I can't remember who told me what I'm about to say, but I laughed when they said it and I'm chuckling now as I recall it—"Two things that you should do smart and not hard is f—k and work." As far as the work thing goes, there's research that echoes this very point (as far as sex goes, we'll have to touch on that at another time—LOL).
Did you know that, according to a Gallup poll, over half of us work more than 50 hours a week? Did you also know that once we reach that amount, productivity significantly slips and, when we don't take a full day off every week, it works against our job performance? (Check out "What to Do When You Don't Know How to Chill Out"). All of this serves as great reminders that if you're pushing yourself to do more than eight-hour work days, you should really think long and hard about if it's truly benefitting you—and whatever you're working on—or not.
While we're on this topic, as far as overall productivity goes, if you know you're not making the absolute most out of the time you have at work, not only will the following 10 tips help you to get more done, they will also help you to "work smart" in the process too. 'Cause really, why make work harder than it actually has to be?
1. Sing While You’re in the Shower
Does this sound crazy? Maybe, but how about you try it first and then report back? Word on the street is that people who start off their day by singing a tune or two while they're washing up end up having more energy and feeling more positive than coffee drinkers do. A part of the reason is because singing takes us back to when our parents sang us lullabies as babies (it warms our hearts). Another reason is it results in what is known as "higher immune competence" which basically means it strengthens our immune systems.
So, if you've been singing in the shower, sing louder. If you've been too embarrassed to, give it a shot. You never know just how much it could impact the start of your day for the better.
2. Write a One Paragraph Weekly Mission Statement
If you don't have a personal and professional mission statement either in your journal or hanging up somewhere in your home office, there's no time like the present to put one together. Creating a mission statement is a great way to figure out what you want in life and then stay focused until you get it.
If you are already ahead of the game and you've got one jotted down somewhere, take things up a notch by writing a shorter version of one every Sunday or Monday. It doesn't have to be anything deep or dramatic. Just a few lines about what you want to accomplish and what you feel you deserve over the next 5-7 days when it comes to your professional life.
On the days when you're feeling overwhelmed, you just might be surprised by how quickly your paragraph-long mission statement can calm and center you.
3. Download the Self-Control App
Surely, I'm not the only one who's surprised by this. I recently read that 40 percent of people admit that they spend an hour a week doing things at the office that are totally non-work-related; 30 percent said they wasted two hours and 21 percent owned up to wasting five or more. Unless you have your own office, it's kind of difficult to be on personal calls all day long. Oh, but it's super easy to be surfing the 'net for hours on end.
If you know that gossip blogs, new channels or YouTube videos are what's got you distracted, you might want to download the Self-Control app. It's an app that will literally block your access to certain websites for a certain period of time so that you can focus on other things. Like your job.
4. Hide Your Email Inbox
Speaking of apps that help to keep you on task, another cool one is the Inbox When Ready app. If you Google ways to save time at work, one of the things that most articles are going to mention is you should limit the amount of time that you spend checking your inbox(es).
For the most part, it's a good idea to check it in the morning, at lunch and about 15 minutes before calling it a day. But if you know that you don't have the self-control to only look 2-3 times, this app will help you out. What it basically does is hide your inbox for a certain amount of time. That way, you won't be distracted by every message that comes in throughout the day. This alone, could result in you gaining an extra 1-2 hours (at least) a week of productivity, easily.
5. Turn Off Your Notifications
Guess how many times, on average, people check their phones on a daily basis? Every freakin' 12 minutes! That roughly equates to 80 times a day. Aside from how much checking your phone serves as a distraction, based on the notification that pops up, that can also deter you from what needs to be done at your desk.
You can probably think of at least two dozen things on your phone that are more interesting than the tasks that are waiting for you. But are any of those things paying your rent? Checkmate. Yeah, do yourself, and your back account, a favor and either set your notifications on vibrate or (even better) silent. And put your phone in your purse or desk drawer so that you won't be tempted.
6. Do the Hardest Things—First.
I work from home. For so many reasons, and on so many levels, it's awesome. But if there's one thing that I sometimes struggle with, it's putting off the thing that I don't want to do for as long as possible. This isn't smart for a few reasons. One, even if I procrastinate, the weight of the project, assignment or task is ever-looming over me. Two, if I start off dragging, it's easy to "keep that same energy" with other items on my to-do list. Three, by the time I do get around to it, it's even harder to get done because I'm already worn out from doing other stuff.
That's why it really is best to do the hardest things you've got on your plate first. Once that is completed, you'll feel like you've already accomplished a lot and that will make knocking out everything else a breeze.
7. Hold Meetings While Standing Up
I can't recall where I read this at the moment, but it was such a good tip that it stayed with me. A CEO somewhere said that he prefers to hold meetings with everyone standing up. It adds a sense of urgency to them and, it also prevents everyone from getting too comfortable (and distracted) like they would if they were sitting down. Plus, who wants to stand for 30 minutes straight? 15-20 minutes tends to be our limit which is the CEO's point. Get in, get out. Next.
While I'm on this topic, if you've been looking for a great note-taking app, try Cogi. Long story short, it's a recording app that has the ability to highlight the important points of what was said in a meeting so you don't have to worry about jotting everything down and/or missing the "good" parts.
8. Take Your Breaks (Away from Your Desk)
I've got a girlfriend who works through her breaks and lunches every single day. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. She claims she does it so that she can get more work done, but whenever I check in with her, she's drained and exasperated.
It's not healthy to do anything for too long without taking a break from it, work included. If you want to have more energy, a fresh perspective and the ability to find your second wind so that you can be more productive during the last half of the day, take your breaks. Away from your desk, outside if you can. The fresh air and sunlight will do you a world of good and make a huge difference.
9. Make a Plan for the Following Day
If one of the reasons why you hate the first 2-3 hours of almost every work day is because you're always feeling pressured or rushed, which leads you to feeling overwhelmed, something that you can do to prevent that from happening in the future is make a plan for your following day during the last 15-20 minutes of the present day. The plan should consist of putting down what you need to do in the order of most important (or hardest) to least important, along with any goals that you want to achieve. That way, as soon as you walk in the following morning, your day will already be nice and organized.
Speaking of organized, if Post-it Notes aren't gonna quite cut it, Any.do is an app that easily creates lists and reminders for you. You can even sync your info with others if you need to. That way, your co-worker will know what time you'll be meeting with them and your significant other will know who's supposed to be picking up dinner on the way home.
10. Give Yourself Something to Look Forward To
Reward is such a great word. It means "something given or received in return or recompense for service, merit, hardship, etc." Depending on the kind of day or week you've had, you might deserve something based on the service you gave or the hardship that you endured. But make no mistake about it, you definitely should do something special for yourself for a job well done.
If you start off each week with a "reward plan" in place, not only will it get you through those ho-hum moments (like hump day), it will also give you something to look forward to. It can also keep you on task too. So, every Sunday night, plan to reward yourself for anything from showing up 10 minutes early every day to having that much-needed chat with your boss.
Just knowing that a spa day or your favorite bottle of wine is awaiting you at the end of the week is something else that will make each and every work day that much easier.
Featured image by Getty Images