Workplace productivity strategies that will boost your performance

Boosting your workplace productivity is easier if you think of it as several small steps. There’s no ‘big bang’ solution.

Workplace productivity is about your mindset, using tools and techniques appropriately, good energy management, and applying your workplace skills for maximum impact.

In this comprehensive guide, I’ll walk you through 8 strategies that will boost your performance. Choose the strategies that are most meaningful to you, to make this journey enjoyable as well as impactful!

First, quickly scan all 8 productivity strategies. You’ll see they start with getting your mindset right (there’s no point trying to implement strategies until your head and your heart are in the right place!).

Then take a look at the guidance at the bottom of this post on how to move forward to increase your productivity.

1. For a quick productivity boost, start each day with a ‘to-be’ list

We all know about ‘to-do’ lists. They’re endless, unstructured, and potentially demotivating too. But have you ever thought about a ‘to-be’ list? To-be lists are entirely different.

This is about waking up in the morning and asking yourself “how do I want to be today?“. It’s about recognizing that each day is precious, and that life is made up of days like these. Do you really want to be distracted, unfocused, maybe a little grumpy (or even bitter)? Is that how you want to live your life?

It’s tough, but with practice we can cultivate the ability to choose our mood.

Stephen R. Covey Quote: “Proactive people carry their own weather with them.”

Start by consciously reflecting on how you want to be, each day.

2. Then, fall in love with your job for a week

OK, this might seem like a tough ask. But at least take a fresh look at your job. Ask yourself a few simple questions:

  • What do I like about my job?
  • What do I find meaningful?
  • What gives me a sense of purpose?

The answers may not be what your are expected to say out loud. You may not find the work that your team does particularly inspiring. But there will be aspects of your role that you can connect with. Maybe helping out colleagues, or writing an elegant piece of code, or trying out new solutions to old problems.

For a deeper dive, listen to Marcus Buckingham (the video is under 5 mins and well worth the time):

Take the time to embrace the parts of your job that you love.

3. Use FAST goals to boost your productivity

You’re probably sick of SMART goals. SMART SMART SMART. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timebound. This technique for setting goals was helpful years ago, when the working world was relatively stable. When annual planning made sense. When you could fix a specific goal and work for 12 months to deliver it.

Those days are over.

Today, you need FAST goals. Goals that are:

  • Frequently discussed
  • Ambitious
  • Specific
  • Transparent

FAST beats SMART every day of the week. Use FAST goals to accelerate your productivity.

4. Prioritize your tasks (to boost workplace productivity without more work!)

The Eisenhower Matrix (also known as the urgent/important matrix) is a great tool for prioritizing your tasks. There are 4 quadrants:

  1. Import and urgent
  2. Important, but less urgent
  3. Less important, but urgent
  4. Less important, less urgent

Evaluate your tasks using this matrix. Then, use time blocking to help you take a structured and strategic approach to how you use your time. It’s not just about fitting tasks into your schedule, it’s a technique that builds from the Eishenhower Matrix to ensure that you’re spending your time on the most important tasks.

5. Learn to say no (without actually saying no!)

Once you have prioritized your tasks, and blocked your time, you need to learn to say no to unimportant ‘incoming’ tasks. These are the tasks that bombard you through-out your day and have the potential to knock you off schedule.

This is a subtle skill, because you’re learning to say no, without actually saying no.

To do this, you need to deploy a range of questions and statements.

Your questions might be:

  • Can you help me understand why this is important?
  • Can you help me understand why this is so urgent?

Your statements might be:

  • I’m sorry, I have a deadline to hit, and I don’t have any spare capacity
  • I already have a full workload, what would you like me to deprioritize?

Maintain your good intentions, help when you can. But don’t sacrifice yourself (and your work). Learn to say no, without saying no.

6. Single-tasking: a back-to-basics approach

Sometimes we feel we have to multitask, but it comes with a cost. Our brains don’t actually focus on two things at one time (we’re not designed to do that). What really happens is that we quickly switch back and forth between two tasks.

