I MAY EARN MONEY OR PRODUCTS FROM THE COMPANIES MENTIONED IN THIS POST.
I recently changed job and companies, and I am now working more than I was before, in a better environment. I like working for my firm because I am master of my time: I can start early, or late and work from home. This might seem ordinary for some of you but I work for a financial company in London, and I believe this is pretty rare in my field.
Because I usually have a lot to do and I don’t want to work longer hours than I have to, I want to maximise my productivity. Here is what I found most helpful to stay focused all day.
1) Track your time
When I started this job, I was asked to fill a timesheet on a weekly basis. At first, I thought, ok I’ve done this before, it won’t be that hard, it’s just going to allow me to see how much I’m spending on certain tasks. But there is so much more than that from tracking my time. I can observe how much I usually spend on regular tasks, which clients I spend more time working on, and how much of my billing time goes to different clients.
Tracking your time can make a significant improvement on your productivity and will keep your organised. You can use desktop applications or online tool to track your time. Or even more simply, a spreadsheet.
2) Plan your time
Related to the above. Start the day by thinking about what you need to accomplish and write it down. Have a similar list for what you need to do in the week and beyond a week. That way you will visualise your objectives and keep in mind what you need to do. I like to use a notebook to keep up to date with my workflow. I find this works better than using my computer because I sometimes have to write down quickly something I need to do as a result of an email/call/discussion. Daily planning is critical.
3) Avoid meetings
If you work in an office, avoid unnecessary meetings, or formal meetings that are booked for a pre-allotted time in a private room. These are time killer. My former company didn’t have an informal space to book meeting, and I always ended up in 1-hour meetings back-to-back where I did not learn or add anything to the conversation. My new office has an informal space where people can meet for a few minutes at a time. THIS IS SO MUCH MORE EFFICIENT.
4) Eat light
You would think that you would need a lot of energy to stay focused all day, right? Well of course you do, and the worst way to kill that focus is to overeat at lunch and feel sleepy the first half of the afternoon. Eat lightly, at your desk or take a quick break outside and snack once in the morning and the afternoon. You will not only save money on lunch, but you will stay productive while everyone else is trying to digest their lunch. And don’t forget to drinks loads of water!
5) Multitasking might not be for you
I find hard to multitask, and you might do too. Or you might not. It depends on people but if you struggle with managing several screens, phones, documents and even projects at the same time, try to minimise the multitasking (and thus the distractions). You will work more efficiently and move faster to the next task ;).
6) Exercise regularly
This is one of the pieces of advice that I better follow myself… Exercising isn’t just good for your body and looking good on pictures, it keeps your brain healthy too. If you are planning your time, set some to exercise as well, and if you can, do it in the morning: it will kick start your metabolism and keep your energy up for the day.
7) Forget coffee, sleep more
Yes, coffee might help to boost focus, but only in moderate amounts and for little time. If you want to stay focused for an entire day, you can’t rely on a caffeine intake every 15 minutes. Spend more time in bed rather, 7-9 hours of sleep every night can make a big difference from 6-8 hours.
8) Try to control your environment and your work flow
Music, no music: I listen to music for prolonged tasks that require no hard thinking when I know I won’t be interrupted. If I listen to music while writing an email, I know it will mess with my focus, and I will take longer writing my email. Find out what you do easily with and without music.
Light: I use a blue light filter on my screens to reduce the strain on my eyes and my documents on my desk and clearly lit. Even if you are not tired, inadequate light can strain your eyes and keep you from being efficient. Don’t forget to not stare at a screen for hours as well: focus on a distant point every once in a while to “reset” your eyes.
Sitting position/temperature/ your surroundings might be a bit harder to control, but if you can, I encourage you to tailor your work/study spot where you will feel unstoppable!
9) Don’t procrastinate and avoid distractions
Duh! Try to find the source of distraction and reduce them when you need to extra-focus on something. It could be a Facebook/Twitter/Instagram notification on your phone (kill those, I uninstalled the Facebook app from my phone to avoid getting the notifications); people; or anything else.
10) Take breaks!
Every couple of hours, even if it’s for a few minutes, take a break from working, have a cup of coffee/tea, a quick walk outside or even inside your workplace.