10 tips for a productive work year

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Today it’s the last day of 2012. I’m sure many of you are excited about celebrating New Year’s Eve and that you are thinking of good New Year resolutions. Personally, I’m really looking forward to 2013. I think it will be a year filled with great business opportunities and exciting adventures. To make the most of it, my New Year resolution will be to follow these 10 tips to become even more productive at work.

1. Set proper goals and deadlines

You might be very productive in completing a task, but if the effort doesn’t help you reach your goal then it is a waste of time. Make sure you have set proper goals for the year and that you have a clear picture of the actions needed to reach those goals. To know more on how to set goals you can read the blog post “How to set more effective goals“. Also, make sure to set deadlines for yourself. You will be more efficient if there is a sense of urgency to your work. Have you heard the saying ”If you want something done, ask a busy person?” This is very true, busy people don’t waste time.


2. Prioritize

There is no way you can complete everything you need and want to do during the workday, so you need to prioritize. This also means that you occasionally have to say no to people who want your participation. List your “to-do’s” and then categorize them based on importance and urgency. To learn more about how to prioritize effectively read the blog post, Prioritizing – doing the right things in the right order.

3. Ensure your workplace gives you peace of mind

To be productive you need peace of mind. This means that your workplace needs to be free from visible distractions like paper piles, old coffee cups and other items that might pull your attention away from your work. Your desk should be clutter free. Decorate your workplace with items that activate the right, creative part of your brain, like plants, a beautiful view (or a nice painting if you don’t have one) and relaxing colors and shapes.

4. Limit distractions

Just as you should limit distractions at your physical workplace, you should also eliminate distractions at your digital office – i.e. your computer. Turn off email notifications and disturbing sounds that your PC makes. If you use instant messaging be sure to set your status to “do not disturb” and turn off your mobile if you are working on something important that you need to finish.

5. Take control of your inbox

Email is one of the most time-consuming activities that can easily get you off track. Schedule time for doing email and make sure you have a good system for managing email. You can read the blog posts “How to take control of your inbox” and “Quick steps to manage your email more effectively” and also watch the related videos to learn how to become more effective managing email. Email shouldn’t be used for lengthy conversations. If you realize you are sending two or more emails on the same subject, pick up the phone and call the person instead, or arrange a quick conference call. This is usually much quicker than reading and replying to lengthy email threads.

6. Run and attend more effective and fewer meetings

If email is time thief number one, meetings definitely come in as a strong number two. In many organizations employees have back to back meetings daily. Many of these meetings are often run very poorly. If you are running a meeting, make sure you follow the steps outlined in the blog post, “Running Effective Meetings”. If you receive a lot of meeting invitations, be sure to review the agenda and ask yourself if you really need to attend.

7. Take breaks

Work in maximum 60-90 minute blocks (you can’t focus for longer) and make sure to take regular breaks. During the breaks, you should get up and move around – stretch, go for a walk or play a quick game of table tennis. These breaks can be a great time for networking. Go talk to people in another department – but be cautious, you don’t want your 5-10 minute breaks to take an hour.

8. Fuel up

Just like your car, you need fuel up to function. Make sure you are drinking plenty of water; it might help to have a water bottle on your desk so that you can see how much you’ve drunk. Eat proper meals and healthy snacks to keep a good energy level throughout the day. Stay away from vending machine snacks since they are often high in sugar and fat. Stick to healthier snacks like fruit, nuts, yogurts and high-fiber cereal. When you do have that snack, make sure to take a break from work and enjoy the food you are eating.

9. Get good gear

Make sure you are equipped with good gear for work. From a technology perspective this most likely includes a fast laptop with updated software, a mobile phone that can be synchronized so that you can easily access your contacts, your daily schedule and tasks. You should have a good quality headset and camera for conference calls. Many laptops come with touch-pads which are okay when you are out and about, but for your daily work, you should have a proper mouse. You should make sure that you sit or stand comfortably by your desk to minimize neck and back pain.

10. Work smarter using technology

Last but not least you should make sure to leverage technology to save time and produce higher quality work. Don’t waste hours of your time doing things manually that can be automated using technology. Whether you are making a PowerPoint presentation an Excel report or collaborating on a proposal – make sure that you effectively use the functionality provided by today’s productivity tools. Sign up for a subscription to our site if you need to get up to speed on how to effectively use Microsoft Office to really boost your business productivity in 2013!

(If you have difficulties reading this article, you can access the full article in pdf here)