Simple Changes You Can Make to Increase Your Productivity

We all wish we could squeeze more out of 24 hours. If we could just get more done at the office, then we'd have more time to exercise, read, or spend time with family and friends. Alas, you can't change the Earth's rotation around the sun—but you can make simple changes at work to increase your productivity.

increase productivity

Take Your Breaks

It's a cliché, but it's true: You must put your own oxygen mask on first before you can take care of others. Make working through lunch the exception, not the rule, and take your breaks. One study by the Draugiem Group found that following each 52 minutes of work by a 17-minute break provided the best conditions for productivity. Using the Pomodoro Technique, one works for 25 minutes, then breaks for five. Try out a few options and see what works best for you. Just give yourself a mental and physical break. Walk a lap around the building, refill your water bottle, etc.

Stay Hydrated

Speaking of filling your water bottle: Stay hydrated at the office. Don't just drink coffee. University of Connecticut researchers have found that even mild dehydration decreases concentration and alters mood. Work is hard enough without adding dehydration to the mix! According to the researchers, the human thirst sensation isn't evident until our bodies are 1 to 2 percent dehydrated—enough to have negative effects on mood and productivity. Signs of dehydration include thirst, fatigue, and headache; reach for a glass of water if you experience any of these.

Time Yourself Performing Tasks

If you find yourself frequently saying "I don't have time to tackle that right now," then you might be a procrastinator. As humans, we tend to overestimate the amount of time it takes to complete a task, particularly routine tasks. Use your smartphone to time yourself filling out your timesheet or submitting expense reports. You'll likely see these tasks take less time than you think and can easily be fit into odd moments, freeing up longer chunks of time for more demanding tasks.

Manage Your Meetings

Meetings can be a huge drain on your time. And quite often they can be avoided. Try a few of these tips—such as holding standing meetings whenever possible and blocking out time on your calendar for work sessions—to regain control of your work life.

Monotask, Not Multitask

In today's always-on world, you might feel more on top of your to-do list if your email is open and Slack notifications are on—and you're managing the home front by text. The problem is, each time you stop what you're doing to respond to a message, you lose concentration on your primary task. The human brain just isn't wired to do two things at once. One European study found participants' scores on a concentration test increased by as much as 26 percent when they were separated from their smartphones. Within the parameters of your company culture, try turning email and messaging notifications off so you can knock out some work.

Plan in Weeks, Not Days

Each of us is given 24 hours in a day, but we're also each given 168 hours in a week. Laura Vanderkam’s book, 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think suggests planning your schedule in week-long stints, not days. She urges readers to track their time for a week and see how much is being allotted to unproductive activities such as watching TV and scrolling through Facebook. You'll start to identify pockets of time throughout your week in which you can schedule various tasks.

You might not have control over your to-do list, but you can control how you approach it. Experiment with these tips to see which are most effective for you.

Search for your next job now:


Back to listing

The Washington Post Jobs Newsletter

Subscribe to the latest news about DC's jobs market