How to Be More Productive at Work

Written by Nancy Wu

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”

-Helen Keller

Curb procrastination

Our brains are wired for instant gratification, but work often requires that we sacrifice our current, immediate wants for a better outcome in the future. Our hesitation to move forward is usually rooted in fear and risk aversion. At work, the fear that the result of your product is less than perfect often feeds procrastination. To beat it, visualize the result you want and then act on it. Expect resistance, identify it, and keep moving forward. If the task seems daunting, break it down into smaller pieces so it doesn’t seem so lofty and unachievable.

Do the hardest thing first

Use the morning to do the hardest or most dreaded thing you have to complete that day. The morning sets the tone for the rest of the day, and tackling the hardest things first will make the rest of your day seem a lot easier. The feeling of accomplishment will give you a boost of energy and carry you through the rest of the day.

Be proactive, not reactive

Letting incoming phone calls and emails sidetrack our attention span is a common practice in workplaces, but it is also one of the best ways to kill productivity. Put your laptop and phone on Do Not Disturb mode if you need total concentration, and then set aside a time (in the afternoon) to respond. Communication is important, but it should not dictate what your day looks like.

Work in intervals

Top performers often work in 90 minute intervals with a 10 minute break. To do your best work and hit peak productivity, researchers recommend doing concentrated work for 90 minutes and then unplugging for 10 minutes. Use the break to be active, whether it is taking a lap around the office or going on a coffee run.

Establish routines

The most successful entrepreneurs follow a strict daily routine to maximize productivity. Once you get used to the pattern that your days take on, the essentials become background noise and you have more mental energy to focus on more important things. President Obama wears the same suit everyday in order to minimize the decisions he has to make daily, leaving his decision-making energy for more pressing things, like running a country.

Track your habits

Pay attention to productivity drainers at work, like checking your email more often than necessary or scrolling through Buzzfeed during breaks. Create accountability mechanisms for yourself by setting up a consequence for being distracted. Tell your coworkers about your goals, or set up a habit-tracking app on your phone.