Sure, the weather may not be cooperating, and depending on where you call home base it may actually be snowing as you read this (as I look out our windows in Cambridge, there are flurries flying past).
Though we may be weeks away from sunny skies and full blooms, marking the first day of spring over the weekend got me thinking about spring cleaning, sweeping out the cobwebs at work and at home.
Spring cleaning is all about removing excess; purging what’s unnecessary to make room for fresh thinking, decluttering to enable better things to take the place of what is no longer needed. And although spring cleaning may begin with a duster and a positive attitude, it also should apply to clearing out mental space, desk space, and bad habits that can complicate your daily routine and interfere with the quality of your work (and some may argue quality of life).
Whether at the office or under your own roof, it may be difficult to get started. As the line between work and leisure blurs, it’s more important than ever to understand what helps you generate your best ideas, wherever they make take shape.
What are some ways you can boost work productivity? I’ve got a few tips in mind:
- Avoid multitasking. According to this Forbes article, a Stanford University study shows that “multitasking is less productive than doing a single thing at a time. [P]eople who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information cannot pay attention, recall information, or switch from one job to another as well as those who complete one task at a time…[reducing] your efficiency and performance.” Multitasking actually diverts attention from one task to another, reducing the bandwidth your brain has to devote to either activity. Talk about brain fatigue. You aren’t doing yourself or your project any favors by trying to focus on too many things at once.
- Know when good is enough. Perfectionism can cause burnout, according to this Fast Company article. Those who want to boost productivity while keeping their sanity learn methods to prevent this daily mental strain. Ever heard of satisficing? Herbert Simon coined the term, and for all intents and purposes it’s a form of information processing where you select an acceptable option based on what’s practical and available. It’s decision-making that makes sense for the time and resource-strapped/options-overwhelmed connected worker. Utilizing the skill helps you move on from decisions that might otherwise stall productivity – helping you focus on meaningful work.
- Prepare your space for creativity. Who doesn’t want more nirvana in their lives? This WIRED article shares “three ways to optimize your work space and reach office nirvana.” In short: adopt a minimalist aesthetic, infuse your space with inspirational objects, and emphasize opportunities for social interaction. I recently outfitted my desk with a purple flowering plant and miniature elephant. Worker happiness impacts productivity, and as the distributed workplace becomes more commonplace, there is ample opportunity to make your space your own. The technology to support interacting with team members regardless of where your “desk” resides can foster more meaningful relationships and support unique, creative worksites.
- Carve out dedicated think time – and reward yourself with breaks. Interruptions are inevitable but can be a major blow to productivity if not kept in check. If needed, schedule time to devote to one particular project or task (see “avoid multitasking” – tip #1) on your calendar: just don’t make it longer than 90 minutes according to a Florida State University. This Inc. article called out what I’d like to think of as the trifecta of productivity – minimize interruptions, work for 90-minute (or less) intervals, and take regular breaks – and speaks to routine behaviors to live by for best results at work. My calendar fills up with a lot of meetings so I’ll occasionally schedule GSD time to get it done.
- Rethink meetings. When planned well, meetings establish consensus, spur new ideas, elevate thinking, and fuel progress toward goals. Oftentimes the modern worker can be frustrated by the quantity of daily meetings. I hear you. It’s important to let technology help you work smarter, not harder, not longer, not across meeting upon meeting with action-less outcomes. If you set clear objectives for a meeting on your calendar, technology should enable you to leave the meeting with a sense of accomplishment and clear next steps. Next time you book a meeting, ask yourself: “Have I laid out clear objectives and agenda for this meeting and am I using the right tools to make it a success?” If the answer is yes, you’re on your way to a productive meeting.
There isn’t a shortage of ways to boost work productivity. Everyone has different styles that help them define what quality output looks like whenever and however they work.