How To Stop Wasting Time At Work & Actually Be Productive
Have you ever had those moments at work where you sit at your desk and can't seem to focus? You start to think about everything else you need to do instead of the work that's right in front of you. You don't mean to waste time at your job, but sometimes it's hard to climb that hill when you don't have the motivation to do so. It's completely natural to have those days where you accidentally scroll on Instagram for 30 minutes or spend too much time checking meaningless emails (looking at you, newsletters). But if you want to actually get some work done, you need to put the pedal to the metal and change that work habit ASAP.
"There are several reasons for decreased productivity. An Accountemps survey found Tuesday is the most productive day of the week cited by 39 percent of human resources managers. All workers experience highs and lows throughout the workweek or workday, but the trick is to keep your most productive hours in mind and, when possible, schedule important tasks during those hours. If you face an afternoon slowdown every day, don’t push challenging projects off until then. And if you do feel your energy starting to dip, stretch or take a short walk to refresh," says district president of Accountemps Bill Driscoll in an interview with Bustle over email.
"Productivity also suffers when you’re tired. Our research from earlier this year found nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of U.S. workers admitted to being tired on the job, leading to being distracted, procrastination and making more mistakes," continues Driscoll.
If you find that your work load is piling up, but you don't have the energy to complete it, here are 13 ways you can stop wasting time at work and actually get things accomplished.
1. Get Rid Of Distractions
It's easy to get distracted when social media is so readily accessible. But if you actually want to get some work done, you should keep your phone in your bag and use an app to block you from viewing certain sites on your computer. "I don’t go to social media throughout the day and for at least [a] few hours, I put my phone on mute, so I don’t answer any text messages," says CEO and cofounder of Grabr Daria Rebenok in an interview with Bustle over email.
2. Listen To Music That Boosts Productivity
Personally, I have a hard time listening to music with lyrics. My brain starts to follow the words and I can't concentrate on my work. And classical music makes me feel calm... too calm. Solution? Video game soundtracks, which have been proven to boost productivity and keep you focused. "I always turn on music that boosts productivity and try to cut work-related conversations down to 10 minutes, with no more than two to three throughout the work day," says Rebenok.
3. Create An "Urgent" List
Before you start the day, create an urgent list — things that have to get accomplished. Keep the list small so you don't overwhelm yourself. "I suggest making a list of urgent items to complete for the day and don’t leave before they’re finished," says Rebenok.
4. Establish Guidelines
People who work from home may have a harder time concentrating on their work. But if you set guidelines to follow, they can allow you to focus on your job instead of what needs to get done in the house. "In some instances, there is more of an anyplace/anywhere mentality. This works for some roles but not for all. Make sure to set hours for when you are on the clock and stick to them, and try not to get distracted by personal tasks," says Driscoll.
5. Set Expectations With Your Team
"Make sure there is a mutual understanding with your manager and/or colleagues such as being accessible during certain times, meeting deadlines or keeping similar hours as the rest of the team. Sometimes it helps to be accountable to others to increase productivity while working remotely," says Driscoll about how you should set expectations with your team when you work remotely.
If you're out of the office working remotely, you can establish these expectations in the beginning of every shift or of the week. In addition, you can email a report of what you've accomplished at the end of the week to your supervisor to help keep them in the loop.
6. Check Your Email Only A Few Times A Day
Constantly checking and answering your emails is a huge distractor. Opt to only check your email a few times a day to keep focus on the tasks that need to be completed. "Fight the impulse to read and respond to emails the instant they arrive. Unless your job requires an immediate response, pick specific times to check your inbox throughout the day," says Driscoll.
7. Work In A Quiet Area Of The Office
Don't let your coworkers distract you when you have a lot of things that need to be accomplished. Work in a quiet area of the office away from your desk so you're less inclined to chat with your buddies. "When working on a project requires your full attention, consider finding an empty conference room or a quiet space where you won’t be interrupted by phone calls, coworkers or office activities," says Driscoll.
8. Take Breaks
Even though it's important to complete your assignments, you don't want to burn yourself out. Every few hours, make sure you stand up, walk around and do something else. "Taking short breaks throughout the day can help you replenish your energy and fight fatigue," says Driscoll.
9. Stick To A Strict Schedule
If you have a long list of things you need to accomplish, you should create a strict schedule to help you focus. You especially want to do this when you're in a meeting. "It's easy to let meetings go on for longer than they were intended, but a large part of time management is sticking to a strict scheduled so as to not fall behind. Assigning somebody to ensure that the team is on track will hold everyone accountable for staying on task and sticking to the schedule for the day," says marketing expert on the one-on-one messaging platform TipTalk Cynthia Johnson in an interview with Bustle over email.
10. Hold Yourself Accountable
While you don't want to put an immense amout of pressure on yourself, you do want to hold yourself accountable. The less mistakes you make, the less time you waste redoing the work you've already completely. "Checklists are a great way to hold ourselves accountable for the assignments that need to be completed. At the end of each day, create a list of tasks for the following day to avoid the risk of forgetting important assignments. Investing in a planner or a calendar can help put mental checklists on paper. Nothing is more satisfying than crossing off completed tasks," says Johnson.
11. Be Mindful About Your Time Management
"In most cases, wasting time at work is unintentional. The truth is that poor time management can have a negative impact on your work and your personal life, because many people go home and work to catch up from the day." says Johnson. You don't want to leave work just to go home to finish the rest of it. Be diligent about your time while you work so you don't have to make this mistake.
12. Invest In A Planner Or Calendar
"Investing in a planner or a calendar can help put mental checklists on paper. Nothing is more satisfying than crossing off completed tasks," says Johnson. Having a planner can help you manage your time more efficiently because you'll know what needs to get done and won't forget when everything is due.
13. Get Enough Sleep
If you really want to function at your job, you need to put "get more sleep" on top of your to-do list. Most people need between seven to nine hours of sleep to function and if you sacrifice that, you won't think properly or make right decisions. "For a while, I would work during the day, come home, do family things, and then continue my work from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. A friend of mine invited me to do a triathlon, and after trying to do it all, I needed to cut something back. I decided to stop working from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. and after about a week, my energy came back and I was at a different level mentally. I was getting more sleep and because of that, my quality of work improved. Having the right mattress matters, too, because your body needs to be at a lower temperature to fully recover and your sleep cycle can get interrupted on the wrong mattress, and even after eight hours of sleep, you can feel tired and lack energy," says founder and CEO of Essentia Jack Dell'Accio in an interview with Bustle over the phone.
If you find yourself wasting a lot of time at work, you might want to figure out why this happens. To prevent this habit, hold yourself accountable and don't check your emails often. The more you accomplish at work, the less stress you will feel.