Some people can multi-task more effectively than others. However, for all of us, there is a cost to multitasking. The cost comes in three forms:

  • It takes longer to get tasks done
  • The quality of the output falls
  • There is an emotional / wellbeing strain

Aim to minimize the multitasking habit. Ask yourself two simple questions:

  • What are the tasks that deserve my undivided attention?
  • Who are the people that deserve my undivided attention?

Learn to prioritize one task at a time. It’s the back to basics recipe for success.

7. Workplace productivity tools and techniques

There are productivity tools that we all use. Tools that your team uses. Then there are tools that you can choose to use yourself. Here are a few to explore:

Personal workplace productivity tools

  • Todoist is a task management app that helps you organize and prioritize your tasks. With features like due dates, labels, and project sections, it keeps you on top of your to-do list.
  • RescueTime is a time management tool that tracks how you spend your time on your devices. It provides detailed reports and helps you understand your habits to improve productivity.
  • Focus@Will is a productivity app that uses scientifically optimized music to boost concentration and reduce distractions, helping you stay focused while working.
  • Forest is a productivity app that encourages you to stay off your phone and stay focused. Plant virtual trees that grow while you work and wither if you leave the app.
  • Notion is an all-in-one workspace that combines notes, tasks, databases, and calendars. It’s highly customizable, allowing you to create a personal productivity system that works for you.

Team workplace productivity tools

  • Trello is a visual project management tool that uses boards, lists, and cards to help you organize tasks and projects. It’s great for team collaboration and tracking progress.
  • Slack is a communication platform designed for teams. It provides channels for different projects or topics, direct messaging, and integration with other productivity tools.
  • Asana is a project management tool that helps teams coordinate and manage their work. It offers task assignments, timelines, and progress tracking features.
  • Google Workspace (formerly G Suite) includes a suite of tools like Gmail, Google Drive, Docs, Sheets, and Calendar, designed for collaboration and productivity in the cloud.
  • Evernote is a note-taking app that helps you capture ideas, organize notes, and manage to-do lists. It syncs across devices, making your notes accessible anywhere.

What do you have to use? What can you choose to use? Select the most interesting to experiment with and work towards greater personal productivity.

8. Be kind to yourself

Finally, when was the last time you were on a plane? You probably recall the safety announcement and the message to “take care of yourself before you take care of others“. This is true in life as well as on planes.

Taking care of yourself first is not selfish, it’s the best way to ensure that you can be productive, support the team around you, and work towards your collective success.

Here are 5 simple acts of kindness:

  1. Practice Mindfulness: take a few minutes each day to sit quietly and focus on your breath. This can help reduce stress and increase your overall sense of well-being.
  2. Take a Walk in Nature: spend some time outdoors. A short walk in a park or natural setting can rejuvenate your mind and body.
  3. Write a Gratitude List: each day, jot down three things you’re grateful for. This practice can shift your focus to the positive aspects of your life.
  4. Treat Yourself: indulge in a small treat, whether it’s a favorite snack, a new book, or a relaxing bath. Giving yourself permission to enjoy something can boost your mood.
  5. Disconnect from Screens: set aside some time each day to unplug from digital devices. Use this time to engage in a hobby, read a book, or simply relax without electronic distractions.

Please make sure you take the time to be kind to yourself first (so that you can be kind to others too!).

How to implement these strategies to boost workplace productivity

Don’t try to do everything. You’ll be overwhelmed and set yourself up for failure.

Choose one or two of the strategies that resonate most with you. Take 30 minutes to plan how you’ll integrate these strategies into your working week.

Then, take 30 mins each week to reflect on the changes you have made and their impact. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What have I done that has worked well?
  • What have I done that hasn’t worked so well?
  • What have I learnt?
  • What will I do differently next week?

Use these strategies, plan your actions, use these questions to reflect each week on your progress. You’ll be taking steps to boost your productivity. You’ll be learning, growing, and having fun with it too!

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