It’s all too easy to get to the end of a hard day’s work, look at your to-do list and think ‘where on earth did the time go?’ You end up leaving for the day disappointed that you haven’t achieved as much as you set out to, or worse, you stay late to get the job done.
This can be because something unexpected came up, but often a lack of productivity is simply a result of outdated work practices and processes, says Rich Ellis, director of Microsoft Office Division UK.
According to Ellis, the demands placed on us by modern life serve to highlight just how previous our time is, specifically for our happiness, wellbeing, and personal success.
Related: The six ways of a productivity ninja
“By getting more out of our day, we free ourselves up to do the things in life that we value, whether it’s finishing work on time to see family and friends, exercising during lunch, or finding an hour at work to start on an exciting project for your boss,” Ellis adds.
The good news is that today, there are more productivity tools, techniques and technologies at our disposal than ever before, and when used in the right way, they can significantly increase what we’re able to achieve. This can range all the way from using a mobile device at home to avoid an hour-long commute, to a simple hack like scheduling regular breaks to improve your concentration.
“I always advise our customers to think about their biggest inefficiencies first – where is time and effort being swallowed up, with little return? Once you’ve identified this, you can start to consider the change you or your organisation needs to make to get more out of your time,” says Ellis.
Top productivity tips from Microsoft
Here are five ideas to get you started from Microsoft’s Ellis.
- Track and limit your time: By understanding where and how you are spending your time, you can quickly see where inefficiencies are building up and what processes you may need to change in order to complete the task more effectively. Limiting your time on a task can also help improve your focus
- Change how meetings are run: We spend a lot of time in meetings, and can often leave them without further clarity on the objective or next steps. Adding structure and boundaries can help ensure the group stays focused and committed to the task at hand –for example, ensure all meetings have a clear purpose, so everyone is clear of the end goal. Similarly, sending an agenda and background materials ahead of time provides an expectation that team members come to the session prepared to provide updates
- Take regular breaks: Scheduling breaks can significantly improve your concentration and boost your creativity. For example, if you are working on a long task, schedule time to reset – this could be a quick coffee break or a short walk to refresh your thinking. Creating recurrent weekday appointments in your Outlook calendar can serve as a good way to hold you accountable
- Work Together: Collaborating with others can often help us think about a task or a problem in a different way. Quickly setting up a video conference, an impromptu brainstorm in the office or posting on your team’s chat-based workspace can be a great of solving a challenge more effectively and efficiently than tackling it alone
- Schedule “no meeting” time blocks: Instead of multitasking, set aside time to work without interruptions. Turning off email notifications, putting your phone away and perhaps working from a quieter location can significantly help you focus on the task at hand.
A new infographic from audio communications company Jabra highlights the most prominent productivity stumbling blocks experienced by employees in the US, UK, France and Germany.