How to Be More Productive at Work in 2020
Quick reference for how to be more productive
Once you’ve read the article, use the checklist below to jog your memory next time you want to be more productive. You’ll be surprised how much starting your work with a quick reminder of these good habits can help increase productivity the rest of the day.
Optimizing for flow state
Call it what you want — flow state, the zone, deep work — the important thing to remember is this is where the magic happens. The science tells us that your best work comes when you can get focused and stay there.
This article will provide a simple framework to help you optimize for this uber-focused mode in order to help you be more productive at work.
#1 - Gather resources
To optimize for staying in flow state (focused work) we recommend starting every project by taking a moment to gather everything you’ll need (apps, resources, files, reference materials, etc.) in one place and easily accessible. If you’re working on the web, creating a free online workspace for the project is a great way to keep everything you need at your fingertips while you work.
Though it may seem silly, stocking up on snacks and a glass of water beforehand can greatly reduce the urge to interrupt your focus work later. After all, a well-fed you is a productive you!
#2 - Outline the subtasks
Psychology research has shown that to stay in flow state, you “must be involved in an activity with a clear set of goals and progress.”1 While it matters less how you keep track of tasks, the important part is that you have some way to do it.
If you don’t already, take a moment to think about what might work well for you. If you work on the web, our friends over at Asana have created a beautifully-simple app for task tracking. If sticky notes are more your speed, then that’s great too.
Do your best to list all the tasks that make up the project or workflow. This can seem unnecessary to some, but it’s critical to helping you stay in flow state (your most productive work mode) later on.
#3 - Get focused
With all the preparation out of the way, now it’s time to get focused. A simple way to increase productivity that works for many people is to set a timer for 25 minutes of highly-focused work with 5 minute breaks between (shout out to Pomodoro). Alternatively, some people prefer longer 50 minute work sessions with 10-15 minute breaks instead.
Between work sessions, it’s important to reward yourself with breaks to get up and stretch your legs. However, we recommend keeping track of how long your breaks are too, otherwise they can easily start to eat up your day.
#4 - Just start somewhere... anywhere
For most work, starting is half the battle. It doesn’t really matter where you start, as long as you start. Since you’ve already thought about the tasks that make up the project or workflow, this part should be easy: pick a task and just start.
If it’s a big project, try roughing out the big ideas first. Make sure you don’t get bogged down in the weeds during this stage. Try to get the project to 80% done as fast as you can, then come back to polish it up. If you’re having trouble starting a task, skip it for now and come back to it later. Difficult tasks have a tendency to get easier once the rest of the project starts to come together.
#5 - Eliminate distractions
The modern world is full of notification dings and other distractions. We love to use Slack and other work chat apps. However, their notifications can break your focus and greatly reduce your productivity. Luckily most chat apps have a simple snooze notifications or do not disturb setting (Slack pro tip: try the /dnd for 50 mins command).
For major projects, we recommend you hole up in an empty conference room or putting on some headphones to minimize the chance that someone will distract you. Even if you do, coworkers will inevitably interrupt you from working on the project with other tasks that need your attention.
Rather than allowing yourself to be distracted, capture new tasks and work on them later. It’s important that we don’t delude ourselves with the false sense of productivity that multitasking provides. Do yourself a favor and stay focused on one thing at a time.
#6 - Stay in flow
Once you’re in the flow state, do your best to stay there. It feels good to mark a task as complete or crumple up a sticky note, but move on to the next task as quickly as possible.
Another popular way to increase productivity is to avoid finishing a task without a clear next task queued up and ready to go. This is why it’s so important to have outlined your tasks ahead of time.
If it’s time for a break to stretch your legs, decide what task you’re going to accomplish next and open up everything you’ll need first, then start your break. By getting everything ready first, it will be much easier to jump right back into high-productivity mode.
#7 - Finish the dang thing
The final stretch is almost always the hardest. Many of us feel anxious about finishing a project and tend to prefer to bring multiple projects to 80% done rather than putting in the work to just finish one. Do what you can to avoid making this common mistake.
To be more productive, you need to push through this psychological barrier and drive the project to completion. As you near the end, keep that satisfying feeling of accomplishment in mind in order to motivate yourself to get it done.
A simple framework to increase productivity
At Workona, we’ve learned a lot about what actually helps people be more productive. That’s why we thought we’d take a moment to share our learnings from the countless people that use our free app to increase their productivity at work. We hope this simple framework will be helpful in your pursuit to squeeze a little more out of every workday.