35 Effective Tips to Increase Productivity at Work

Hacks and strategies that actually work.

Reviewed by Chris Leitch

Effective Tips to Increase Productivity at Work

Do you often find your workday spiraling out of control? It starts off great: with a hefty to-do list, yet the general feeling of being able to conquer all. Slowly, you begin to lose concentration, procrastinate and become interested only in what Rachel is gossiping about behind you. Suddenly, you’ve slumped into a disengaged state of mind that you can’t escape.

Although this happens to everyone from time to time, if it happens consistently, then you’ll need to take action; otherwise, you won’t be able to negotiate that salary raise or promotion you’re dying to get. After all, professional advancement requires continuous work improvement!

So, let’s get right into it: this is how to improve your work performance and efficiency!

For your wellbeing

In the words of performance expert Andrew Deutscher, “wellbeing is essential to the success, productivity and performance of high-achieving organizations”. So, let’s look at how you can care for your wellbeing, boost your efficiency at work and become a standout employee.

1. Eat well

What you feed your body is important. Ever noticed that after a carb-heavy lunch, you automatically want to sleep and can’t focus on the documents on your screen? Likewise, if you’re feeling hungry, you’ll find it equally difficult to concentrate on the task at hand.

Snacking during the workday can help you perform better, so long as you should choose healthy snacks to avoid crashing later in the day.

2. Stay hydrated

Even though choosing the right food is important, staying hydrated is even more so. Many people don’t realize that even mild dehydration can make it difficult to concentrate and perform mental tasks. To stay hydrated and alert, you must drink ample water throughout the day — always keep a glass on your desk!

Another beverage-related tip is to limit your caffeine intake by swapping coffee with green tea. Although for many of us coffee is a must at work, if you drink too much in the morning, you will notice that you crash in the afternoon.

3. Adjust the office temperature

Your office environment can have a real impact on how productive you are. Some experts suggest an optimal zone of 71F to 73F so it’s comfortable for everyone. If you find that you’re too cold or too hot, think of ways to manage the temperature either by manually adjusting the air conditioning system, or buying a small desk fan or heater.

4. Exercise

Exercising can help improve productivity, according to research. Set days in your week where you can go for a walk at lunch or attend a gym class. That said, if you really have no time to do this during the day, squeeze in some desk exercises instead, and try to get a workout in in the evening.

Getting your blood pumping could be just what’s needed to clear your head and get your focus back!

5. Sit in natural light

Depending on how your office is designed, you may have to rely on artificial lighting. If that’s the case, try and get your hands on a desk lamp that simulates sunlight!

And, if you do have a window near you, try to keep the blinds up and the window open. Natural light helps you feel more alert and rejuvenated, and improves overall productivity in the office.

6. Don’t skip lunch

Many people skip taking breaks and try to work through the entire day at their desk. Taking a break and changing your surroundings can boost your productivity, however. When you step away from the screen for a while, you return feeling refreshed and with new ideas — plus, as we’ve seen, healthy eating habits play a big role in productivity. So, don’t skip lunch!

7. Move around

Standing up and moving around can improve circulation, sending oxygen and glucose to your cells and energizing you. So, if you find yourself getting a bit restless, get up and move around, even if it’s for five minutes. If your office provides them, alternate between traditional desks and standing desks, which can help improve your posture as well.

8. Take naps

While most companies will frown at you if you take a nap at work, others like Google and Ben & Jerry’s encourage naps to stimulate productivity. Vincent Walsh, professor of human brain research at University College London, said that “a nap of between 30 and 90 minutes in the afternoon could help companies improve productivity”.

9. Work remotely

Cutting out your daily commute (and the stress that comes with it) can do wonders for your efficiency. If you have the opportunity to work remotely, doing this from time to time can really boost your performance and creativity, getting more items ticked off your list.

10. Have a great evening routine

Having a great evening routine will help you feel prepared for the following day. To ensure you’re alert and full of energy, start an early bedtime routine that allows you to switch off from electronics, calm your mind and get enough sleep.

11. Turn to friends for support

Support from loved ones increases our resilience, making it easier for us to handle stress in the workplace. Sure, your employer should be taking steps to promote employee happiness too, but each of us is responsible for our own wellbeing.

Sharing your concerns, worries and fears with loved ones is vital to your mental, emotional and physical health and, as a result, your productivity.

12. Learn to say “no”

When you think of things to improve on at work, how often does “learning to say ‘no’” spring to mind?

