What is the one thing that connects millions of workers around the world? It is the desire to have more productivity at work, work fewer hours, and stay on top of all projects. But is this wish truly attainable? Productivity at work — it is possible.

Basically – “Life is too complicated not to be orderly.” ~ Martha Stewart

In this fast-paced world, it may sometimes seem like there are not enough hours in the day to get everything accomplished. As a result, people work long hours and lock themselves up in the office, dreading over the possibility that they might not be able to finish their tasks on time.

Ironically, working long hours does not increase workplace productivity. As a matter of fact, it can totally backfire and make you less efficient, due to stress, fatigue, and other factors. Moreover, it can negatively affect your physical health. It has been recorded that the risk of heart disease increases markedly by 67% for people who work long hours compared to people who work the standard 7-8 hours a day.

So, does this mean that improving productivity at work is an unattainable dream? No, it absolutely does not. There is a famous saying that encourages to “work smarter, not harder.” But what does it entail? Below, find some tips that will help you increase your daily productivity.

1. Create a to-do list to improve productivity at work

Lists help give you a plan for what needs to be accomplished and increases your productivity in the workplace. You could also have one for the week or even the month from which you pull daily tasks. There can be few work-related things more satisfying than checking off a long time item off your list.

You can even take this to the next level by blocking out time each morning to review and add/remove from your to-do list. You will find that it will quickly become a part of your routine and will increase your productivity at work with a more focused view of the day.

There are also helpful apps and tools so you can access and check off items from anywhere,  such as Asana and Todoist. These tools can be incredibly valuable to increase your productivity at work.

woman working from cafe
Reviewing your to-do list in the morning can be crucial for productivity at work.

2. Start with a tough task

If you have 15 things on your to-do list for the day, consider starting with a hard task. While it might seem unpleasant, it’s often easier than trying to tackle it later in the day once you’re tired. When doing this, your day is already successful and productive once that hard task is complete.

Stephen Covey called this your “big rocks.” It is not only easier to tackle them earlier in the day, but it will also help you to feel success and build momentum towards a full day of being productive at work. Even if you don’t get other things on your list done, you still know you were productive and finished something Important.

3. Don’t be afraid to say no

Depending on your line of work, you may have numerous opportunities and projects come across your desk, but trying to take on too much at once can be counterproductive. Don’t be afraid to say no now and then, as saying yes can drain time and energy.

Scott Smith, CEO of CloudApp had this to say for FastCompany about saying no.

Remember that you don’t always have to deliver a hard “no.” If an opportunity seems like a good fit, you can ask someone on your team to investigate it. “Not everything needs to be fulfilled by the CEO, and it shouldn’t, honestly,” says Scott Smith, the CEO of CloudApp, a cloud-based screen- and video-capture software. “If there’s an opportunity that can be delegated to a team member who is able to fulfill it, then you should do that.”

You also have the option to kick the can down the road. “You’d be surprised by how easily you can delay certain opportunities,” Smith says. “You may miss out on some that don’t fit your immediate strategy, but you can focus on maintaining a relationship that may bring that same opportunity to you again when you are better suited to fulfill on it.”

Stop sign
Stop wasting your time and be more productive at work

4. Follow the 80/20 rule

The Pareto Principle is that 80 percent of the results come from 20 percent of the effort. This principle does not suggest working less and putting in minimal effort. It encourages you to be better at time management and work harder in the areas that matter the most. Is there something taking up a great deal of your time that isn’t yielding much of a return? Consider cutting it out to spend more time growing your business.

Keeping track of your results can be a key aspect of finding success with the Pareto Principle. Tracking data, setting goals, tracing revenue can all be ways to ensure your time is spent driving the business and productivity at work.

5. Automate when possible (and don’t be afraid to outsource)

Are repetitive tasks taking up a great deal of your time? Consider automating these tasks to improve efficiency within your company. In fact, it can handle up to 45% of repetitive work, such as appointment scheduling, reminder emails, and marketing management.

If tasks are taking up your quality time that can’t be automated, consider outsourcing them, so you have time to handle your more critical items. Time is your most valuable resource, and a virtual assistant can help free up some of that. The most productive people make every second count in continuing to work towards achieving their goals.

Automation can be scary and does have some obstacles, but you need to get over them to find productivity at work with repetitive tasks.

automation and productivity
Automation is your friend when it comes to productivity.

6. Give yourself a break

Short breaks throughout the day can improve focus and productivity at work. In fact, even a 30-second microbreak can increase your productivity. Breaks could include eating a healthy snack, meditating, taking a quick walk, etc. You can also look for activities that can increase your creativity at work.

Being mindful of your time at work and how your body is responding can help to immediately increase your productivity at work.

“My rule is no screens on Saturdays,” says Nirav Shah, CEO of Sentinel Healthcare, a remote management solution for hypertension. “It allows me to recharge, spend time with family, and come back Monday better rested and with new insights.” She encourages her employees to unplug for the weekend too.

“My team looks to me to set these expectations. Having a healthy work environment—and a team that’s ready to do good, creative work—means taking breaks.”

7. Pomodoro Technique

This includes setting a timer for 25 minutes, working, taking a 5-minute break when the timer goes off, adding a checkmark to a piece of paper, and repeating the process. Once you have about 4 checkmarks, shift your break times to 15-20 minutes. This allows you to focus on a task and improve productivity but also takes the human attention span into account.

There isn’t anyone who knows your body than you, so find a system that works for you to stay productive at work.

8. Get enough rest and avoid distractions

While it might be tempting to stay up later or wake up earlier to get more done, the lack of sleep will catch up with you. It can increase your stress and negatively impact your health. As you become more exhausted, your productivity will continue to drop. This may include kids, TV, social media, etc. Brains can’t multitask, so each time you become slightly distracted, your attention is shifted, and it takes time to regain focus on the task you’re working on.

Next time you are tempted to binge-watch something remember it will probably hurt your productivity at work.

Taking advantage of technology is extremely beneficial for productivity

Joe Martin

Joe Martin

VP of Marketing

Joe Martin is currently the GM and VP of Marketing at CloudApp, a visual collaboration tool. He has more than 13 years of experience of marketing in the tech industry. Prior to his role at CloudApp, Martin was the Head of Social Analytics at Adobe where he led paid social strategy and a research team providing strategic guidance to organizations within the company. He has an M.B.A. from the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business, Executive education in Entrepreneurship from Stanford Graduate School of Business, a B.S. in Finance from the University of Utah and a digital marketing certificate from The Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. His work has been published in the Associated Press, Wall Street Journal, NY Times, and other top tier outlets.