How to make productivity your strength at work

CAREER ADVICE   |   3 minutes  |   December 5, 2016

Did you wake up for work today thinking this would be the day your time management wouldn’t get the better of you? Maybe you had grand plans to reach the end of your task list, or even start organising a new strategy for the next quarter.

Chances are that things haven’t kicked off quite so smoothly.

As you start a process of prioritisation and project reorganisation, you get a reminder for a meeting starting in 10 minutes – one that you should have prepared for, but now realise you haven’t. During that meeting, you receive feedback on a task you considered complete, which now has to be re-opened and overhauled.

You’re already on the back foot.

No matter how hard you try, you can’t seem to get ahead for the rest of the day and your productivity levels take a dip. Looks like you’ll be taking your laptop home with you – again.

When it comes to office organisation, productivity and time management, does any of this sound at least slightly familiar to you?

Deadlines, busy schedules and stress form a large part of our daily routines. By taking a moment to manage your mind and your time, you can start to become more efficient with the tools you use, the habits you nurture and the actions you take to achieve your priorities.

Here’s how to do just that:

1. Plan out your productivity  

Every time you receive any sort of meeting request, idea or task, write it down immediately.
When you take notes, something happens: you create spatial relations between the various bits of information you’re recording. This is because spatial tasks are handled by another part of the brain, and the act of linking the verbal information with the spatial relationship seems to filter out the less relevant or important information.”1

Prefer to go paperless? Use an app on your phone or computer, like Evernote.

Either way, you’ll always have a reliable resource to refer back to and can ensure your spreadsheets, supply orders or presentations are always up to date with no surprises to hinder your productivity.

2. Empty your mind to find focus 

Ever heard of the Zeigarnik effect?

Inspired after observing waiters, Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik was struck with their ability to only remember the details of orders before they had been served. Once completed, the details disappeared from their memory.2

His theory?

The act of completing a task and crossing off items on a to-do list frees up our brain to focus on other things.

By creating a task list of everything that’s jostling for your attention at the beginning of the day, you’ll simplify your commitments and make a world of difference to your concentration and productivity.

From an agenda you need to action and a client meeting schedule you need to sync with, to something as menial as an article you need to read, reducing your demands to simple requests makes your day feel more structured and your goals more achievable.

3. Prioritise between your urgent and important 

The Eisenhower Principle recognises how great time management means being both effective and efficient.3 By learning that not all tasks are created equally, you will have the ability to organise your workload and priorities.

You will be able to divide time between important and urgent tasks and ensure your goals are met and maintained more frequently.

4. Make a tomorrow folder 

Do you plan ahead to identify what you could do today to make tomorrow easier?

Lorie Marrero, creator of a website that helps with home organisation, describes how, “Using a two-person mind-set — present self and future self — can help you stay organised.”

 Project yourself into the future to benefit your present self by:

– Creating a place where you store work that must be actioned tomorrow
– Setting a reminder on your phone or using an organisation app like

5. Structure your time 

Guy Winch – a psychologist, TED speaker, and author – notes that our brains have a finite capacity for attention and productivity.4 When under pressure and faced with a large quantity of work, what is your strategy? Attempting to do everything at once to try and get ahead should not be your answer.

Your productivity will be affected by task-switching — a negative form of multi-tasking.

Adopt these habits and make a choice to be more organised every day. Create a clear space for your decision making and successful work-flow achievements, and leave yourself some time to invest in your interests or your professional pursuits.

Want access to more advice on how you can embrace efficiency?

 Find all the guidance you need to become a productive professional below.