Even if it’s not the most obvious thing, saying “no” to additional tasks is one of the best ways an individual can improve their work performance. Of course, when you can help your team, do it! Just know your limits, and don’t perpetually overburden yourself; otherwise, you’ll struggle to get anything done, and the quality of your work will diminish, too.

For your mind

If your computer started to overheat and make strange noises, you’d turn it off and take it to a repair shop for maintenance. But do you treat your mind with the same courtesy? Here are some ways you can avoid overburdening your mind and slowing down your performance.

13. Take regular breaks

When you’re feeling mentally fatigued, take a short break; go and make yourself a cup of tea, catch up with a colleague, or simply take your eyes off your screen to relax.

Taking breaks can sound counterintuitive, but it’s really the key to better productivity. Studies referenced on the Entrepreneur show that the “perfect formula” is to work for 52 minutes and break for 17. You don’t have to set timers, of course — just remember to get up and move to “reset” the mind and come back to the task refreshed.

14. Avoid multitasking

This may come as a surprise to you but, apparently, multitasking makes you less productive. Research conducted by Stanford University shows that “productivity can be reduced by as much as 40% by the mental blocks created when people switch tasks”. So, start tackling one task at a time from now on!

15. Motivate yourself with music

It may be distracting for some people, but for others, music can be a great motivator. If you fall into the latter category, create a playlist of inspiring songs, and listen to them when you’re feeling less focused. If you aren’t allowed headphones at work, you can do this during your break.

16. Decorate your cubicle

We spend a lot of time at work; some 90,000 hours, to be exact. So, the more at ease we feel in our surroundings, the better! Try and personalize your space with things you find interesting or inspiring, be that an image of your children, an inspirational quote in a frame, some plants or a Funko Pop! figurine of Doctor Strange.

17. Tidy up your emails

Are you guilty of having hundreds of unopened emails sitting in your inbox? How about decluttering your inbox ASAP, filtering through them, deleting the unnecessary ones and dividing the rest into folders? Having a well-managed inbox can do wonders for your productivity, as you’ll know exactly where everything is at any point.

18. Limit social media use

Social media can be one of the biggest time killers. While you’re at work, resist the temptation of disrupting your work to scroll through Instagram; allocate five minutes here and there to take breaks and do so instead.

If willpower alone won’t cut it, consider installing anti-distraction apps and browser extensions like StayFocusd and Freedom, which block access to the most addictive parts of the internet for specified periods.

19. Focus on the end result

Sometimes, however hard we try, we just hit a slump and feel fed up. When you get to this point, think of why you’re doing your job, what you love about it and where you want to progress to. Usually, the vision of a better salary or title, or higher levels of decision making, will give you the little kick that you need.

20. Attend seminars

When you have the opportunity, sign up for training seminars; a day away from the office in a new environment will refresh your mind and make you feel more motivated. You’ll most likely be given some new tips on how to manage your daily tasks and will be excited to try them.

21. Chew some gum

While evidence is mixed, some researchers say that chewing gum can improve memory, boost cognitive abilities and speed up performance. So, if you’re trying to combat procrastination and focus on the task at hand, why not try the gum method? On the bright side, if it doesn’t work, you’ll have minty-fresh breath!

22. Watch funny videos

Everyone needs a bit of laughter to pick them up and, thankfully, the internet is full of short clips that make us chuckle. If you’re finding it hard to concentrate, spend a few minutes watching something hilarious and then get back to work. (Try not to laugh out loud, though!)

23. Have set times for checking emails

Email alerts can be distracting! To help you stay more focused, have set times where you check your emails. If you work from Outlook, you can use their setting to stay offline during certain periods of time.

24. Schedule meetings in the afternoon

Let’s face it: most of us hit an afternoon slump and are most productive in the morning hours. To help boost productivity and collaboration, schedule meetings post-lunch for 30–40 minutes. The short break from your desk will also help you get back in the zone when you return.

25. Practice mindfulness

You won’t be able to stay focused and productive if your mind keeps wandering against your will. If you find that this keeps happening, you may want to try incorporating daily meditation into your life. The more you practice mindfulness and stay grounded in the present, the less random thoughts will sabotage your to-dos.

To get tasks done

If you’re taking good care of your body and mind, and still finding it hard to tackle your workload, you could possibly benefit from developing some practical skills and habits. The following tips can help improve your performance:

26. Limit distractions

Sometimes, anything at all can be distracting: the music blasting from a car nearby, a phone ringing in a different room or an interesting conversation going on at another pod. By making small changes, you can block out these distractions and improve your productivity.

