It's not easy to find focus in a hectic life, but in the business world, time is money. That goes double for home offices where the responsibility for good time management falls on the shoulders of one person. Developing a streamlined method of managing and improving your workday efficiency involves a wide range of well-defined skills and habits. Here are five top tactics that you can use to boost your productivity at work.
1. Use Technology Wisely
In an age of big data, we have a ton of information available at our fingertips. This has its positives and negatives. On the one hand, the age of sifting through a massive stack of paperwork is all but over. Rugged tablets or smartphones can let us engage in work anywhere that we choose to and on our own timetable. On the other hand, technology can kill our productivity by flooding our minds with useless distractions. Social media is far and away the number one culprit here. Don't cut out your technology, just cut it back. Figure out what you need to get the job done and then take steps to prune back everything else. Don't leave your television on while you work, resist the urge to text friends and turn off desktop email notifications. Remember, technology exists to empower the individual. If it no longer does that, it's a hindrance, not a help.
2. Get Healthy
Health is on everyone's minds these days, and the truth is that globally we've been lax about our personal health for far too long. Business managers have been sounding the alarm for years that poor diet and lack of exercise are wrecking productivity. A study by the British Journal of Health Psychology discovered that people who eat five portions of fruits and vegetables at least four days per week showed a 25% increase in overall job performance. It doesn't end there. Magnesium, which can be found in leafy greens and dark chocolate, has been found to reduce anxiety and has a well-documented relaxing effect on muscles. The B-vitamin Choline (found in eggs) is known to boost neuron function. This all has a synergistic effect; everything health-related tends to improve in tandem. For example, having a well-nourished body gets you motivated to exercise, which boosts the mood, which makes you more focused on improvement as a whole. Think holistically about improving your life, and start the ball rolling.
3. Practice Meditation
Being effective at meditation involves a huge time investment and a total rearrangement of your worldview, right? Wrong. That's certainly the myth, but science has flipped the script on our assumptions about being mindful, with a recent study showing that a mere ten minutes of meditation caused participants to experience boosts in cognitive performance. The key to meditation is intentionality. Try setting aside time specifically for the task of centering yourself and find a comfortable seat anywhere to do it. You don't need a "sacred space" to meditate, in fact the skill of meditation involves breathing and focusing techniques that can help calm you in even the most stressful environments.
4. Create Clear Goals
A recent study by Gallup tells the story. An annual review showed that 67% of workers are disengaged at work, and an additional 18% are actively disengaged. They've mentally checked out. A lot of this disinterest comes from the lack of motivation to be there in the first place. Some organizations counsel that the "stick" method of giving regular performance reviews is a step in the right direction, but the "carrot" of actually making work more interesting is the best way to fix this. Again, the numbers don't lie. An overwhelming majority of workers now consider a company's overarching vision as the deciding factor in considering employment with them. Whatever your work may be, make sure that you understand the why behind your tasks and value it. If you can't do that, find another line of work because you'll never succeed at something you don't care about.
5. Improve Your Environment
No, we're not talking about buying an electric car here (though that's not a bad idea). The environment in which we work has a massive effect on our performance. People tend to think of humans and nature as being two polar opposites. Nothing could be further from the truth. Everything from air quality to color in the ambient environment affects our psychology. Adding plants to an office environment has been shown to boost productivity up to 15% in addition to clearing the air of toxic chemicals. Natural light is a major boost to human efficiency as well. It also improves eye health, sleep cycles and raises D-vitamin levels, so ditch those harsh, overpriced fluorescents and let the sunlight in.
Adding these tips to your efficiency toolkit is a good start, but it's only a start. Becoming a more efficient worker is a process of self-improvement that can take a while to get right. But if we stop learning, we stop living, so keep moving forward and get better at being you one step at at time.