Last year I had had enough of my wrist and shoulder hurting from sitting at the desk and using the mouse all day long. Using a trackball helped a little but not enough. I did some research, read about the benefits of standing at your desk, and decided to give it a try. Twenty bucks for materials to build my own desk stand, another $20 for a fatigue mat, and I am pain free. I have been standing for seven months now, and I would never go back to sitting. My energy level is up, and I am more productive.
This got me thinking… what else could I do to increase my productivity at work? Here is a list I compiled, starting with what I already know:
- Stand at your desk. Your body was not made to sit for 7–9 hours a day. Standing while working improves your ergonomics, energy, health, mood, and productivity. Moving around on your feet all day works your muscles and keeps the blood flowing in your body.
- Keep your work area clean and neat. Not only will it help you find things more quickly, it will help you feel better. Take some time to toss out trash and organize the area you spend so much time looking at. Put up some pictures or sayings that will inspire you to work hard and feel good.
- Set realistic goals for yourself and be sure to include deadlines. Write them out and post them so you can see them often.
- Make to-do lists. Use whatever works best for you: Outlook, white board, paper, Evernote, etc.If you think of something you need to do, write it down so you do not have to spend more time thinking about it and trying to remember not to forget it.
- Stick to one task at a time. If you have time to get something done, just focus and get it done. Stopping one thing to start another and then coming back around causes you to spend more time on everything in the long run.
- Prepare the night before for the next day. Pick out your clothes, charge your phone, set out breakfast, fill the coffee maker, and put the items you are taking to work all together by the door. Once you arrive at work, be ready to go. Avoid walking around, spending a lot of time getting coffee, and checking out social media sites. These activities eat away at time you could be working.
- Get good at sorting information that you may need later. This helps you avoid spending time asking for that information or looking for it in the future. If you have a good filing system—whether in your email folders, in paper folders, or on your computer—it will help you access the information quickly.
- If something will take less than a minute to do, just do it. Get it over with so you don’t have to spend more time with it in the future.
- Dedicate times to check emails. It wastes time for you to stop what you are doing when an email comes in, read it, decide if you are going to do something with it, and go back to what you were doing.That is a huge productivity sucker.
- Reduce noise distractions. Many of us work in cubes. We can hear activities all around us, and when you add the people who stop by to say hello, it causes us to lose focus. Wear noise-canceling headphones, listen to music, turn on a fan for white noise, or get a white noise machine. Discourage people from just popping in to chat with you and avoid doing that to others. If you are able to get in early and get things done while the area is distraction free, do it.
- When you ask someone to do something for you, give clear, precise instructions in writing. This will help both of you.
- Take breaks to get your blood moving and to get some fresh air. Take a walk outside or go to a balcony or open area. Take some time to breathe, stretch, and clear your head.
- Ask yourself if what you are doing is productive. If you find yourself doing things over and over, see if you can automate the process. Be aware of your actions and the time that it takes to do them.
- Avoid checking personal emails and social media, online shopping, or reading the news (whatever it is for you) while working on something. Set yourself a goal, such as” “I will check X every X” or “When I finish X, I will check X.” We all know we are going to do those things—we just do not need to lower our productivity level by doing them so much and in the middle of working on something. Turn those things off or uninstall them completely if you need to. Doing those things can be a reward for finishing work tasks.
- Reduce eye strain by making sure your monitor is at eye level and 20–26 inches away. Take frequent, short breaks not looking at the monitor.
- Sometimes we get trapped in email chains that we do not belong in any longer. Ask to be removed so you do not have to spend time reading them.
- If you are emailing back and forth with someone and ensuring clarity is taking up a lot of time, just pick the phone up and call the person. It can save a lot of time.
- High-protein, high-fiber meals and snacks are best for productivity. Stay hydrated by drinking water. Drinking caffeinated drinks may add calories and dehydrate you.
Now I need to stop looking at the computer screen, take a short walk to get some fresh air, fill my water cup, look at my to-do list, and knock something out. Then I will reward myself by checking Facebook. I suggest you do the same. ☺