There’s nothing worse than having an unproductive day at the office.
There are unspoken rules that we follow in the business world:
- Meetings are important.
- Email is king.
- We must look busy even if we’re not.
- We must look stressed — otherwise we can’t possibly be busy.
But these rules? They’re actually slowing you down. The best thing you can do is forget them and follow just one rule: focus on output. At the end of the day, the number of hours you put in at work doesn’t matter; all that matters is results. When you switch to a results-oriented mindset, you will see a radical change in the office.
Here are five tips for being productive in the office.
Set a maximum of three priorities each day. This means ignoring everything else on your list . . . until tomorrow. When we’re distracted and overwhelmed by a long list, it can be hard to get anything done. If you knock all three of those tasks out early, you’ll have the option of heading home early or adding a fourth priority to your list.
At Terminus, each team has fifteen-minute check-ins every morning. Everyone briefly shares what they accomplished the day before, what their priorities are for the day, and any roadblocks they anticipate encountering. This is a great way to verbalize your goals and stay connected with your team members.
2. Take control of email.
Take control of your email by limiting the time you spend checking and replying to emails. Just because there are emails there, doesn’t mean you have to reply to them all immediately. I recommend only checking email three times a day: once in the morning, once just after lunch, and once in the late afternoon. You’ll notice how much quicker you reply when you do it in bursts, too.
3. Always do the most important things first.
It can be tempting to start your day with the easiest or most enjoyable task, but that’s a mistake. Always start with the most important task. If you put it off, you won’t get it done. It’s as simple as that. If you leave the hardest task until last, you run out of time. By prioritizing your hardest task first, you can be sure it will get done no matter what happens.
4. Always have an agenda for meetings.
Many meetings run overtime because they have no structure. Insist meeting owners provide a complete agenda before any meeting. This forces the meeting owner to do a lot of the work beforehand and reduces wasted time during the meeting itself. Not only that, but attendees will know what to expect and can contribute more effectively.
5. Make meetings 20 minutes long.
Meetings can be a huge waste of time. It seems like there’s an unspoken rule that meetings must last an hour, or at least a half hour. Why? Try shortening your meetings to 20 minutes, max. One way to speed them up is to do meetings standing up, or even walking around if you’re done a one-on-one. This encourages people to say what they need to say promptly.
What are your tips for a successful, productive work day? Are there any I missed? Comment with your suggestions, and we may include our favorites in a follow-up post.