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Get more out of 2024: Our top tips for productivity!

As a self-confessed productivity geek, I spent much of my holiday break listening to podcasts, reading books by my favourite productivity experts, and thinking (so much thinking!) about how I can get more out of 2024. Now, when I say more, I don’t just mean “how can I get more work done?!” I mean how can I get more out of everyday - more joy, more perspective, more time for the things I love, more fulfilment, and yes, more meaningful outcomes at work.   

 

I don’t want to assume that everyone reading this is as obsessed with maximising health and productivity as me, but if you were, you would know there are many things we can do as individuals to maximise our wellbeing (and therefore our productivity). In her new book “The Health Habit” Dr Amantha Imber recognises the 3 pillars of health as Sleep, Movement and Nutrition. As individuals these are certainly something we should be putting at the forefront, but as business owners and leaders they’re not really things you can instill in your teams, are they? Imagine… “Susie, it’s lights out at 9pm tonight, ok? I’ll be checking in tomorrow to see how you go and if there is no improvement, we may need to have a formal meeting”. May not go down so well.  

 

However, there are many habits that you can reasonably instill in your teams (whilst leading by example of course) that can have a significant improvement on their productivity at work as well as their overall satisfaction and happiness on and off the job. So, I thought I would put my countless hours of thinking and listening to good use and summarise my top 5 tips in one place! 


Schedule your week in advance.


I think it’s safe to say that for most of us our productivity declines on a Friday afternoon as we approach the weekend. Our cognitive capacity is not such that we want to tackle anything challenging or start something new. So, this is the perfect time to plan out the upcoming week. At a minimum, schedule your meetings and deep work in your calendar and write an achievable to do list. I like to go one step further and schedule personal appointments, exercise, breaks, and even professional development time. A little bonus is that you are going to have a much more relaxing weekend if you have any “worries” for the upcoming week out of your head and onto your calendar.  


Tackle the toughest work first. 

Many of us are more productive and have greater cognitive capacity in the morning, yet we tend to want to tick off our quickest and easiest tasks first, so it “feels” like we’re making progress. However, if we get the more challenging and consequential things out of the way when we’re at our best, not only will we be more efficient and produce a better outcome, but when it comes to the inevitable afternoon dip in our focus, we can remain productive by ticking off some of the “easier” tasks.  

 

Shorten your To Do List.

There is nothing more stressful (in my humble opinion) than a To Do list with so many tasks that you have failed the day or week before you’ve even begun! Prioritise your tasks and (over) estimate how long they will take you. Look at how much free time you have in your calendar (which has already been nicely scheduled from tip 1) and make sure you only leave on your task list what you will achieve in that day. Push everything else to subsequent days or weeks (re-setting expectations with required stakeholders as you go). It is amazing how much more productive you will be, and happier you will feel, with a realistic list of tasks that you achieve (almost) every time!   

 

Try the Pomodoro Technique.

The Pomodoro Technique was created to aid an effective relationship with time, complete multiple tasks efficiently, and boost productivity with less anxiety.  Basically, you choose a task from your to do list and then use a timer to break down the task into 25-minute chunks with 5-minute short breaks in between. After 4 of these (approx. 2 hours) you take a longer break of around 15 to 30 minutes to maximise concentration and avoid fatigue. The key to success is limiting any distractions during these 25-minute blocks (close your emails, put your phone out of reach, let your colleagues know not to disturb you) and having a clear plan of what you’re going to tackle in each 25-minute block.  

 

Use your breaks to get outside.

Spending just 20 minutes outside is enough to improve general wellbeing. We are likely to see benefits to our concentration, short term memory and creativity, plus a reduction in brain fog. If you feel like adding a short walk to your break routine, then you’ll get the added advantage of working through stress; when our bodies move our mental processes do the same.  


 

So, what next?


  • Choose a habit - Ask your team members to pick one (yes just one) of these habits that they think will make the most difference to their productivity and satisfaction at work. You should do the same to show your commitment to the process!  

 

  • Remove barriers – Consider if there is anything that might get in the way of their success. For example, avoid scheduling meetings first thing in the morning or on a Friday afternoon. Also check in with them around their expected obstacles so you can give them a hand should they rear their head. 

 

  • Make it easy – Consider what workplace norms you can trial that are aligned with these habits. For example, have the whole team spend the same hour planning their upcoming week on a Friday afternoon. Or schedule a period of “no interruption time” to enable a high degree of focus for deep work.  

  

  • Create accountability – Some believe it takes 66 days for a habit to stick, so if you want to help your team you need to check in regularly and hold them accountable for at least the first few months of the year.  

 

Or we can help! At Streamline HR we offer 1-1 coaching – so if you can see how these tips might benefit you or a member of your team, but you don’t have the time or inclination to follow though, feel free to give us a call.   


Written by Alicia Jimmieson (Senior Consultant).

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