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10 Simple Ways to Increase Productivity

Being a consultant requires a unique skill set. You have to be self-driven, results-focused, and PRODUCTIVE. At any time, you are wearing many different hats. You are often serving multiple clients with completely different missions and goals. It definitely requires a strategic approach to be able to successfully manage all of these things. As a matter of fact, productivity is actually key to achieving results for clients.

There is great news! You can increase your productivity. By increasing productivity, you are able to get more done in a shorter amount of time while still producing high-quality results. Here are 10 simple ways to immediately boost your productivity at work and achieve the results you desire.

#1 Make a Habit of Pre-Working Your Schedule

A productive day actually begins the night before. Why? Well, because it is hard to get a jump start on your day if you don’t have at least an idea of what is on your schedule and not plan to lead your way.

Pre-working a schedule can be done using a calendar or agenda.

Taking a few minutes the day before to update your calendar and identify the time you may have available for special projects or unplanned meetings can help you better organize your day. Knowing what is on your schedule ahead of time removes the element of surprise and reduces stress. Plus, you can quickly and successfully start your day when you know what you will need to accomplish first thing in the morning.

#2 Declutter Your Work Space

I was reading an article recently about how a cluttered desk can kill your productivity. It described how simply seeing cluttered items in your workspace can lead to distraction. For example, seeing a dirty coffee cup on the corner of your desk can trigger your need to wash dishes or clean the kitchen. Your mind then begins to wander off to household chores, and stress creeps in when you think about the time and labor required to complete the task. In short, you are no longer focused on your work.

Decluttering your workspace is a rather simple task. The challenge comes in the consistency with which you complete this task. Making it a habit to clear your workspace at the end of the day will allow you to walk into a space that supports your productivity in the morning. You want to begin your day with an organized space rather than chaos.

#3 Create Your To-Do List Ahead of Time

Female consultant adding to her to-do list.

If you are planning a road trip or vacation, you often map out your plans prior to travel so that you waste little time decision making and searching for places to go or how to even get to your destination. This is the same approach we should have for our day. In order to reduce the time wasted trying to simply determine what needs to be done, it is a good practice or habit to create a to-do list ahead of time. Having an idea of the projects and work that must be completed helps you to prioritize what work you should tackle first. It also helps you to arrange your day around meetings and other work requirements that can not be easily adjusted in your schedule. You can then maximize the time that you have to dedicate to projects and tasks.

#4 Wake Up Earlier… 5AM Maybe?

Getting up earlier in the morning helps you to prepare for a more productive day. Writer, Robin Sharma, has found this practice so helpful that he has written an entire book dedicated to this process entitled The 5 AM Club. It describes how to use the period of time when most people have the greatest amount of willpower, 5:00 to 8:00 AM, to get the most important things done in the day. This practice allows you to start the day before most people in the world, giving you an edge—a simple but change that can boost your productivity.

Robin Sharma discusses the benefits of getting up at 5 AM to increase productivity.

#5 Complete Your Most Important Task First

Redbooth is a task and project management software company dedicated to helping thousands of companies globally organize their workflow. An analysis of Redbooth data helps to shed light on the best time to work on important projects during the day. It reveals that on a typical day, most tasks are completed by 11 AM. This appears to be the peak of productivity, as productivity falls after lunchtime until it hits a low at 4 PM.

Redbook user data published online at https://redbooth.com/blog/your-most-productive-time
Redbook user data published online at https://redbooth.com/blog/your-most-productive-time

This highlights the importance of working during the morning hours to capitalize on the increased productivity many may experience during this time. Not long after you first wake up for the day, you are often at your peak for performance because you are well-rested and alert. It is easier to concentrate and focus on high-priority projects at that time.

#6 Remove Distractions

Cell phone with screensaver that reads "No distractions! Please!" to remove  distractions and increase productivity.

If there is no other change you make to increase productivity at work, one of the most effective ways to boost productivity is to remove external distractions. Turn the alerts off so that the buzzing sound or enticing light doesn’t draw you into the email or social media black hole. Silence your cell phone so that you are not interrupted by a surprise call. Turn off the TV so that you can increase your concentration. Bottom line, don’t let simple distractions kill your productivity.

#7 Work in 60 to 90 Minute Time Blocks

Time blocks allow you to separate your workday into blocks of time that are dedicated to a specific task. Most projects or major tasks on your to-do list require an extended block of time for completion. But, maintaining focus for an extended period of time can be challenging.

Studies of Utradian rhythms reveal that we alternate through periods of high-frequency brain activity that lasts approximately 90 minutes, followed by low-frequency brain activity. This makes a time block of 60 – 90 minutes ideal for most people to capitalize on high-frequency brain activity.

Alarm clock for setting time blocks to increase productivity.
Alarm clock for setting time blocks to increase productivity.

Working in time blocks requires you to set aside a specified amount of time to focus intently on the task at hand. Interruptions should be avoided. Additionally, every effort should be made to utilize all of the time reserved, even if you move ahead to another task once the current task is complete. This is also a perfect way to ensure that you are taking the necessary breaks from your work throughout the day to maintain a high level of productivity.

#8 Set a Timer for Checking Email

If you want to find one thing that can wreak havoc on your productivity, look no further than your inbox. Email is critical in the business world today. Almost everything communicated in writing is sent via email. However, email can also be kryptonite to your productivity goals.

I think many of us can relate to getting an email first thing in the morning that leads to follow-up and ongoing communication that lasts for an unimaginable amount of time. To top it off, the email was likely about some non-pressing issue that is not a high priority in your day. This is why it is helpful to set a timer to limit your review and response to email throughout the day. Taking 30 – 60 minutes in the morning followed by two to three 15 minute breaks to spaced throughout the day to check and respond to email will help you remain timely with your response to urgent issues or concerns but prevent this ritual from overtaking your day.

#9 Avoid Multitasking

It can be hard to avoid the urge to tackle ten different things at once. But, did you know that studies have actually shown that the mental block that occurs when switching between tasks can decrease your productivity by up to 40%? So, you really aren’t gaining much from using this as a way to get more accomplished in a day.

Mental block and productivity loss from multitasking.
Mental block and productivity loss from multitasking.

Now, I will be the first to argue that there will be times where multitasking is needed. However, just as impossible as it sounds to juggle ten things at once, it is even more unlikely that you will complete your projects with the quality you desire, and they deserve. So, the solution to this quality draining habit is to focus on one project or task at a time.

#10 Set a End Time

African  American female consultant holding a sign that  reads, "All done!"

Lastly, you must get in the habit of setting time limits for your workday. Time is not an infinite resource, so we must use our time wisely. This means establishing a time when you close shop and stop work on all tasks and projects. Having an established end time that you set when beginning your work will help you to remain focused and engaged during your working hours. The perception of a target or goal for completion helps to place a bit of fire under your seat to keep you moving ahead. Depending on how much of your work that you are able to complete, you can adjust your daily schedule to improve your productivity and strategies over time.

For more information like this and helpful tools to support your career growth in consulting, click on the link to Join The Tribe. You will be among the first to know when new content is released to help you Excel At Consulting.

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