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How To Be More Productive at Work

Published June 23, 2021

8 minute read

David Ning

By David Ning

Despite what you may think, much of America built its own wealth. In a 2017 survey done by Fidelity Investments, they found that 88 percent of millionaires are self made. That’s why those stereotypes of the rich spending their days swimming in piles of their own money, partying on yachts, and polishing their monocles are actually not very realistic. Instead, rich people are simply more likely to get up early, stay organized, and focus on their goals. In other words, they are frequently just more efficient and productive than the rest of us. And when it comes to productivity, there are plenty of ways to increase yours — especially at the office. If you’ve been searching for how to be more productive yourself, let us be your guide.

Plenty Of Rich People Still Work Really Hard

My uncle is one of those self-made millionaires. Years ago, he started driving a truck selling potato chips to supermarkets. Now he owns a multi-million dollar company that employs hundreds of people around the world. He’s 70 now, but still the hardest working person at the company.

You can argue that his two sons will inherit a giant sum, and will therefore not be self-made. And yes, that’s true. However, those sons also work for the company and have put in long hours to gain the experience and knowledge needed to take things over some day. Yes, there are plenty of millionaires who simply “lucked” into great wealth. However, most common millionaires simply earned their way into being wealthy by being productive.

Do you want to be more productive, make more money, and join the wealthy class? While we can’t change your luck or ambition, we can offer some ways to be more productive. If you can master these things, you should be able to increase your value to your employer. If you get good enough, you might realize that you don’t need to keep working for someone else. You might be able to turn your newfound increase in productivity into a business venture of your own.

Jump Right In

What’s the first thing you do every morning when you get to work? For most people, it’s catching up on another round of social media postings, chatting with coworkers, or checking their email. Instead, you should get right to work on one of the most difficult tasks on your to-do list. Not only are you at your freshest first thing in the morning, but you will also set the tone for yourself (and your day) by tackling tough work right away.

You’ll start the day feeling very productive, which can actually make a huge difference in your overall productivity. If starting right away proves to be difficult, then consider coming in a little earlier than everybody. Even 15 minutes can do wonders, since there’s a good chance your co-workers won’t bother you if they see that you’re already deep into your work. Being the first one in will also impress your boss. This may not matter, but it doesn’t hurt.

Prioritize

Often, it can feel like you’re putting out fires all day long — with nothing to show for it at the end of the day. Instead of always being reactive at work, you need to try and get ahead of your tasks and responsibilities. That means prioritizing certain tasks and planning ahead.

For some, jotting down a to-do list is enough. However, you may find that you need to be even more organized than that, depending on your responsibilities. Sit down with your calendar and a list of what tasks you need to complete at least once a week. Plan your time according to the importance of each task. Make sure to consider the time necessary for completion and the best time for you to work on them. It will save a great deal of wasted time.

Set Strict (But Reasonable) Limits On Task Completion

It’s very easy to allow one large task to take up an entire day. The problem is that your “entire day” also includes plenty of internet breaks, a long lunch, and other time-fillers that have nothing to do with task completion. These non-productive things need to be limited.

Instead of scheduling something to take all day — which allows you plenty of time for procrastination — give yourself a smaller chunk of time. For example, two or three hours. If the task truly takes more than that, than you should probably break the big task down into smaller, separate ones. Then schedule the smaller tasks accordingly. If you need help to stay on schedule, you can set a timer or schedule a meeting about the task after the allotted time. That can help force yourself to work on it steadily.

Say No To The Internet

Procrastination used to require you to get up from your desk and wander down to the break room. Back in those days, your guilt over being away from your desk would often be enough to send you back to work. Nowadays, with the magic of the internet providing you with hours of procrastination a mere window away from the report you’re supposed to be writing, you can easily find your entire workday trickling away.

If you don’t have the willpower to ignore the siren’s song of YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter on your own, then install an app to block your favorite internet temptations. You’ll be glad you did.

Take a Walk

Concentrating hard on a difficult and complex project can overwhelm your brain if you do it for too long. Make sure you regularly get up and take a quick jaunt around your office. Not only will the change of scene give your brain a rest, but the exercise can help counteract both your mental and physical fatigue.

If you can, an outdoor walk is even better. It’ll help clear your brain fog. Plus a little bit of exercise and fresh air never hurts either. Just don’t start hanging out with the cigarette crowd. It’s not that they are bad people. It’s just that second hand smoke is really bad for you.

