A Young Professional’s Guide to Becoming More Productive at Work

Here’s a very interesting guest post from my friend Lexie Lu.  Check it out.

The leap from academia to the workplace can be a tough one for young professionals. You’re used to making your own schedule, being productive when you feel bursts of creative energy. Now, though, you work a 9-to-5, and your boss determines your timetable and responsibilities.  Even so, a short walk around the office or grabbing a coffee or reading a story by John Doe can boost your energy.

Fortunately, you can work to make yourself productive in the work environment. Taking these tips on board now will help you as your career progresses — and flourishes.

1. Crush It on Your Commute

Those who get to work by bus, train or passenger-seat carpool can use the time wisely. Knock out your emails during your trek. You can also come up with your to-do list for the day. These activities allow you to jump in as soon as you get to the office, spiking your productivity first thing in the morning.

2. Track Your Times

How much time are you spending on a task? It’s time to find out — and use that information to your advantage.

Start by downloading a time-tracking app and using it honestly. Due Time Tracking, for instance, calculates how long you spend on each project. It also detects idle time. TopTracker, another option, comes with features like screenshots and project notes. When you know how much time you’re using — or wasting — per task, you can boost your productivity.

3. Do the Worst First

If you spend all day dreading that one glaring task on your to-do list, you’ll get nothing done. Alternatively, finishing it first thing will give you a great sense of accomplishment. It will set the tone for the rest of your day, too — if you can do that, you can do anything.

Start big and bad — do the worst task first. Then, you’ll breeze through the rest of your projects and feel productive by the day’s end.

4. Focus on One Thing

It may seem that the more you can multitask, the better. However, the opposite is true when it comes to workplace productivity. According to one study, shifting between tasks can cost you 40% of your precious time.

Focus on one thing at a time to get the most done. This tip applies to even the smallest tasks on your to-do list. You can’t have a phone meeting while you edit your presentation. Instead, finish the call, then spend a few minutes focusing solely on your next project.

5. Spruce Up Your Desk

Consider giving your desk, cubicle or office a makeover. Display photos with your loved ones, bring in a nicely scented candle or pot an indoor plant. If you feel happy at your desk, you’ll be more inclined to create and produce in quantities that will make you proud at the end of the day.

6. Set Smart Goals

A sprawling to-do list won’t motivate you to work. Instead, it will daunt you — you won’t be able to see the finish line.

One way to keep yourself going is to set digestible goals to get your tasks finished. So, break down a large project into smaller tasks and tackle them one at a time. You’ll feel accomplished as you tick off these to-dos — and that feeling will spur you forward to finish the overarching assignment.

7. Consider Your Internal Clock

You’ve probably noticed that there are times during the day when you’re more productive than others. Perhaps it’s first thing in the morning before everyone else gets to the office. Maybe you get a burst of energy with your afternoon iced coffee.

Make a note of these times, then schedule your toughest tasks according to your most alert and productive hours. Be sure to save the easier jobs for when you tend to hit lulls, too.

8. Learn the Shortcuts

As a young professional, you probably know lots of tricks that make your computer work more efficiently for you. For instance, you can turn on Gmail shortcuts and reply to an email by pressing the letter R on your keyboard.

Learning these shortcuts and others can make your workday more productive. Don’t be afraid to ask your colleagues or bosses for their favorite tricks, either.

9. Take Advantage of Light

If you have windows in your workspace, be sure to open the curtains wide and pull up the blinds. Exposure to natural light will enhance your sense of well-being, boost your energy and ensure you hit maximum productivity.

If you regularly read through stacks of paper, opt for products that use Fluorescent Whitening Agents, which absorb UV light and re-emit it back to you. The result is a whiter sheaf that makes it look as if you’re standing outside in the sun.

10. Silence Notifications

Silence your phone and its distracting notifications while you’re in the office. You don’t have to ignore your gadgets completely, of course. However, hearing every buzz will break your concentration, meaning you have to re-discover your productive state of mind every time you look away.

On that note, sign out of social media profiles on your work computer so that you can’t see those alerts, either. It’s so easy to lose yourself on Facebook or Twitter — and those tendencies do little to help your productivity.

11. Take Breaks Regularly

It may seem counterintuitive, but breaks are vital to your workplace productivity. Stepping away from a task for a few minutes can refresh your mind and give you a creative boost. A short walk around the office or grabbing a coffee can boost your energy. With your reserves restored, you’ll feel more motivated to tackle big tasks, thus increasing your productivity.

12. Suggest Standing Meetings

You can’t pick and choose which meetings you’ll attend just yet. However, these get-togethers tend to be a huge time suck for professionals of all levels.

Until you can refuse attendance, try suggesting to your boss that the team try standing meetings. They tend to go faster, and because everyone’s on their feet, they feel refreshed and energized afterward. It’s a win-win for you, your manager and your productivity.


Productivity Is Yours

These 12 tips are more than enough to increase your workplace productivity once and for all. By implementing even a few of them, you can boost your output and feel good at the end of each workday.

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