December 29, 2016

Six Tiny Changes to Boost our Productivity.

We all have different ideas about what success means.

It might be how much money we have, what car we drive, where we can afford to go on holiday.

For me success is about integrity. It is about honouring my personal values.

But success in the workplace is first and foremost about productivity. Being productive can be hard when our attention is pulled in multiple directions. We are put under enormous pressure to meet workplace targets. But there are several methods, or habits if you like, that “career people” have in common to help them get the most out of their time.

Here are six methods we can employ to help us work better, whilst also looking after ourselves mentally and emotionally.

1. Rise and Shine

We have all heard the phrase “the early bird catches the worm.” Getting up just 30 minutes earlier can help us to fit in some all-important “me time” before the day begins.

Whilst I love to have a cup of my special Earl Grey tea and catch BBC Breakfast before I step out the door, many of the women I coach enjoy doing yoga or a mindfulness exercise first thing in the morning. They find it helps them to stay level-headed and calm throughout the day and it helps them to deal with stress and frustration with more patience.

Mindfulness is an ancient Buddhist meditation. Upon hearing the word “meditation,” a lot of us imagine a long-haired hippy, sat on a rug with his legs crossed. And it puts us off trying it! But mindfulness can be done anywhere, any time and there are no crossed legs involved. Unless you want them to be, of course.

In fact, research has shown that people who practice mindfulness feel happier and healthier. This ancient Buddhist practice which has reached off-the-scale popularity recently, improves our immune systems, helps us to sleep better and makes us more productive.

2. Drink Water

Drinking plenty of water throughout the day is a fantastic way to keep our energy levels up. Dehydration can make us feel very lethargic and tired, limiting our productivity at work and having a big negative impact on our mood.

Did you know that hydration experts recommend that women drink approximately nine cups (2.2 litres) of water a day, whilst men should drink 13 cups (3 litres) per day?

I always encourage the ladies who I coach to drink more water. Try having a fresh glass of water with every meal and spice it up with a slice of lemon or cucumber for some extra fresh flavour. My own technique? I swap my coffee for water. Water helps our digestive system, it energises muscles, boosts the metabolism, prevents headaches and keeps our skin looking healthy.

3. Take a Break

Many of us are guilty of not taking our lunch breaks on time, perhaps we are even guilty of not taking one at all! Even if it is just 30 minutes, we need to take a break to allow our minds to rest after a long morning at work. Research shows that a quick recharge will help our productivity for the rest of the day. Fresh air can also give our immune systems a boost and leave us feeling happier. If you get the chance, go for a stroll at lunch time. If it is cold, take a flask of hot tea with you to stay warm.

Our minds are really powerful and we can affect our own mood simply by thinking. Most of us are fantastic at worrying. Many of the people I coach are self-employed business owners and they can have a very stressful day—completely in their heads.

In this situation, I always advise people to take a break and when the internal chatter kicks in, just take a deep breath and bring your attention to what you are thinking and where you are. So if you are at work worrying about that meeting you have with your boss this afternoon, remind yourself that your concerns are just thoughts.

4. Be Kind

We need to be kind to ourselves at work. We should not reprimand ourselves for making mistakes because it is totally normal. We need to learn to give ourselves permission not to be perfect. It is, in fact, our mistakes that help us to learn and develop both personally and professionally.

“I feel like I have so many plates to spin and not all of them are mine,” was a comment from a client of mine who had just been promoted to a senior management role. I asked her how many times she had dropped a plate. The answer was never. Together, we realised that the stress was coming from her fear that she might drop a plate but in reality she was just comparing herself to others.

Try listening to what you tell yourself about your performance at work—would you talk to your best friend that way? Beating ourselves up and focusing on the negatives is not going to help with productivity. Instead, we need to recognise where our strengths are and focus on all of the great things that we do.

5. Digital Detox

We are constantly connected to work and each other via our phones and other digital devices. We leave work at five p.m., go home and for some reason, we decide to check our emails. Big mistake.

If our minds are working to solve problems even when we are not at work then our productivity is bound to be affected the next day. It is tiring and if we are neglecting ourselves, then our motivation is also damaged.

We need to start switching off when we leave the office. This includes pressing the power button on our phones and signing out of our various email addresses. Did you know that employees are guilty of giving away 10 percent of our salary every year in unpaid overtime?

A digital detox helps us to take our time back. I would advise you start by committing to a digital detox for just two evenings a week and building it up from there. Wouldn’t you rather spend your evening doing something you enjoy?

After a short adjustment period, the people I have coached have found themselves feeling more motivated and energised. Communication with friends and family has improved and they have found lots more time for their own personal hobbies.

6. Ask for Help

We tend to be very bad at asking for help and support at work, but it’s better to speak to somebody who can help rather than struggling alone. It is not a sign of failure but if we spend our time at work worrying about how we will complete a certain task, then we are wasting time and limiting productivity which doesn’t work well for anybody. Try not to panic, think who the best person to speak to is and offer them plenty of gratitude for their help.

We all watch other people excelling in their careers, bringing up two children and still finding time to go to the gym and we think, “I don’t know how they do it!”

Asking for what do I need in my professional life may fill us with dread. We make up all sorts of reasons why we shouldn’t ask it: “I am a manager, I should know the answer.” “I can’t ask to work from home one day a week—people will think I am weak.” “If I ask for help, it will look like I can’t cope.” And the list goes on…

However, asking for what we need is the opposite of weakness. It shows assertiveness and strength. Studies also show that individuals with a good work-life balance are more productive at work so asking for what you need is good for you and for your business.

When I take on a new project, the first thing I do is design a way of working with the individual I am reporting to. I simply explain that for them to get the best out of me these are some of the things that work well for me and help me manage my time:

One: A bit of notice for an important deadline.

Two: Keeping me updated even when there is nothing to tell.

Three: Flexible hours, because if I’m stuck in “nine to five” and I Iose the will to live!


Author: Denise Chilton 

Image: Samantha Jade Royds/Flickr 

Editor: Sara Kärpänen

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