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Focus on Your Main Project

It’s easy to get side-tracked. There are many opportunities out there, but you can’t always be leaving what you’re doing to pursue extra ventures. Consider what you want to do your main focus, and then concentrate on that. If you decide, for example, to start a side hustle, then concentrate on that gig. Avoid the temptation to jump from idea to idea.

I’ve told you how I started freelance writing as a side gig to complement my business. Recently, my friend got into the scooter charging business. He’s actually been making bank on that, to the tune of $2,500 a month. I could jump into that with him, but it would take up too much of my time and mental energy — to the point that my freelance writing gig would suffer.

I instead kept concentrating on my writing. As a result, I was able to build a niche and hone my knowledge. I want to say that the quality of my writing is probably better than if I was also doing the scooter charging side-hustle as well. Being able to focus on your main project allows you to become better at it. Doing one or two things really well is probably better than doing seven or eight things with mediocrity. You will be more productive, and be more likely to cultivate a client base.

Focus on One Task at a Time

Once you know what your overall focus should be, you need to break it down. You can focus on one task at a time to help you increase your productivity. I told my daughter the other day how multi-tasking is one of the biggest myths there is. Not even computers can multi-task. What they do is continuously switch between tasks to make it seem like they are handling two tasks at the same time.

Unfortunately, humans can’t easily switch from task to task without losing precious time to bring themselves up to speed whenever they switch focus. In reality, multi-tasking doesn’t usually help you accomplish more. Studies are coming out all the time that backs this fact. Instead of going all over the place, concentrate on moving through a task list one item at a time. You’ll feel a better sense of accomplishment, and you’ll produce better results.

Don’t Be Too Nice

I’m a pretty easy-going guy, so I find it hard to say “no” when someone asks for help. Still, I need to remind myself constantly that saying yes to everything is essentially saying no to myself. In the worst case, you might not even have time to help everybody and that does no one any good.

There’s a time to help and there’s a time to focus on your own goals and priorities. Let everyone know the boundaries and most will respect those rules. You’ll learn that once everyone understands the rules, then you won’t even have to say no that often anymore.

Don’t Get Bogged Down by Indecision

Productive people understand that you don’t have to make every decision known to humankind. That’s because most things just don’t matter that much in the grand scheme of things. Sometimes, even a wrong decision can be better than no decision at all. At least it moves the train forward instead of stalling to completely.

You may have heard the phrase “perfection is the enemy of the good” before. If you always try to wait until the perfect moment, you’ll just end up procrastinating and never taking action. That means you won’t get anything done.

Create a Distraction Free Zone

You can also improve your performance by creating pockets of distraction-free time in which to work. There are times that I close the email and just work with solid focus for an hour or two. Without distractions, it’s amazing how much you can get done. Recently, I took some work with me on a vacation. I was amazed at how much I accomplished in the cabin with no internet to distract me. Limit distractions and hone your focus.

Some computer programs can help you focus better too. I write on a word processor that essentially blacks out the entire screen so it’s just words in a black background. It also blocks notification from the computer. It sounds simple but it’s extremely effective.

Don’t Forget to Focus on Your Life

While focus on your work can be a good thing, you also don’t want to forget that you have a life that you should be living. Better health and better relationships can help you at work. When you get enough sleep and feel physically healthy due to diet and exercise, you are more alert and more capable of focus.

Nurture your relationships and spend quality time with your family. You will be more fulfilled and less prone to burnout as a result. Take some time each day to work on other aspects of your life and you will find your work time more productive. You’ll also find it easier to focus.

The Bottom Line

Focusing on the right things can enhance your productivity. Make adjustments so that you accomplish the most important items and develop the skills and knowledge you need to succeed. Once you become more productive, you’ll be able to make more money and build wealth more effectively.

It’s not a get rich quick scheme, but it’s a much more surefire way to become rich. Being more productive is how many people propel themselves to financial independence. Give it a try and you won’t look back.

How to be more productive

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David Ning

Experienced Finance Writer

David is a published author, entrepreneur and a proud dad. He firmly believes that anyone can build a solid financial foundation as long as they are willing to learn. He runs MoneyNing.com, where he discusses every day money issues to encourage the masses to think about their finances more often.

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