Look for advice on increasing your productivity and you'll find plenty of tips on how to stop procrastinating and nix interruptions, and hints about cool tools that make work easier as well as evidence that people crank out more work when they do it from home instead of at the office. In reality, getting more done is just a matter of implementing a few little tweaks to your day. Here are a handful of ideas that really work.
Use healthy procrastination to organize your space.
The "p" word is anathema to anyone who's serious about getting important things done, but if you've ever been slammed with work, there's a good chance the environs surrounding your desk only add to your stress and feelings of being overwhelmed. While the time for doing a thorough spring cleaning of your office isn't when you're under deadline, taking a half hour to sort your piles and remove the clutter from your desk can lift a tremendous psychological burden from your mind, giving you more energy to succeed.
Schedule time off.
"I've noticed my most productive weeks are when I'm taking a vacation at the end of the week," says Nic Milani, director of technology solutions for Herman Miller. "Most people are deadline-prompted and feel a tad bit guilty about leaving the team," he says. The result? "Folks typically work extra hours leading up to and out of vacation."
Use every minute.
Adam Grant, a Wharton professor and author of the bestseller Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success, doesn't kill time while waiting for his next calendar event. "If it is 9:52 a.m. and the next meeting starts at 10, most people slack off and do nothing for [eight] minutes. But instead, I will say, 'Let's see how much progress we can make,'" he recently told the Focusalot blog. "I have lots of micro-goals of trying to get things done, whatever the amount of time available."
Get a new laptop.
Inc.com columnist John Brandon is perhaps the most productive person I know, having published thousands of articles in the 13 years he has been writing about business and tech. As someone who's constantly playing around with new gadgets, he knows the value of a squeaky-clean, brand-new computer. "Here's an interesting way to get everyone to work faster: Give each employee a faster computer. It's probably time anyway," he writes. "Also, Chromebooks are cheap."
Exercise every day, even when you don't have time.
It sounds counterintuitive, but this habit is embraced by Peter Shankman, author of Nice Companies Finish First: Why Cutthroat Management Is Over And Collaboration Is In. The frequent speaker, consultant, and traveler says if he doesn't get something healthy worked into his day, he feels "useless." So, even if he's stressed with a full calendar, he takes a few minutes to bump out three sets of 20 pushups spread out over an hour. On days when he has more time, it might be running or biking, a CrossFit class, or an open-water swim.
"At the end of the day, it has to come down to balance," Shankman says. "If you want something enough, you'll work at it. Does getting up at 4 a.m. to get a 30-mile bike ride in before work suck? Yes. But how do I feel at the end of the day? Unbeatable. If you want it, you'll make time for it, no matter how much your pillow tries to suck you back for just 10 more minutes."