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Inbox Zero: How To Increase Productivity At Work

A typical workday has changed tremendously in the past century. In the early 20th century, manual shift labor represented the norm for middle-class citizens. With punch cards to track hours, workers would go in, give it their all, and clock out.

While shift work has stuck to this day, the way in which people work has changed drastically. With the implementation of computers, the internet, and other technological advances, people can work from the comfort of their own homes and live wherever they would like. Rather than physical labor for eight hours, people are able to work from home and add value to businesses by simply providing work remotely.

The downside to this newfound convenience is that oftentimes, work seems to bleed into what would otherwise be personal time. Work emails always seem to creep in and reaching an email inbox of zero can seem like a wishful fantasy. Being connected and having convenience are good, but can also come to bite workers if self-discipline and productivity are not up to par.

Below are a few ways to get you closer to seeing your inbox at zero and get the absolute most out of your workday. Getting more done during your scheduled working hours can help ensure that work doesn’t intrude on your personal time and can give you the freedom to have full control over your work schedule.

Organization

The first aspect to tackle when trying to improve productivity is to get organized. Many jobs require you to have multiple tasks on your plate at one time. Learning how to organize these tasks and assign priority can ensure you are delivering on time. Additionally, getting organized and on top of your work can allow you to feel less overwhelmed and feel like you have more control over your tasks.

Below is a closer look at ways to get organized and stay on top of your work. Getting organized is the of the most important ways you can increase productivity.

Time blocking

Time blocking is a method of organization that views your workday in terms of time brackets. When a task comes across your desk you assign a specific day and time that you will work towards it. This method ensures that you will be less likely to forget, and helps to put your mind at ease knowing you will get around to it.

Many calendar applications make use of time blocks where essentially you assign a task, meeting, or other activity for a given time frame. Thanks to the interconnected nature of calendar applications, you can actually utilize your calendar to alert colleagues of when you are available versus when you’re in the middle of a work block.

This small bit of automation can be incredibly helpful in allowing you to stay focused and have your attention focused on the task at hand rather than being pulled aside by a colleague only for you to say that you are busy.

Tiered checklist

Checklists are one of the most basic tools for an organization, but they can also be one of the most utilized and most helpful. Checklists work because of your ability to quickly reference material and move on to what you need to do next.

A perfect example of how a checklist is beneficial is to think about a time you needed to go shopping for a specific recipe. Rather than bringing the recipe with you to the grocery store and reading through the instructions to find what you need, you simply carry a list of all the ingredients since it is faster and makes better use of your time.

While a standard checklist can do a lot of good when it comes to organization, taking checklists a step further and assigning priority can elevate it to be a great productivity tool. With a standard checklist, you may be tempted to check things off the page from top to bottom. While this is fine, it can come to bite you if you have something that needs to be done more urgently at the bottom of your list.

A tiered checklist is essentially a checklist that assigns a priority to a task. This ensures that you complete high-priority tasks before doing others that could be postponed. In the case of many people’s work, there are many tasks that are multiday while other more urgent short term problems. Tiered checklists are can help keep you on task while also ensuring more pressing tasks get done first.

Distractions

Distractions in today’s work environment are immense. A century ago the largest distraction you had were chatty coworkers, the radio, and the physical environment around you. Today not only do you have to deal with those distractions in your physical environment but also the many distractions encountered as a consequence of being connected 24/7 to the internet.

Distractions can be thought of as the antithesis of productivity as your attention is diverted elsewhere and your ability to perform a task is severely hindered. What would take you 30 minutes could take upwards of an hour if distractions are constantly bombarding you and causing you to lose focus.

Below are a few tips on how you can limit distractions to make you more productive while working.

Phone

Whether you like it or not, the smartphone has become a staple part of many people’s lives. Smartphones have enabled people to stay connected at a level that was never possible before. A simple look on social media can catch you up on how your friend has been doing and a quick video call can make you feel like you met face to face.

While the ability to connect is typically considered good, it is also a pitfall of the smartphone. Phone notifications can be incredibly distracting and can even lead to compulsive checking of your phone to ensure you are not missing notifications. Simply placing it in a desk drawer or leaving it in your bag will make it less likely to distract you which can then allow you to work uninterrupted.

Environmental distractions

While your phone can be a large contributor to distraction, the environment around you can also be a distractor. A loud AC unit, noisy neighbors, chatty coworkers, children running around your home, or even street noise can pull your attention from your work and result in you working suboptimally.

A great solution is to invest in quality noise-canceling headphones or earplugs and implementing a headphone do-not-disturb policy with those around you. With this tip, you reduce the likelihood of sounds grabbing and diverting your attention simultaneously utilizing it as an indicator to those around you that you are working and that they should come back later.

Work cycles

When it comes to actually getting to work, many people simply work until they are told to clock out. While you may be “working” you most likely are not actually working for all eight hours as your mind wanders and your attention drifts. In reality, people have a difficult time sustaining focus for prolonged periods of time, and trying to work straight through is not only draining but can also yield lower levels of productivity.

This phenomenon is where work cycles come in. Essentially a work cycle assigns a working period of time that is followed by a short break. Working periods can be between 20 minutes and 90 minutes long followed by a 5 to 10-minute break. A popular work cycle utilized by many is called the Pomodoro method and it utilizes 25 minute work periods followed by 5-minute breaks.

Working in short bursts is a much more manageable time frame to sustain focus and the implementation of breaks gives your mind a short break to recoup and get ready for the next work cycle. Ultimately work cycles can be immensely productive and can help you to get through long and drawn-out projects by breaking them down into smaller more manageable chunks.

Support your energy at the smallest level

While increasing productivity can allow you to get more done in a day, it is important that you have a natural reserve of energy ready to keep your productivity up later in the day. The afternoon slump is a very real phenomenon and for many people, this hits around 3-4 pm.

During this time many people go to the breakroom and get themselves a caffeinated beverage. While in the short term this can increase energy levels, drinking caffeine late in the day can hinder your sleep and further diminish your natural energy the following day.

Being proactive and supporting natural energy is the best way to go. Eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and taking MitoQ Brain can help support energy to last you all day while also providing you with neurological support to maintain your focus and productivity.

Conclusion

In summary, increasing your productivity at work involves taking the time to plan, limiting distractions, and ensuring you have the natural energy to back it all up. With those three things in check, you will be on your way to accomplishing more with your workday so you can enjoy more personal time with the things that matter like family and hobbies.

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