Health Advocate Blog

Top 10 tips for a more productive work day

When you’re at your job, your focus is supposed to be on doing the best work possible—but too often, productivity is impacted, which can cause your stress level to rise and your efficiency to suffer. From frequent interruptions to too many meetings, to feeling overworked or not energized enough, lots of factors can take a toll on your productivity. Check out our top 10 productivity tips to help you accomplish more and stress less while you’re at work!

  1. Having a productive day begins the night before. Before you leave work, make a list of your top priorities for the next day and leave it at your desk.
  2. Eat the frog. Instead of working on a bunch of small but less important tasks at the start of your work day, work on a task that perhaps you’ve been dreading or procrastinating on because it’s important or stressful (otherwise known as “eating the frog”). Not only will this help you start your day accomplishing something meaningful, it can also help you feel proud of a job well done and less stressed because that task is no longer on your plate.
  3. Try single-tasking. Many people associate multi-tasking with efficient work. However, the opposite may actually be true. Multi-tasking can make you feel more stressed and less productive. Instead, focus on doing just one task at a time, and then moving on to the next thing afterward.
  4. Balance work with breaks. If you spend too long working without a break, it could make you more tired and less productive. Taking regular breaks can help improve concentration. Consider using methods like the Pomodoro® Technique—where you work for 25 minutes and then take a short break—to help you stay productive. If you want to try the Pomodoro Technique, this simple online timer can help. (Note that a break need not be long, or even time spent away from your desk. Just getting up from your seat and stretching, standing up for a minute, or walking in place can help refresh you!)
  5. Harness the power of music. If you’re allowed to wear headphones while working, use music to your advantage! Figure out what fuels your work best—is it something upbeat like rock or pop, or more relaxing music like classical? Then create a playlist (or several) filled with tunes that can help keep your motivation and energy up. Bonus: If you’re in an open office or an office that is full of chatter, the music can help block out distracting noise.
  6. Eat lunch away from your desk. If you’re tied to your desk all day, your energy may suffer. Whenever possible, take your lunch break away from your desk. Eat in a break room or company cafeteria where you can read or be social and not be tempted to check your work email. For an extra energy boost, consider taking the last 5 or 10 minutes of your lunch break to do a little walking—it’ll help you fit in a little fitness, plus it can reinvigorate you for the second half of your work day.
  7. Reconsider how much you check your email. Constant email notifications can be jarring and interrupt the task at hand. Plus, constantly dropping what you’re doing to respond to emails can put a monkey wrench in your productivity. If you’re not in an industry where your emails have to be answered right away, could you instead ignore the notifications and respond to any new emails every half-hour? Or, even better, could you close out your email program and open it up to check it every half-hour?
  8. Schedule meetings smartly. In some industries, it’s not uncommon to have many meetings in a day. But if you have other work to get done outside of attending those meetings, this can feel like a hassle. Whenever possible, take control of meetings by scheduling them back to back, or in one part of the day. For instance, schedule all your meetings for the day in the morning, but leave your afternoon unbooked so you can do your other work then. This will allow you to spend large chunks of time working on various aspects of your job (one chunk allotted for meetings, one chunk spent doing other work) so that you can focus better.
  9. Follow the 2-minute rule. This is especially important if you can’t control the timing of many of your meetings. Sometimes you may only have 2 minutes between meetings—but that doesn’t mean you can’t make the most of that time. The rule is, if there’s a task that can be done in under 2 minutes, do it now! Getting these small tasks done quickly can help them from building up and clogging your to-do list later on. For example: responding to an email, filing papers or emails, sending a meeting invitation, or giving your desk a quick tidying up (the latter can also help you reduce your stress and stay productive!).
  10. Keep healthy snacks at your desk to help you refuel. Offices are often rife with treats. While the occasional treat isn’t a bad thing—everything in moderation!—it can turn into a problem if you’re enjoying donuts, cake, and cookies every day. Resist the temptation of communal treats by keeping your own healthy snacks at your desk. Here’s a list of some of our favorites!

For Health Advocate members

If you are a Health Advocate member with access to our EAP+Work/Life program, call us for help with time management, improving productivity, reducing stress, and more. Our Work+Life Specialists can help you with a wide range of issues at work and at home.