Working at an office all day can be tough. You’ve got to deal with paperwork, rely on sometimes unreliable co-workers, and you’ve got to make sure that you stay productive nearly all day long.
This means that almost everybody struggles with productivity at least a tiny bit; after all, who can work at full capability all the time? This fact makes it clear that we should learn how to be smart about our work processes, and that means learning all the tips and tricks that can make you more productive.
But not every tip works for everybody; some people work best listening to music, while others hate it; some like to hear the chatter of television in the background, while others are completely distracted by it. This is why it’s important that you try out lots of different tips when you can, so you know how to approach your work for the best results.
Another thing about working at an office is this – getting away from some distractions is impossible. What if it’s your cube-mate that’s being annoying? What if they do a lot of small things that are hard to really complain about (you know, those small things that really irk you but aren’t inherently a bad thing?)? What if your boss is asking you to do more work? The last thing you want is to be their bad side, right?
There are ways of dealing with those things, and it’s not actually as difficult as you’d think. With a little effort, it’s possible to start making your work days a lot more productive, and maybe even a little more pleasant as well.
1. Use Natural Lighting
Natural lighting helps with productivity by reducing overall stress levels and improving sleep cycles. People who have more exposure to natural light tend to sleep better, thereby improving overall well-being and productivity for the day that follows. If you can, try and work near an open window. The view might make you feel better as well.
Along the same lines, it’s important to avoid unnatural light before going to bed. Putting the laptop away and shutting off the television a couple of hours before bed will help your body adjust to the hour, and make it easier to fall asleep. Better sleep means more energy and better productivity.
2. Add Plants To Your Office Space
There are studies suggesting that adding plants to your workspace may improve your ability to focus, and it could have a restorative affect on your mental energy as well. The research is young, but the minimal effort required of buying a plant and placing it on your desk makes this tip – at the very least – worth trying.
Tip: Try to avoid anything that has an overwhelming scent. Others in the office may be sensitive or allergic, and the idea is to make yourself more productive, not make others less so.
3. Show Off Your Task List To Repel Distracting Co-Workers
How could showing off your task list repel others? Simple; whenever people come in to distract you for any reason (and especially when they have work they’d like to give you), all you need to do is point at your list of tasks and subtly point out that you simply don’t have time for them.
Just say something along the lines of “I’d love to talk but…” and then point to your task list (which should be big enough for others to see, and all the better if you have visible time estimates or have tasks blocked out for specific times). A neat trick is to add a “free to talk” time block to your schedule, then you can just point to that without needing to explain things as much.
And the best part is how well this tip works with the next one.
4. Say “No” More Often
Learning to say no more often is hard, but learning how to say it to your boss is even harder. But if you want to remain productive at work, accepting a bigger workload than you can handle is not the way to do it.
If your boss approaches you and he wants you to handle another assignment (one that you don’t have time for), here’s exactly how to handle it:
1. Say “I’d love to handle it, but could you take a look at this real quick?”
2. Show your boss a list of all the tasks you need to do, as well as time estimates or the specific time blocks they’ve been assigned.
3. Say “in order to make time for this new task, I’ll need you to pick which of these assignments you want delayed.”
4. Await their decision
Now doesn’t that sound 10x better than simply saying no or saying that you’re busy? By putting the responsibility for any delayed tasks on their hands, they learn that they can’t just drop new assignments on you without hurting another. This is exactly how you “say no” to a boss, and the great thing is that doing this makes you look like a smart and productive worker as well.
5. Listen To Music
Offices are filled with people, and people make noise. You’ve got Jim in the corner complaining about late inventory; Trisha talking with a fellow co-worker about the upcoming work retreat; and to top it all off, your cube mate keeps tapping his fingers on his desk. Solution? Music, but what kind?
The best kind of music is the least distracting kind. Everybody is distracted by different things in music, so it’s going to take a little experimentation on your end to find a good fit. I personally find instrumental music to work best, as the lack of singing makes it less distracting.
6. Automate Emails (And Anything Else You Can Think Of)
If something can be automated, DO IT. Make your life easier whenever you can, because that’s time that can be spent elsewhere. When it comes to working at the office, the main task that can be automated is your email.
Automate your email by creating a filter to separate the important emails from the non-important. For instance, emails from certain people might consistently be more important than other people (e.g. the boss), so you should add them to an “important” or “reply now” section. All others can be added to a “not important/reply later” section. What else can you think of that can be automated at work? If it’s done regularly and done the same way, you might be able to automate it somehow.
7. Be (A Little) Hard To Reach
Being hard to reach will make people think twice about bothering you. For instance, if you’re constantly responding to co-workers who call or email you, then you’re just being distracted all the time. Instead, only respond to them at designated times. Maybe respond to those things only at lunch and again right before leaving, that way you’re not always on their call. Don’t forget what was said in tip #3: you can schedule specific times for when people are free to speak with you.
And if you can, work somewhere where people are less likely to bother you. If there are unoccupied offices, maybe you could work in those occasionally. And if you absolutely can’t be bothered, some offices allow people to “rent” out meeting rooms, which would probably be the best way to escape from your pesky co-workers.