I graduated college in December 2014. Generously speaking, I’ve been functioning as a full-time employed adult for two years. I’ve experienced the inevitable “welcome to the real world” moments and have coped with the fact that a college lifestyle is no longer obtainable or glorified for a person my age.
One of the most valuable things I have learned in the past 2 years is how to be productive. I’ve realized camping out at the library for 4 hours, intermittently checking Facebook and complaining about midterms, is not productive and never was. Working 9+ hour days and leaving the office with a fully completed to-do list, is.
Here is what has helped me increase my productivity over the past 2 years as I have grown accustom to life in the office.
When I first started working, lunch was the first activity to get cut when I had a busy day. I have since found taking time to refuel my body and allowing my mind to rest returns much greater results than the extra time I gain skipping lunch.
Avoid the 2:00 p.m. food coma.
Speaking of lunch … heavy lunches lead to food comas. And I have yet to hear of any coma that leads to productivity. Save the Five Guys Burger for a slow Friday afternoon.
Embrace the 2 minute rule.
If it’s something that can get done in less than 2 minutes, do it immediately. Then reward yourself by writing it down on your to-do list and instantly crossing it off because you rock!
Work in 25-minute blocks.
You’ve probably already heard, but adults now have a shorter attention span than goldfish.
Close outlook and put your phone away (if your situation allows). Challenge yourself to set aside 25-minute blocks dedicated to one task. This works especially well for dreaded tasks you’ve been avoiding—I’m talking complex financial spreadsheets and detailed monthly reports. Set aside just 25 minutes to start them. Starting is the hardest part and 25 minutes sounds so non-threatening, doesn’t it?
Know your prime time.
Everyone has a different time for optimal productivity. I had an adjunct advertising professor who always said his prime productivity time was 3:00 p.m. with a Mt. Dew in hand. I have learned that mine is early morning with a good cup of coffee. If you desperately need to get something done, try blocking off this prime time to ensure meetings won’t fill it and then have at it!
Know when to bring out the tunes.
Different tasks require different levels of focus. If I’m updating a report or crafting a PPT presentation, listening to music is an enjoyable add that helps me focus. Writing a blog post or crunching numbers requires more attention (for me), so I skip the tunes.
Know when your mind needs a rest.
Some days are hard and mentally exhausting. I’ve learned that walking away and coming back with a fresh mind is so much more efficient than continuing to work in circles. Back in 2014, a study came out showing that long hours can actually make you less productive. Think quality over quantity when it comes to hours worked.
While I realize that none of these are new tricks, hopefully they serve as a reminder and inspiration for better office productivity. If you have any to add, I’d love to hear them. Leave a comment!