme focus and extreme rest, you will accomplish your tasks with more gusto and less stress.
As the New Year approaches, people everywhere are making resolutions to make healthier and stronger decisions in their personal lives. Why can't these resolutions apply to the workplace as well? So the next time you're stuck in that pointless meeting, use that time to jot out your to-do list, or count it as your 17 minute break for the hour.