5 Hyper-Productive Things to Do at Work Today
Practical ways to turn around an unproductive day.
Posted April 20, 2018
Workdays often involve endless emails or meetings that seem like they achieve very little. These experiences can be demoralizing to the point that it's hard to motivate yourself to get onto productive activities when you do get the opportunity. Here are some quick suggestions for how you can turn around an otherwise unproductive day.
1. Fix a tiny, but draining, recurring problem.
Tiny problems often linger unaddressed because they never seem important enough to solve. Here's an example: I have my mailing address saved in my web browser so that it will auto-fill when I need to enter my details online. The problem is that the browser had saved several incorrect versions. Every time it auto-filled, I needed to manually edit the address so it was correct. This is the type of problem that only takes moments to fix but can easily go unaddressed for months.
Why use this tip: Solving simple problems will give you a boost of energy and self-efficacy, as well as reducing unnecessary drains on your time and interruptions to your flow.
2. Google how to do something.
Take a few minutes to search Google or YouTube for something you'd like to know how to do that's related to your work. For example, a skill for working with spreadsheets.
Why use this tip: If you choose something that's relevant to your current work, you'll get an immediate payoff. You'll also get a long-term payoff where you gradually learn more and more skills that build on each other.
3. Do something you've been wanting to do for months.
Wanting to take action but never getting around to it can really depress your motivation. Identify an activity that'll take an hour or less where you think "If I all get done today is...., I'll be happy."
Utilizing this suggestion could involve starting an activity or completing an unfinished project.
Why use this tip: This is probably the most important tip of all the ideas in this article. However, sometimes you might need to try some of the other suggestions to boost your energy enough that doing an activity you've dragged your heels on feels achievable. Finally getting around to doing something will give you a big mood boost and help you see how you can still have a productive day even when a large chunk of the day has been spent on marginally productive meetings or emails.
4. Reach out to a connection you've lost touch with or a missed connection.
Colleagues are valuable. However, it's easy to lose touch with connections, or let a potential connection escape you. For example, you worked with someone on a project a few months ago and meant to add them on LinkedIn and Twitter but never got around to it. Try doing that now. Write them a quick note. Ideally, convey how you and your connection could be useful to each other in the future.
Why use this tip: Many of us feel social anxiety about reaching out to others. The more you do this, the easier it'll become, plus doing something that feels difficult will provide instant feelings of accomplishment.
5. Improve your workflow.
When we're busy, we often don't step back and look at how we could optimize our workflow. Or, we know how we could improve it but don't get a chance to implement our ideas. In other words, you're too busy chasing cows to build a fence. Improving your workflow could be as simple as putting a webpage on your bookmarks bar rather than manually navigating to it each time. Or, perhaps you have formulas or instructions you need to refer to regularly and it currently takes you a few minutes to find them each time. You can also consider your physical space. For example, how can you put tools you use regularly in easier reach?
Why use this tip: This suggestion will stretch your problem-solving muscles and boost your feelings of competence, as well as saving you time and energy going forward.
It's never pleasant to feel like a whole day has been a waste. Undertaking even one hyper-productive activity can help you feel much better about what you've accomplished, and more motivated and in control. Try your favorite idea from this article or use my ideas to jumpstart your own thinking.