The Best Strategies For Boosting Productivity At Work

For some, December can be a notoriously slow month for business. Clients are out of the office, people are messing around, and employees are thinking more about holiday gifts than optimizing cash flow. Sure, it’s a little hard to concentrate, but that doesn’t mean you should give up and spend your days eating pumpkin pie. You’ll be kicking yourself in the coming months if you’re not productive now.

We’re about to enter a new year. What better time to learn some weird and unusual ways you can increase productivity?

Use Checklists For Your Projects

Doctors are some of best educated, smartest, and most competent people around, but they still make mistakes. According to Atul Gawande, author of The Checklist Manifesto and doctor himself, says simple checklists can help. With so much to do, it’s hard to remember every detail, which makes it hard to avoid mistakes. By using checklists, you’ll guarantee to remember each and every detail.

For example, here’s a checklist you might use when writing a blog post:

A Blog Post Checklist

□ Compelling headline
□ Correct word count
□ Does it stay on topic?
□ Image
□ Call-to-Action (CTA)
□ Scannable content

You can create these types of checklists for any process you regularly do at your business. If you regularly ship goods to customers, you can create checklists to make sure that everything that needs to go in the box gets in there. These checklists will free up your time, minimizing your mistakes and helping you streamline your processes.

Lay Down for a Short Winter Nap

This isn’t too good to be true. Putting your feet up on your desk and letting out a few snores is good for your productivity. A good nap can improve your memory, give you a new start, and ultimately boost your productivity. Some companies, such as Google, Apple, and Huffington Post, have built napping right into their benefits. Ariana Huffington often talks about the nap rooms in their offices, which employees can book at will. According to Lifehacker, a quick 15 to 20 minute nap between 1:00 and 3:00 pm is the best type of power nap.

The best time for your nap depends on when you wake up in the morning. Lifehacker pointed me to this amazing nap wheel which can show you when your optimal time is:

Screen Shot 2014-12-29 at 8.24.55 AM

Find the Culprits

What are the demons lurking in your monitor that are preventing productivity? Is it hours on Facebook, hilarious Gchat convos, or a certain distracting project? If you can identify what is hampering your productivity, you’ll be better equipped to battle it and get back to work.

If you’re distracted by friends, family, and socializing:

  • Start saying no. As a born socializer, I know it’s hard, but it’s impossible to get stuff done if you’re out for a long lunch every day of the week.

  • Find extrinsic motivation. If you rely on other people to get you going, then loop them in to the fold. Ask them to keep you to your deadline, or help you brainstorm.

If you’re distracted by social media or online outlets:

  • Get some apps. Apps like Stayfocusd and Leechblock limit the amount of time you can spend on distracting websites like Facebook and Buzzfeed.

If you’re distracted by another project:

  • Make a classic to-do list. If there’s a big project looming over you or a million small tasks (like sending out Tweets) that are hampering your productivity, start making daily to-do lists. If you’re better at scheduling your time and noting what needs to get done in a certain day, you’re more likely to power through your tasks.

Say “I Don’t”

I pride myself in being the type of person who always says yes. Want to get ice cream? I say yes. Want to jump the fence? I say yes. Want to play instead of work? You can see where this is going.

Even though saying yes is polite, genial, and just plain fun, you have to say no in order to be your most productive self. Sometimes that means saying no to friends and family, but other times it means saying no to business-related endeavors. For example, if a company wants to partner with you, that’s great, but not if the time it takes to make the partnership work will cut into your other tasks.

Say “Aw” to Some Baby Animal Photos

This one’s my favorite on the list. Believe it or not, looking at cute photos of puppies, kittens, and other baby animals not only make you “ooo” and “ahhh” but can also make you more productive.

I can’t make it up. Researchers at Hiroshima University in Japan conducted a study where they showed students pics of baby animals, then asked them to complete tasks. They found that those who had looked at the baby animal photos were better able to complete the tasks than those who didn’t. Even when compared with those who saw a picture of delicious food or a full grown animal, these people did better.

Screen Shot 2014-12-29 at 8.27.49 AM

Crazy, right? But if looking at a few photos can chill me out and get more work done, then I’m on board.

If you’re looking for baby animals online, check out the Cute Emergency Twitter feed.

Delete the Apps

There are so many blog posts on productivity that list app after app. They say this app can rearrange your calendar and that app can help you prioritize your time. Technology has helped us in many ways, but in this case, going app-less might be the best solution.

I’m not saying you should throw organization to the wind and fly by the seat of your pants. Instead, I recommend using some tried-and-true classic tactics.

Instead of a fancy productivity app, try:

  • A paper calendar (hung up or on your desk)

  • A series of checklists

  • A classic to-do list (my mom keeps a giant one on her refridgerator)

  • A blackboard or whiteboard with ideas

  • A shared online calendar

  • A stack of post-it notes on your desk

  • A go-to notebook or legal pad

Do What Works for You

I’m weary of catch-all solutions that promise the masses a perfect solution. All of our brains work differently. What makes me productive might be terrible for you, and vice versa. I recommend trying out a number of different tactics to see what makes you blast through your tasks at lightning speed. Maybe it’s a giant refrigerator to-do list, or maybe you just need a nap. Either way, it’s most important to find a solution that works for you and your business.

About the Author: Emma Siemasko is a business writer and a content marketer at Grasshopper. She loves writing about startups, small business, marketing, and productivity. To connect with Emma, find her on Twitter @EmmaFayeS or visit her on the web:

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