I sighed as I closed my laptop at the end of the day. What had I done for the past eight hours? Nothing important had actually gotten done, I wasn’t any closer to achieving any of my goals, and it felt like I had wasted the entire day.
This wasn’t just a problem I faced. This was – and still is – a reality for millions of Americans who struggle with time management, productivity, and goal setting at work.
So how do we be more productive at work?
SET HEALTHY BOUNDARIES
One of the most important things you can do as a young professional at work is set healthy boundaries. I used to struggle with this a lot.
For example, coworkers would come to me and ask for help, and because I had no boundaries, I would say yes, prioritizing other people’s job responsibilities over my own duties. The result? I was either working (unpaid) overtime to get everything done or all my job responsibilities weren’t getting done, making my boss less-than-happy.
I used to believe that saying no and turning down helping coworkers or additional work that needed to get done was mean or unkind… or that I wasn’t taking initiative. The truth is that none of that is true. Setting boundaries at work is literally protecting my time and energy so I can focus on what’s most important within my area of responsibility.
Imagine that the business you work for is a massive plane bound for Success-Land. Everyone on board has a different role. Your customers are just meant to enjoy the ride. Each flight attendant has a special role. Some take care of the passengers in First Class. Some take care of everyone in Economy Class. One person is in charge of making announcements, and others handle rolling the heavy snack cart and drink cart down the aisle. On top of that, you have the pilot, copilot, and air traffic control team.
When you don’t set boundaries at work, it’s like you’re trying make the announcements, roll the snack cart, and fly the plane. You can do it for a little while – but the plane is going to fly much better if you do your job and let everyone else do theirs… even when it’s hard. Plus, you’re less likely to feel stressed and stretched out in a hundred different directions (which often leads to burn out).
At the end of the day, your boss or manager hired YOU to do YOUR job, not your coworkers’ job.
REMOVE DISTRACTION ACTION
The phone rings. Your social media notifications beep. An email dings in your inbox. A small project pops up in the back of your mind that needs doing.
Babe, ya gotta cut on the distractions. You can spend all day on email or reading comments on that Instagram post that you just put up. Trust me, I’ve been there!
So what do you do?
Take the distractions and move them 3 seconds away. Wait, what? 3 seconds? Start by turning off all notifications. Then, if something is a distraction for you, physically (or digitally) move it 3 seconds away from you – making it harder to access.
For example, put your phone on the other side of the room. Bury your social media apps in a folder… or delete them altogether. Make your email accessible only by going to your email provider’s website and entering your username and password.
Why does it work? We take the path of least resistance, and if we add in more resistance (and therefore more activation energy), you’re less likely to choose the distraction over what needs to get done.
Excuse my grammar, but you need to feel good to do good. You gotta pour into yourself so you have something to pour into other things (ya know, like your job). While working, do things like opening a window, lighting a candle, sitting in a comfortable chair, and listening to your favorite but non-distracting) music.
After staring at a screen for so long, you start to lose focus and become less productive. That’s why there’s this magical thing called the Pomodoro Technique that helps you get stuff done.
Essentially, you pick a task, work on it for 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break, and then repeat. After you do this 4x, take a 15-30 minute break.
Okay Aly, where’s the self-care in that?
I hear you.
That 5 minute break? Don’t use it to check social media or email or run up to your manager’s office. Use it to practice yoga, meditate, or do something else.
Need some 5-minute self-care ideas?
You’re in luck! I have an entire guide for you about that exact thing!