Set goals, switch off social and snack well: how to be more productive at work

With businesses set to gain an extra 18 days a year thanks to improved connectivity, Joy Persaud reminds us how individually we can make small changes to find even more productivity gains at work

Joy Persaud

Time is the precious commodity we all want more of. That elusive 25th hour of the day or the eighth day of the week always seems to escape us. But what if there were a way to regain some time? According to O2 Business, workers could gain a valuable 3.14 hours a week – nearly 18 working days a year – thanks to improved connectivity.

In fact, enhanced connectivity could provide UK businesses with a £34.1bn productivity bonus, with the retail sector alone enjoying a potential annual boost of £4.9bn.

The research, carried out on behalf of O2 Business by market research companies Development Economics and YouGov this summer, quizzed 500 UK businesses to examine the advantages of connectivity. Their report, Business without Boundaries: the Role of Connectivity in Business Growthstated that giving people the ability to work where, when and how they want can “reduce time spent commuting to fixed places of work, enabling a more efficient use of working time”.

It went on to recommend tools such as video conferencing and real-time collaboration apps, adding that these could help the UK economy net an extra £14.7bn in productivity gains for SMEs, and a further £19.4bn for large companies.

As well as the technological steps, employees can take other measures to improve their productivity at work. Follow these simple tips to help ensure you remain productive throughout the day:

Limit the time you spend on a task
Breaking up the day into batches of similar tasks that you expect to finish within a certain time can help you to focus. You’ll need to be disciplined to stick to your deadlines – but if you can, you should whiz through your to-do list.

Do the trickiest job first
Grit your teeth and get the hardest task done before looking at the other jobs you need to do. While it’s tempting to procrastinate and leave the thorniest job for last, you’ll enjoy a sense of satisfaction once your biggest task is ticked off. Making this into a daily habit will improve your productivity and you’ll start each day with a sense of achievement.

Take breaks
Fresh air oxygenates the bloodstream, wakes you up and can help to improve your mood so try to go outside at lunchtime for a walk. Even 15 minutes spent in fresh air on a grey day will have a positive impact on your ability to concentrate and a break from your computer screen will benefit your eyes, too. Additionally, take regular desk breaks to stand and stretch.

Avoid pointless meetings
We’ve all had those meetings that end up being a colossal waste of time. So if the meeting does not have a firm agenda, clear goals, and a strict start time and latest end time, postpone it until these are in place. Sometimes, an email or phone call will suffice instead of a meeting, saving everyone’s time. And, when you do have a meeting, ensure that you and the other participants are fully briefed to avoid going over issues from scratch.

Switch off social
Idly scrolling through social media sucks up time like few things can. And notifications popping up on your phone won’t help you to work well. Switch off – or mute – these time thieves when possible.

Snack well
The afternoon slump can send many of us rushing to buy iced buns and bars of chocolate, but nuts and fruit are a better way to get a burst of energy to power through those post-lunch tasks – and avoid you adding today’s unfinished jobs to tomorrow’s list. Keep healthy snacks in your bag or drawer and save junk food for later, when it won’t matter if you zone out.

Focus on one task at a time
The old saying “jack of all trades, master of none” has truth in it. We’re not designed to multitask and trying to do so diminishes productivity. It becomes difficult to focus, and trying to juggle jobs takes a toll on the memory as well as stressing you out.

Get enough sleep
It’s an obvious one, but regular decent sleep will sharpen your thinking, decision-making and memory – all of which affect your productivity – and has benefits for your physical and mental health. Consider having an early night and starting again in the morning instead of working late into the evening.

Choose your employer well
When you’re considering a potential employer, investigate their wellness policy and ask about the company’s attitude towards flexible working. Forward-thinking firms know that productivity will soar if they prioritise staff wellbeing and exploit the myriad benefits that connectivity brings – so that employees have input into how, when and where they work.

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