Have you ever gotten to the end of the workday and felt like you got nothing done? It’s a frustrating and disappointing feeling.
Sometimes the cause is out of your hands, like a day full of meetings or needing to devote all of your focus to one specific project. But there are days when you just can’t seem to get into the flow or stay on task.
I know I’m having one of those days when I look at my computer screen and see dozens of open tabs and Slack notifications. I hop between people, projects, tasks, and my inbox, with little flow or focus. On those days, I like to take a step back and review Formstack’s productivity hacks Slack channel. It provides me great insight, inspiration, and help for when I’m feeling unproductive or overwhelmed.
I’m hoping this article can do the same for you. Below you’ll find some smart tips to help you conquer your day, plus some tools to help improve productivity and keep you on task. Use these productivity tips to boost your focus, tackle tasks, and remove distractions from your day. If you have a great suggestion to add to the list, tweet it to us @Formstack.
Set some inbox rules.
The average worker sends and receives nearly 130 emails per day. That can easily derail your day and destroy your productivity. To minimize the impact email has on your workday, consider instituting these inbox rules to control time spent on email:
- Keep your email closed unless actively reading and answering emails.
- Create folders for easy sorting and searching.
- Set specific times to catch up with email.
- If an email thread is getting out of control, call a meeting for discussion.
- Mark emails that require a response as unread to set a reminder to follow up.
- Make sure you’re getting the most out of your email provider by using functions such as snoozing or auto-forwarding emails.
Using these inbox rules can help streamline the time spent on email and give you back more of each day. If you’re also a big user of Slack, we suggest taking time to read through these Slack tips that will change your life as well to get a better handle there too.
Be Smart With Your Calendar
Calendars rule most workdays, so it’s important that you take the time to build smart calendar strategies that enable you to be as productive as possible. If you work remotely, this tip is even more important, since your coworkers can’t just hop over to your desk for a quick chat or check in as needed.
Here are some strategies you can try to boost productivity with your calendar:
Science has proven that trying to focus for incredibly long periods of time can have an adverse effect on productivity. Use your calendar to set breaks throughout your day so that you don’t forget to take them. You’ll be more productive if you give yourself the time necessary to step away for a moment.
Use helpful calendar integrations.
Simply managing your calendar can take up precious time and focus. Add calendar integrations and plugins to help streamline creating, organizing, and managing your calendar. Some of my favorites for gmail include the Zoom extension, Oliv, and Checker Plus.
Add time blocks.
It’s okay to protect your time! It’s not fun to feel like you have no time for your to-do list when your day gets overtaken by meetings. Avoid this by adding a few time blocks to your calendar each week for focus time. Make the subject line something like “Focus Block” or “No Meetings Please” to clearly communicate the purpose of the time. When you have a big project going on, use the project name as your event title to convey the importance of the task you are focusing on.
Fix your workplace woes.
Outdated and inefficient processes have a bad habit of ruining workflows and productivity. Don’t let paperwork, data silos, and other productivity barriers derail your workday. Take some time to address your biggest workplace woes so you can find a solution to these productivity problems.
Whether it’s ending manual data entry for good or tackling inefficient paper processes, fixing these issues now will provide you with more time and focus down the road. It may take an investment of time, money, and/or resources to address your biggest productivity issues, but it will be well worth the payoff in the end.
Re-energize by taking breaks or switching tasks.
Getting stuck in a funk with zero energy or creativity is a productivity buster for me. Sometimes I find myself trying to write an article, but it’s just not happening. I try to press on, but end up with little to no progress. Does this type of scenario happen to you?
If you ever find yourself stuck like this, it’s time to switch it up. Don’t feel bad that you’re switching tasks; it’s a smart move to find something that you can focus on instead of wasting time trying to get into the groove and coming up empty handed. Sometimes, one project just comes easier than another, and you need to capitalize on that when possible.
Other times, you may just need a break. You can only stare at a screen and do the same thing for so long before feeling burnt out. Allow yourself to step away to re-energize and refresh. Take a moment to do something completely different that boosts your energy, like grabbing a snack, taking a short walk, or chatting with a coworker.
Turn off your internet!
This one might sound crazy, but stick with me!
If you find yourself getting distracted by yet another open tab, try turning your internet off or blocking websites. Now, this tip can’t work all the time, but it can truly change your workday when you need to hunker down and focus.
The internet is a powerful distraction, and limiting it can really help you stay in the zone. I don’t recommend doing this for large spurts of time, but 30 minutes to an hour can really help you transform your day and provide great focus. This tip is smart to enact when you’re getting distracted by browsing the web, or when you’re in the zone and want to minimize the risk of getting pulled off course.
Pro Tip: Need to stay connected to the internet? A variation of this tip is to simply close all tabs besides the one you’re working in. If possible, consider doing your work in an app to avoid having a browser window open in the first place. Out of sight, out of mind, right?
We all have those days when we feel distracted or off our game. My hope is that these tips can help you minimize those unproductive days with smart, simple habits and tools. Our team is always on the hunt for more productivity hacks, so feel free to share with us on our Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook pages!