Improve Your Work Productivity in 6 Steps

improve productivity at work

We all have bad days. Those days where it takes twice as long to complete every assignment at work, and where your brain seems fuzzy and productivity is almost at a standstill. During those times, all you can do is push forward and hope the next day will be better. But what happens when you have those days more often than not?

According to a recent report by the US Bureau of Labor, employees are less productive now than they ever were before. And the worst part is that it seems the more companies try to encourage efficiency and productivity as the key to success, the worse productivity seems to be.

How Can You Improve Your Work Productivity?

The problem is that a whopping 70% of Americans don’t feel engaged at work, and if you’re not engaged, you’re not productive. So, how do you make the change from just getting by at work to being highly productive every single day?

Don’t worry. All you need is time and balance to make a significant difference. Below we outline six simple steps to improve your work productivity and efficiency every day.

Step 1: Write Down Your To-Do List

Employees who exercise their strengths on a daily basis are 8% more productive and 6x more likely to be engaged. — Gallup

To focus more on your strengths, you first need to know what all you have to do that day. That’s why it’s important to get into the habit of writing down a to-do list every morning. This helps you stay organized and on track no matter how much you have going on. It also helps you break up your day into tasks where you’re strong and weak, so you don’t spend too long doing work you hate.

The key, if you want to improve productivity at work, is to not leave anything out. Don’t be afraid to write down all of your goals for the day, big and small. Then, get in the habit of crossing off your list as you accomplish each item. Not only will this give you a sense of accomplishment and joy, but it will help you measure your productivity in real time.

Also read: 5 Small Daily Habits that Impact Your Career | Your Best Professional Self Series

Step 2: Listen to Music

57% of employees who said they were very stressed at work felt less productive and disengaged. — Tower Watson

Stress is a productivity killer, and music is one of the best ways to calm your mind and make repetitive tasks easier and less stressful. Several studies show that people who listen to music complete their tasks more quickly and have better ideas overall. But if you really want to improve your work productivity, then you need to listen to the right music.

The most appropriate music will be different for everyone. However, there are a few key factors that you should keep in mind when choosing the most productive music:

  • Keep it simple. Complex musical structure can be distracting. So, try to choose songs with a simple three-chord structure.
  • Lose the lyrics. For many people, lyrics are too much. Try listening to instrumental music only.
  • Get used to it. Don’t expect to enjoy listening to music right away. It will take some time to get the full benefits, so start out slowly and avoid music on difficult tasks at first.

Step 3: Don’t Multitask

Work overload decreases productivity by 68% in employees who feel they don’t have enough hours in the day to complete their tasks. —Cornerstone

Almost everyone thinks that they can multi-task. In fact, it’s something that we prize in the workplace and outside of it. We think if we can eat breakfast while reading the newspaper and answering emails then we’re being productive. However, the truth about multitasking is that it makes you less productive.

“When you perform multiple tasks that each require some of the same channels of processing, conflicts will arise between the tasks, and you’re going to have to pick and choose which task you’re going to focus on and devote a channel of processing to it,” explains David Meyer, a cognitive scientists at the University of Michigan 

Instead, you need to focus on one task at a time if you want to improve your work productivity. Then, only once you finish your first task, should you move onto the next.

Step 4: Use Apps to Help You Track

When it comes to custom applications for enterprises, 30% of employees say apps improve business processes and 23% believe apps increase productivity. —Apperian

Technology is a powerful tool that can help you be more productive every single day. The good news is that there are many apps out there to help improve productivity at work. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Blink: This $0.99 app lets you create quick memos and reminders.
  • Taskful: This app offers a progress bar for completing your to-do list every day.
  • Focus: This free app creates “focus sessions” where you spend 25 minutes focused on a task before you get a short break after four sessions.
  • Freedom: If you struggle with distractions, this app lets you block sites during work so you stop wasting time.
  • Trello: This free app works for solo or group work, allowing you to make individual to-do lists for every project.

Also read: How to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone at Work | Your Best Professional Self Series

Step 5: Communicate with Your Boss

Productivity improves by 20-25% in organizations with connected employees. —The McKinsey Global Institute

Sometimes the reason we’re not productive is because the assignments on our plate or the expectations of our work aren’t well spelled out. This is where communication with your boss is key.

Don’t be afraid to get to know your boss on an individual level so they better understand what motivates you and helps you be productive. In this way, they become your partner in trying to improve productivity at work, keeping you on target, and giving you tasks that best fit your skill set.

And remember to take on new challenges. Often, it’s these tasks where you’ll find yourself being the most productive.

Step 6: Don’t Be Afraid to Take a Break

Employee happiness can boost productivity by around 20%. —Social Market Foundation

A happy salesforce, on average, can sell 37% more, experience 31% more productivity, and increase accuracy on tasks by 19%. — The Happiness Advantage

Go on a vacation for at least a week every six months. Take a 10- or 15-minute break twice a day to walk around the office and get away from your desk. Leave the office for lunch. When you work hard, you need to play hard as well.

The truth is that most of us can only focus completely for around 20 minutes at a time. After that, we need to let our brains rest. Taking short breaks throughout the day and longer breaks a few times a year will improve your work productivity by making you a happier person and a more focused person.

There’s no foolproof way to be more productive at work. What works for you might not work as well for someone else. But the next time you find yourself in a stretch at the office where you’re just not getting anything done, try out these six steps and see what happens. You might be surprised how quickly you improve productivity at work.

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About the Author

Kelly Vo is a full-time freelance writer specializing in digital marketing, personal development, and content creation. A social media and brand development expert, you can find Kelly at where she helps businesses and executives develop their authentic voice.