Consider using noise-canceling earphones, making a habit out of practicing mindfulness or taking regular breaks; whatever works to stay focused!

27. Delegate like a boss

So many workers find it difficult to delegate, as they feel that it’s simply easier to get the job done themselves rather than waste time explaining it to a colleague. This frame of mind isn’t helpful, however (and could mean that you have micromanaging tendencies!).

You should know your coworkers’ strengths, and delegate tasks they can complete to the best of their abilities without monitoring every step. That way, you can get on with the important project that’s been on your list for, like, ever.

28. Work on your organization skills

Being organized will make you more productive at work and in life. Create a list of things you want to achieve in the long term and keep that pinned on your cubicle.

Every evening before you leave work, create a to-do list for the next day and prioritize accordingly using numbers, bullet points, color coding or any other system that works for you. When you’ve accomplished the task, cross it off so you can visually see the progress you’re making. This strategy will increase your motivation in the workplace, and you will feel less stressed knowing that you’re in control.

29. Set goals and deadlines

You should regularly set yourself goals to work towards and deadlines you need to hit. Improving productivity in the workplace is easier when you have actionable steps to meet your objectives. If you want that promotion, you need to create the pathway that will lead you to it.

30. Have a daily huddle

Daily huddles are a quick, informal team meeting that are designed to increase communication amongst team members and get the most out of each person’s individual skills. There may be a project that’s better for one colleague than another; there’s simply no way to know this if you don’t bounce ideas off of one another in a daily meeting. Huddles can cut down internal email traffic, too, saving everyone time.

31. Work on your time management

Time management is one of the most important areas to improve on at work, regardless your profession. The better you are at maximizing your time, the better your workplace efficiency will be.

Using apps such as Rize and RescueTime can help you stay on track with reminders, timers and task lists. By keeping track of how much time certain things take, you’ll be able to come up with better time estimates in the future. You’ll also see what aspects of your work slow you down, so you can ask for clarifications, more training or help if you need it.

32. Improve your prioritization

Much like time management, prioritization is one of the key areas that need improvement to increase your professional performance. You simply can’t have an effective to-do list if you’re not able to prioritize your tasks!

The Eisenhower matrix, as it’s known, is a good method to try. If you haven’t heard of it before, it involves dividing your tasks into four groups: important and urgent, important yet not urgent, not important yet urgent, and neither important nor urgent.

This way, you know what stuff can wait, get delegated to others or removed from your to-dos entirely.

33. Avoid pointless meetings

Meetings can be a huge time waster, and often have you questioning why you just wasted 30 minutes of the day on something insignificant. Unless compulsory, avoid pointless meetings that aren’t relevant to your work. You could be focusing on tasks that matter instead, working away while most of your colleagues are stuck in that meeting-that-could-have-been-an-email.

34. Complete the small tasks first

If you have any tasks that take less than 20 minutes to complete, do them first! By getting them out of the way first thing in the morning, you’ll be able to give your undivided attention to the bigger tasks. Similarly, you can break down big tasks into small ones. Let’s say that you have a 1,000-word article to write; break it down into sections, and cross them one by one off your list!

35. Don’t put off the boring stuff

Devote an hour in the morning to the monotonous tasks you’ve been avoiding for weeks now — that huge pile of filing on your desk isn’t going to magically disappear. If you leave these tasks until the end of the day, you won’t be doing yourself any favors. On the contrary, you’ll only make things worse, considering that our productivity levels generally run dry in the afternoon.

Watch our video on the top productivity tips:

Key takeaways

Although employee productivity and efficiency have a lot to do with individual effort, they’re also affected by a company’s leadership. According to research by Oxford University, when employers know how to keep employees happy (by offering better working conditions and benefits, for example), team productivity goes up.

To summarize, out of the many ways to improve your work performance, the most vital ones include:

  • Protecting your downtime and wellbeing. Work performance improvement can’t happen when you’re struggling to keep your eyes open.
  • Minimizing distractions and practicing mindfulness. Make a habit out of staying present; apps such as Headspace can help!
  • Saying “no” to unreasonable requests. We all want to stay on our manager’s good side, but sabotaging your performance with an unmanageable workload isn’t the way to go.
  • Creating your own opportunities for improvement at work. Don’t wait for them to magically appear; take matters into your own hands.

There we have it: the top 35 ways to improve work performance and become more efficient in the workplace! Can you think of any more tips to add to our list? Leave us a comment!

Originally published on February 7, 2020. Updated by Electra Michaelidou.