Have you been at your current job for a while? Have you found yourself getting passed up for promotions that were ultimately given to people less qualified than you? One reason could be that you aren’t as productive as your peers. We’d all like to be like the guy from Office Space – getting promoted despite not even bothering to show up for work most days – but in the real world, things seldom work like that. If you want to get ahead, you can’t just be more qualified than your peers in your own mind – you have to stand out in ways that your superiors can notice and measure.
In this article, we’ll discuss a few simple tricks that can help to increase your productivity at work – and speaking of showing up, being there is often half of the battle. We’ll talk about that first.
Stop Leaving Your Desk for Smoke Breaks
Getting up and shooting the breeze with coworkers has been a part of the office experience for pretty much as long as offices have existed. You’re quite a bit more visible standing next to a coworker’s cubicle, however, than you are when you’re outside smoking a cigarette. Smokers tend to earn less than nonsmokers during their working careers, and a big part of that might be because smoking makes you inherently less productive. If you’re standing at a coworker’s cubicle, you’re probably talking about work at least a little when you’re not discussing what to do for lunch that day. More importantly, at least you’re there. If you’re taking a smoke break, there’s no possibility that you’re doing anything productive. Over time, smokers tend to acquire a reputation around the office because it feels like they’re never around.
If your boss smokes, maybe going out for occasional smoke breaks isn’t a bad idea. Otherwise, you need to stop going outside to smoke if you want to get noticed when it’s time to hand out promotions. Maybe that’s one reason why millions of people are using e-cigarettes like JUUL in Australia and in the rest of the world – many offices will tolerate vaping at your desk as long as you hold the clouds in instead of exhaling them into the air. If your employer doesn’t tolerate indoor vaping, try nicotine pouches instead. There are no restrictions on where you can and can’t use a nicotine pouch.
Adopt a Better System of Organization
One of the best ways to increase your productivity at work is by spending more time doing and less time wondering what to do. The mind is an incredibly powerful tool, but it does a poor job when it comes to performing multiple tasks simultaneously. If you try to maintain a list of the tasks that you need to perform – and the times when those tasks are due – in your head, you’re going to fail at the task that you’re trying to do right now. You need a better way to organize your tasks.
One of the most popular systems for task management is the Getting Things Done (GTD) system. There’s an entire book devoted to this system, so explaining it in full here is a bit beyond the scope of this article. The crux of the system, however, is this: You can’t focus on the task at hand if your mind is busy trying to remember all of the other tasks you’re supposed to perform. Therefore, you need to move those tasks out of your mind so it’s not necessary to remember them.
Every day, the “In” tray on your desk – or more likely, your email inbox – will be full of items that require your attention. To process those items efficiently, you need to organize them into actionable tasks with due dates. You can keep your task list on your desktop, in a text file or even on pieces of paper. As new items enter your inbox, keep processing them in the same way. The ultimate goal is to have a simple and actionable task list that’s separate from your inbox and resides somewhere other than your memory. That way, you can focus exclusively on what you’re doing right now. When the task is complete, just refer to the list to see what’s next.
Try the Pomodoro Technique
There are three main elements to maintaining a high level of productivity at work. The first element is simply being there, and the second element is knowing what you’re supposed to be doing at any given moment. If you haven’t guessed already, the final element of productivity is actually doing the work.
In the previous section of this article, we addressed one of the biggest reasons why your mind might tend to wander while you’re at work – because you’re trying to remember all of the things you’re supposed to do that day. That, however, isn’t the only reason why you might have trouble maintaining focus. The other reason is because the thing you’re working on might not always be something that you find particularly fun or engaging. When that’s the case, you’re going to feel tempted to get up and grab some coffee, pull up a web browser and check the sports scores – anything to relieve the tedium.
If you find it difficult to keep your mind on track until the task at hand is complete, try the Pomodoro Technique. The technique is incredibly simple, and all it requires is that you focus completely on a task for short bursts at a time. Once you’ve identified the task that you’re going to perform – using the GTD technique outlined above, perhaps – set a 25-minute timer and get to work. Don’t allow anything to distract you until the timer has elapsed or the task is complete. At that point, you can take a five-minute break. Continue in this fashion until you’ve worked for four 25-minute blocks. Once you’ve done that, it’s time to take a longer break. Stand up from your desk and do something else for at least 10-15 minutes. When you get back, start the cycle again.
The Pomodoro technique works because it’s much easier to focus on a task and avoid distractions if you do so in short, controllable bursts. You’ll find that it can help you do much more with your time.
Lynn Martelli is an editor at Readability. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University and has worked as an editor for over 10 years. Lynn has edited a wide variety of books, including fiction, non-fiction, memoirs, and more. In her free time, Lynn enjoys reading, writing, and spending time with her family and friends.