After holidays, or when returning to work after a prolonged absence, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the amount of tasks awaiting you. However, productivity depends much more on intelligent planning than on working overtime.
To make things easier when returning to work after holidays, and getting back into the routine without the pressure of a backlog, we would like to present 12 tips to better organize yourself in the office:
This post is also available in Spanish.
1. Plan and block your schedule
Many people try to organize tasks to be performed in a given space of time, but the changing context in which we live tends to mess up the planning. Although there is no recipe to avoid the unexpected, it is important to have a plan. Make a plan of your day during the first 30 minutes at work, and take 5 minutes at the end of the day for adjusting the plan for the following day. It is also important to schedule time in your agenda to work on your planned tasks. In the end you may have to reorganize your time, but the fact of having planned hours will help you to find the time and concentration necessary to complete your tasks.
2. Control your timings
We all feel that there are not enough hours in the day to complete all our tasks. One way to prevent this feeling from becoming overwhelming and affecting daily productivity, is to measure the actual time devoted to each task. It is an exercise that requires time and discipline, but usually provides very good results. Often, when confronted with the amount of time spent answering emails, meeting with our colleagues or even wasting your time, you will be inspired to manage your day better and limit the amount of hours you devote to each task.
3. Create routines
Humans are creatures of habit. By making a task or a set of tasks in a routine -by repeating them at the same hour each day or with the same frequency- you will get into the habit that will help you not to forget them, and to work even faster. One routine to get into the habit of could be setting up the 30 minutes of organization, which we mentioned earlier, as the first thing to do every morning, or to allocate a block of time every week to internal meetings or administrative tasks.
4. Let the Pareto Principle be your guide
The popular Pareto principle says that 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts. This principle should help you to better visualize which tasks you work on during your working hours bring the most value to your company. Besides, you should pay attention to which tasks you are spending more time on than necessary, and which are the truly important tasks that you are dispatching with hurry because you do not like them or because you feel uncomfortable performing them.
5. Take advantage of digitization
Beyond the mental exercises that can improve our productivity, never before in history have we had so many technology solutions that help us to be more efficient at work. Among the infinite options available, some have a special potential to transform processes that you are still doing manually. For example, using solutions like Signaturit to sign contracts with a partner, customer or supplier allow you to save time. These solutions also allow to access your historical contracts in the cloud, which exponentially reduces the time spent searching for documents.
6. Take it easy
Taking things easy does not mean fitting in all of your relaxation in the same break to eat and stretch your legs. It is more efficient to manage your time with breaks of 5 and 10 minutes throughout the day. In this sense, it is equally important not to work during the weekend.
7. Organize your desk
Your table or desk often seems like the default place where you have to work, but if you look a little deeper, you could realize that there are many things you could do to improve our environment. If you do that, you will improve your productivity. Get rid of all those papers and post-its that you don't need anymore, place within reach the things you use more frequently or orient your table so that what happens in the rest of the office does not distract you. All these small changes can make a big difference.
8. Organize your information
Similarly, your desktop computer is a natural and important extension of that environment, so it is important to organize it with the same care and ocassionally, by deleting files that you are no longer using or by improving your folder organization. Again, the use of new digital technologies can help replace a physical filing cabinet full of unsorted papers, with a folder in the cloud where you can search or sort by date or recipients. The information itself is valuable, but do not forget that, when organized, it’s worth double.
9. Think about your past (and positive) experiences
When you feel you are not getting anywhere, it is very tempting to think of similar moments in the past, such as failing to meet a deadline, losing a customer, etc. But if you remember past successes it is much easier to regain focus and motivation and overcome discouragement. Your own experience is definitely one of the antidotes for your productivity slumps.
10. Learn how to plan your meetings
Meetings are often the bottleneck that causes you to accumulate work or that give you the paralyzing feeling of not moving forward. To overcome the temptation of transforming every encounter with a colleague, customer or supplier on a social occasion and extend it longer than necessary, it is useful to prepare in advance an agenda with issues to address, clearly limit the time to be devoted to the meeting and be very strict with its start and end time.
11. Change your natural work environment
Although some companies are especially reluctant to telecommuting and still maintain an old fashioned obsession on presence, sometimes the solution for a mental block is as simple as a change of scenario. Why not work one morning a week at home? Or in a cafe? The less strict a workplace is, usually the more productive a team is. Consequently, workers are usually happier, reducing sick days as well as absenteeism.
12. Turn off mobile and desktop alerts
Although you are used to paying attention to your mobile device, often justified due to the large amount of tasks they allow you to do remotely, if you are honest you will recognize that many of the alerts that distract you from your work does not actually refer to really urgent issues. So switching off your alarms can help improve your concentration, and ultimately, your productivity in the office.
This post is also available in Spanish.