As 2018 gets closer, many professionals focus on what they can do better next year. Increasing productivity at work is a common New Year's resolution, as there is almost always room to improve anyone's practices.
To help you get started, here are 27 productivity tips to begin 2018 right.
1. Build up your energy.
Highly productive people seem to be brimming with enthusiasm, but that doesn't come naturally to everyone. To help you get your energy levels up, take a moment every morning to write down your purpose, or the why behind your current pursuit. It serves as an excellent reminder as to why you're giving your work your all and can function as its own source of motivation.
2. Control your calendar.
While working in an environment where everyone can view your Google or Outlook calendar can be convenient, it can also set you up for problems if you don't take control of your time. Others may view empty spaces as opportunities to schedule meetings, even if you intended to use the time for other tasks.
Instead of leaving your calendar in the hands of others, block out the time you need to handle critical tasks. That way you won't be derailed by an unexpected meeting request.
3. Create a mini crisis.
Some people thrive under pressure, allowing them to accomplish more than they originally thought possible in the time frame. You can recreate that sensation by blocking out less time than you actually think you need. Often, you'll find your focus improves when you begin working and ultimately finish on time.
4. Ditch your smartphone notifications.
While completely shutting down your smartphone isn't always practical, managing your notifications is. Frequent pop-ups are distracting and almost guaranteed to pull your attention away from the task at hand.
When you need to complete detail-oriented work, shut noncritical notifications off so you can focus with greater ease.
5. Schedule email time.
Email notifications are another notorious concentration-breaker, so giving in to every alert is guaranteed to make a heads-down task a challenge. Don't let email take over your day. Instead, schedule time at the beginning and at the end of the day specifically for email. Then, unless something especially critical is coming in, feel free to ignore it the rest of the time.
6. Put time-suck websites in time out.
If you find yourself losing time to sites that aren't essential for work (and use a Mac), consider blacklisting them for periods using the SelfControl app. Websites you add to the list will be automatically blocked for the selected time, ensuring you can't distract yourself with your hunt for a perfect unicorn meme to share with your friends.
7. Avoid lyrics.
A lot of professionals enjoy ambient sound when they work, but music with lyrics (at least those in languages you speak) can actually be distracting. Choose either instrumentals for ambience or white noise to block out sound instead, and you won't be as tempted to stop and sing along with the tune.
8. Tackle must-dos first.
While it seems like common sense, many people forgo certain must-dos in favor of more straightforward, though less critical, tasks. But this can leave you scrambling if you don't allow for enough time to get the work done.
To break the cycle, always start with essential projects first, no matter what. You'll thank yourself for your diligence come the afternoon.
9. Take on two-minute tasks second.
Small tasks can make your to-do list seem insurmountable. So, to pare things down, after handling your must-dos, head straight to your quick tasks. You'll get to check items off your list, which is rewarding in its own right, and make the rest of your day feel less encumbered by minutiae.
10. Get into a groove.
Whenever possible, group like tasks together. When your brain is already engaging in a particular way, use it to your benefit by focusing on similar activities in rapid succession.
11. Cut meeting times by 25 percent.
While meetings can be vital to your business, they have a nasty habit of expanding to fit the available time slot, even if those extra conversations don't provide value. To avoid the meeting version of scope creep, cut the time by 25 percent. You'll still tackle the important topics but be less likely to have unnecessary discussions.
And, if getting together in person isn't completely necessary, consider eliminating the meeting entirely. Your staff will thank you.
12. Consider standup meetings.
When people settle into a chair, they're more likely to get comfortable in the space. If you need things to progress quickly, embrace a standup format, forgoing chairs completely. This keeps people from settling in and encourages them to get to the point and move on with their day.
13. Perfect is the enemy of good.
When it comes to your business, you probably want to make sure everything is perfect. But perfection can ultimately be the enemy, and is often an illusion, especially if you keep pushing to improve something that is already good. Don't drill away at something that is in respectable shape. Instead, move on to other tasks and accept that good can be good enough for success.
14. Know when to delegate and outsource.
Most business owners want to keep everything in their hands, but this can leave you overloaded. Learn which tasks truly require your input and which can be handled by properly skilled professionals. Once you split up the work, delegate or outsource quickly so people can get started on their to-do lists.
15. Don't neglect professional development.
Regardless of your position, there is always more to learn. Professional development helps you acquire new skills and perspectives, letting you be more effective. If a new competency allows for a higher level of productivity, then work to gain it.
You can take a class or explore free resources online, depending on your schedule, so make a commitment to learning something new today.
16. Embrace automation.
In today's technological world, there are many options for automating processes, such as emails and proposal or quote delivery. If there's a task you can automate, look into it. It can shrink your to-do list significantly.
17. Unsubscribe and unfollow.
If a newsletter or Twitter feed isn't providing you with value anymore, then unsubscribe or unfollow immediately. This will clean up your inbox and feed, letting you find helpful information quickly and lessening the time you must dedicate to inbox maintenance.
Repeat the process weekly or monthly for optimal effect.
18. Check in with yourself.
At least once a week, check in with yourself by assessing how you're feeling, and then make plans to remedy any negative emotions that may be lingering. Self-care is important for productivity, so don't continually neglect yourself in the name of getting more done at the office.
19. Have a "no" strategy.
Saying yes to every task leaves you overwhelmed, but saying no can be its own source of stress. To make saying no easier, create a strategy in advance, including email templates or scripts, to simplify the conversation. This will decrease the amount of time you spend in the discussion while ensuring your point gets across effectively.
20. Invest in dual screens.
Having two full-size computer screens is incredibly beneficial, especially if you have to refer to a report while creating a document, or any other resource plus activity combination. The larger screens make text easier to read, and the dual monitors prevent constant switching between pages or applications, making it worth the investment.
21. Don't fixate on where you start.
When people begin a project, they often default to starting at the beginning. But if you're stuck, don't be afraid to abandon the introduction and instead focus on another segment. Sometimes, it's easier to start in the middle of a document, or even at the end, so don't restrict yourself to a particular order if it just isn't working.
22. Use templates.
If you are repeatedly creating the same documents, you're wasting time. Instead, create or download templates for your most commonly used formats and content types. Then you can simply start with a template instead of reinventing the wheel.
23. Save, save, save.
If you're working on a long document or report, hit the Save button as often as possible. While many programs have autosave features, the delays can be quite long. To preserve your work, make a habit of saving after every key point.
You can click the icon or use a keyboard shortcut to get the job done, either of which only takes a second. But, if it saves you from having to rewrite paragraphs of information, it's worth it.
24. Learn the keyboard shortcuts.
Speaking of keyboard shortcuts, make it a priority to learn them. They're incredible timesavers and are available in almost every program. Start with those associated with your go-to applications and expand from there to get the most value.
25. Ignore the news.
Trying to keep up with the news is essentially impossible, allowing it to generally function as a time sink. Plus, it can be trivial and even unreliable, and isn't necessarily great for your brain. Do yourself a favor and ditch the onslaught of news that can easily take over your life. It's worth it.
26. Stop multitasking.
Ultimately, multitasking is a myth that many of us fall for at some point. Instead of dividing your attention and rapidly switching between activities, commit your focus to the task at hand and you'll see your productivity rise.
27. Get everything you can out of Excel.
Microsoft Excel is everywhere, and most people encounter it regularly during their career. But few professionals are truly Excel power users. In as little as an hour, you can learn to use advanced features such as pivot tables, graphing, and vlookups, all of which give you access to business analytics capabilities that help you visualize data in just minutes, which are capabilities that shouldn't be ignored.