If you're anything like me, daydreaming and burnout have become daily occurrences. Whether it's the drag of going to work on Monday, or the burning desire to hit 5 p.m. on a Friday, maxing out productivity throughout the day can be a challenge.
I've found that working in regular breaks and planning out my to-do list helps me stress less and focus more. If you want to max out your work week and get more done in less time, then take a look at these seven tips and tricks that I personally use to get the most out of every hour in the office!
1. Plan Before Executing
As tempting as it might be to jump into your to-do list, I've always found that I'm most productive when I've planned out my day. The level of detail in my daily planner ranges, depending on the tasks on my list. My goal is to plan enough to where I don't feel stressed, wondering how I'll get to everything on my to-do list.
2. Regular Breaks
Getting up and walking around the office is a great way to take a break from the screens we stare at all day. Sure, scrolling through my Facebook and Twitter feed might seem like a break from work, but I don't really feel refreshed after watching my best friend's 3 year old laughing at sock puppets. Getting up, walking around the office and chatting with colleagues for 10-15 minutes gives me the boost I need to refocus and power through my to-do list while avoiding burnout.
Some scientists say that taking breaks every 90 minutes, kind of like our sleep cycle, can make a world of difference. Outside of walking around the office, if it's an extra hectic day, I'll center myself and meditate in my office for 15-20 minutes as it has both mental and physical benefits that ultimately help improve the productivity. This also helps me refocus on what's important, and process the distractions out of my mind.
3. Invest in Your Space
Whether it's office furniture that perfectly wraps around you for a spread out workspace, or adding some light in a dark space, our workspace has a huge impact on how well we can focus and get things done. Invest some thought into how your workspace is arranged.
The desk we work on is one of the biggest factors in focus at work. Is the desk top at a comfortable height? Can your monitor sit on a platform so you don't have to hunch down and strain your neck while looking at it? I personally use an Andover Series desk because it provides a ton of drawers to organize items in, and a L-Shaped that lets me spread my assignments out.
According to PMC National Institute of Health: "Multiple stimuli present in the visual field at the same time compete for neural representation by mutually suppressing their evoked activity throughout the visual cortex, providing a neural correlate for the limited processing capacity of the visual system." This directly points to a cluttered desk or workspace negatively impacting your ability to focus and get assignments completed in an efficient manner.
Beyond the desk, I love being able to look up from my monitor and see a clear blue sky on a sunny day, so I positioned my monitor in front of a window; also keeping the glare off my monitor. Quiet is also important, so I usually keep my door shut when I'm in power work mode. It's all about making the space yours, and only spending time in it when there's work to be done.
4. Mute the Alerts!
One of the most tempting distractions in my office travels to work with me in my pocket. My iPhone loves to beg for attention. Facebook updates, text messages, tweets from my friends, all of these things prompt my phone to buzz and beep.
If I need to power through a tough assignment with maximum focus, I silence my phone (Do Not Disturb Mode is awesome!) and throw it in my desk drawer. At most, I'll glance at my phone every hour or two, until my time sensitive work is complete. The experiences of famous artists and scientific studies back up my experience, showing that focus and efficiency vastly improves when working in a silent environment.
5. Moderate Caffeine Intake
Resisting the urge to chug coffee and Red Bull is tough on those days where just making it to the office on time seems like a victory.
To keep myself alert and focused, I'm mindful of the crashes that accompany caffeine chug-a-thons. I could down a pot of coffee over a few hours, but I'd be completely trashed 3-4 hours later when the caffeine wears off. Plus, my hands start to shake a little bit with too much caffeine, which kills my words per minute when communicating with my team via email or Skype.
My general rule of thumb is no more than 1 cup of coffee per hour. If I decide to stop at 7/11 and grab an energy drink, then I limit myself to one energy drink per 2-3 hours. Although, honestly, coffee is cheaper and seems to do the trick all on its own. If you want to get a little more technical, European Food Safety Authority recommends no more than 400mg of caffeine in a day.
6. Get in Sync with Your Office
In a past life I worked as a customer retention specialist for a major cable company. My customers would ring my phone all day, looking to cancel their services or qualify for special discounts. While working in a cubicle, dealing with disgruntled customers, I noticed something. Corporate had scheduled everyone's lunch breaks during different hours of the shift. This made sense, considering we were worried about having enough people on the phones to handle incoming calls, but it made me think about how I could catch up with the rest of my team.
So, I made an effort to get up from my desk every hour and talking with a different person in our department. I wanted to genuinely get to know them and learn a little about their life outside the office. What I found was that my personal satisfaction and happiness at work went way up. Plus, when I needed help figuring out a complex problem, my colleagues were falling over themselves trying to help me figure it out.
Getting to know the people you work with on a personal level, investing in real relationships throughout the office, made my work easier and my workday immensely more enjoyable. Don't be afraid to reach out and meet someone new. It's always easier to get help from a friend.
I know that an office isn't the most fun place to hang out during the week. We all have a million things we'd rather be doing, and a ton of exciting places where we'd rather spend our time. If you take these suggestions to heart and really own your office space, minimize distractions, understand why it is important to have smart office layout, take breaks and connect with your colleagues, you'll find that your work will take less time and you'll have a lot more fun doing it!