As a financial professional, your level of productivity has a huge impact on your success. When you can effectively prioritise your daily workload, you’ll get more done and feel more in control of your time. You’re also more likely to complete tasks to a higher standard as you’ll avoid the last-minute rush of trying to meet deadlines which often leads to below par work.
Like any skill, productivity can be mastered, even if it’s something you really struggle with. With a little effort and a few small but significant changes to your habits and mindset, you can stop wasting time and start making the most of every minute.
So, whether you’re already in a leadership position and need to squeeze more into your day or are looking to take the next step in your career by impressing management with your star performance, read on to learn some smart ways to boost your productivity at work.
1. Find the Tools That Work for You
When it comes to managing your time, there are lots of tools and techniques that can help you stay on track. Find out which methods help you to get the job done more efficiently and utilise them. Do you work best when you have your day mapped out in your diary, and a to-do list stuck on your monitor? Or do you prefer the flexibility and notifications of online project management and productivity tools?
Once you discover which tools work best, use them wisely to gain the maximum benefit. If you prefer writing things down, make sure your diary, notebooks and sticky notes are organised, close at hand and suited to the task. If you’re more digitally inclined, find a tool that has the right look and functionality so that you can quickly and easily enter and edit tasks, and set reminders as you go. Whether you choose paper and pen, digital tools or a combination of the two, make sure it’s saving you time and not creating more work.
2. Be Honest About Your Weaknesses
If you’re serious about boosting your productivity levels, you need to be honest about your weak spots. Are you constantly losing things in your cluttered workspace and is this slowing you down? Or do you have a tendency to get caught up checking emails when you really should be working on something else?
It’s easy to get distracted, so whatever your roadblocks to productivity may be, identify them and find a way to turn it around. Organise and declutter your desk so you can always find what you need and schedule set times in your day to check your emails and stick to it. Just a few small changes and improvements to your habits can make a world of difference to your daily output.
3. Identify When Your Focus Is at Its Peak
We all have certain times during the day when our productivity levels are naturally higher. Maybe you’re freshest first thing in the morning with a hot cuppa in hand, or maybe you hit your peak mid-morning after your second cup. There will also be times when everything seems just that little bit harder. For you, this could be around 3pm when the mid-afternoon slump hits or perhaps the last long hour of your working day.
Take note of the times of day you feel focused and energised and schedule your more challenging tasks to make the most of it. On the flip side, identify when you’re not operating at your peak and use that time to complete tasks that require less focus. Tackling difficult jobs when you’re switched on is far more efficient than struggling with them when you’re in a lull.
4. Make Time for Quiet
If you’re like most people, you’re constantly surrounded by noise of some kind or another for most (if not all) of your day. From the sound of traffic and music playing during your daily commute, to the hum of the air-conditioner and chatter of workmates in the office, silence has become incredibly hard to come by.
However, recent studies show that silence can be beneficial to our physical and mental health. It can help us relax and recharge and may even stimulate the growth of new cells in the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain linked to learning and memory. So, whether you meditate in a quiet room or take a walk outside in nature, seeking out silence regularly can be a great way to clear your mind and sharpen your focus.
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Say No
While being a team player is admirable, when you say yes to helping out with every task and project that comes your way it’s sure to have a negative impact on your productivity levels. There’s no doubt that saying no can be difficult at times. But being honest with yourself and your co-workers about your ability to take on more work is far better in the long run than over-committing and letting yourself and others down.
If you have an aversion to saying no, it can help to set yourself some clear boundaries. Take a moment every Monday to map out your workload and priorities for the week, so you can see at a glance if you have room in your day to squeeze in more. If you do need to decline a request, make sure you let your colleagues know you appreciate the offer and would be happy to help if you weren’t already snowed under.
6. Listen to music that boosts Productivity
These days, many organisations give their employees the option to listen to music while they work. However, while for some music can be a great productivity booster, for others it can be distracting. Your response to music at work looks to be closely related to your personality type. Extroverts often report feeling energised and switched on when they’re enjoying tunes in the workplace, while introverts can find the added noise over-stimulating.
During a month-long experiment in 2017, Chris Bailey listened to different styles of music and logged how it affected his focus, energy and motivation. He found that music that was minimal and familiar was helpful while working on simple tasks, but when completing work that required serious concentration, listening to any type of music was distracting. So, if you’re feeling flat and have things to do that are not too challenging, playing some of your favourite tracks may just give you the boost you need to power through.
7. Don't let bad decisions slow you down
As group decision-making becomes more common in the increasingly collaborative corporate environment, it’s vital that you and your team have an effective process in place to ensure good decisions are made. If not, you may be making bad decisions on a regular basis and it will hamper the productivity levels of everyone.
The best way to avoid bad group decisions is to cultivate an open and respectful workplace where everyone feels safe and comfortable to speak their mind. Be on the lookout for signs of consensus creeping in, for while on the surface it can seem like a good thing when decisions are made easily and everyone agrees, it inevitably leads to poor and risky choices that waste valuable time and resources.
By encouraging everyone on your team to be open and honest, even if their ideas are a little different, unexpected or unpopular, you get the benefit of hearing a wide range of views. And when spirited discussions are the norm, questions are asked and ideas are challenged, innovation is born and better decisions are made.
8. Learn from Women in Flexible Part-Time Roles
If you had to take a guess at who the most productive group of people in the workplace are, it’s unlikely women in flexible part-time roles would top your list. But according to a recent survey from Ernst & Young, they waste only 11 percent of their daily work time, compared to the 14 percent of work time wasted by everyone else.
This group is largely made up of working mothers, who are often caught in an ongoing struggle to find work-life balance. The increased need for effective time-management and multi-tasking both at home and at work, and the lack of working hours to get the job done, make it necessary for them to be highly productive.
To full-time employees, working mothers who leave early or take time off to meet the needs of their family can appear to be at the opposite end of the productivity scale. However, many working parents make up for the time at home after hours when the kids are in bed. So, if you’re looking for tips and motivation to increase your productivity, talking to a working mother may give you the inspiration you need.
9. Reflect on What You’ve Learned
When you have a hectic workload and are trying to be productive, cutting your workday short is probably the last thing on your mind. However, a Harvard Business Study has shown that stopping work 15 minutes early and using the time to reflect on the lessons you’ve learned from the day can increase productivity by over 20 percent.
In the study, employees were split into two groups, with one reflecting for 15 minutes at the end of the day while the other worked through. After doing it for 10 days, the group who reflected showed impressive increases in performance and productivity, with their levels still noticeably higher a month later.
Putting your learning into words improves your understanding and increases your self-belief. So why not pick up a journal, set yourself a recurring timer and try it for yourself. You may find it hard at first to put the things you’ve learned each day into words, but it will get easier after a couple of attempts. If 15 minutes seems too long, try it for a shorter time instead, as even 5 minutes a day spent reflecting can be beneficial. It’s a simple habit that can yield impressive results.
With A Little Effort and Focus, Your Productivity Can Skyrocket
The benefits of being highly productive are clear – you’ll achieve more in less time. You’re also more likely to complete your work to a higher standard when you’re no longer chasing your tail. In addition, feeling in control of your time and having a handle on your workload is bound to improve your mood and lower your stress levels too.
So, seek out the right tools, identify and rectify your bad habits and commit to making the positive changes required to enable you to make the best use of your time. Once you do, you’re sure to see a spike in your daily output and experience an increased level of success.
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