Workplace productivity is hard to come by these days, but it’s not hard to see why that’s the case. We live in an age of competing priorities: an age when we’re faced with both tougher demands and more distractions at the same time. It gets more difficult if you’re a manager, let alone if you’re in HR. In terms of getting more done, you have to be ahead of the pack, all while minding how everyone else is doing.
But the thing with productivity is it’s non-negotiable, at least for us in the corporate world. If your business is aiming for greatness, the Harvard Business Review recommends that it should obsess over getting more work done, that it should focus on outputs. The good news is achieving maximum productivity isn’t rocket science. It’s something that a lot of mobile apps, well-meaning connections, and accessible literature can help you with.
We’ve gathered the best productivity hacks from various books, research studies, and online magazines that an HR leader like you can apply in your day-to-day hustle. Here are eight smart ways to tick more items in your seemingly never-ending to-do list.
Stick to a schedule for checking and replying to emails
A research study from the University of British Columbia shows that limiting your use of work emails can significantly reduce stress as well as do a lot to improve your well-being and perceived productivity.
The seemingly harmless habits of checking and replying to emails from time to time actually consumes a huge chunk of your workday. They leave you too drained to jump onto other tasks. To avoid getting worked up over frequent inbox notifications, it’s best to dedicate a specific part of your day just for emails. Block an hour or two — three if you must — but don’t let emails take over your calendar. As this article from Entrepreneur says: “Email will own you unless you own it.”
Group similar tasks and accomplish them one after another (if possible)
Shifting from recruitment to strategic-planning mode can be both tough and taxing. It ruins your momentum — the time that it takes for you to be in the ideal disposition to do a particular task. It also makes us susceptible to interruptions. According to a study by the University of California Irvine, it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for us to regain our focus after we’re forced to ditch it. Putting similar activities in the same block of time, if you can, solves the difficulty of shifting work gears and can help you make the most of a mood.
Follow the Two Minute Rule
In his book Getting Things Done, David Allen comes up with a quick guideline for improving your productivity: The Two Minute Rule. The rule simply states that if a task takes less than two minutes to compete, you must do it right away. Hit the ground running. Immediately.
Working in HR means having to field through a lot of small and easy administrative tasks. Applying the Two Minute Rule will help you cross those tasks out of your list in an instant, without overthinking whether you should do so or not.
Audit the time you spend on meetings
A lot of meetings don’t really have to last for 30 minutes or one hour, but because we’re used to seeing them that long, we tend to book or join them by default. Many business leaders agree that, for you to be able to do more, you must reflect upon the time you spend on meetings. Audit your appointments. Make sure they’re still relevant and necessary.
Someone worth emulating: Fidji Simo, Facebook’s VP of Product, reviews her meetings regularly to make sure that all of them will take up only a reasonable amount of her time, and that all of them perfectly match her objectives. She also checks up on recurring meetings that have outlasted their usefulness, those that no longer serve the purpose for which they were created.
Make your to-do list more doable with the 1-3-5 Rule
Going after maximum productivity doesn’t have to mean keeping a lot of items in your to-do list. If you find yourself drowning in tasks without being able to accomplish anything, try adopting the 1-3-5 Rule.
The 1-3-5 Rule says that, on any given day, you should plan to accomplish one big task, three things that require just your average amount of effort, and five small and easy-to-do deliverables. It’s similar to a lot of productivity frameworks out there, but the idea behind them proves to be the same: Organize your priorities. Make your to-do list more realistic and doable.
Keep plants in the office
A study by the University of Exeter shows that employees working in “green offices” are happier and are 15% more productive than their contemporaries in workspaces that are stripped of plants. Greenery, as it turns out, “increases employees’ work engagement by making them more physically, cognitively, and emotionally involved in their work.” This, according to the study, holds true particularly in companies that have embraced modern and “lean” management techniques.
Mind the temperature
In a study conducted by Cornell University, lower temperatures (i.e. 68 degrees Fahrenheit and below) in offices resulted in employees making more errors and becoming 50% less productive than those who are in warmer working environments. These findings are backed up by science. We use more of our reserved energy to warm ourselves up when it’s cold, affecting our ability to focus and finish tasks.
The message is pretty straightforward: Your physical environment greatly affects your productivity. You can accomplish more in a place where working conditions are effectively monitored and regulated.
Briefly sign in on Sundays
Working on a Sunday may be a downright drag for many, but if you’re the type who is easily overwhelmed by weekend backlogs and Monday pile-ups, checking the things you have to accomplish for the week and making quick preparations on a Sunday — even for an hour or two — can help you a lot. It allows you to plunge into your workweek with ease and even get a head start over your colleagues and teammates.
Along with the automation of repetitive HR tasks — which is now being accepted as more of a necessity than a luxury even by startup companies — the hacks above can be your long-awaited ticket to maximum productivity. The ability to do more is no longer just a circumstance. It is a choice. One that you can make for your company’s and career’s sake.