By Hilary Sheinbaum
Coffee. A to-do list. A well-lit space. These are three non-negotiables when I’m looking to be my most focused and productive during the work week. But, while I’m (mostly) someone who stays on task, I will be the first to admit that sometimes distractions (ahem, Instagram…) get in the way of having the most constructive day. (No one’s perfect, right?)
In any case — regardless of our career paths, job titles, and daily responsibilities — we all could be a little bit more efficient at work. Thankfully, there are tried and true ways to stay on task (as long as you execute them).
Read on for five hot tips from Laura Mae Martin, Google’s Executive Productivity Advisor. Her recommendations are going to inspire changes, for the better. (Thank us later, after your next promotion.)
“Make a list of the times throughout the day and week when you feel most energized and focused,” says Laura.
“These are ‘peak times,’ and likely when you’re going to be the most productive.”
Laura recommends reserving peak times for activities that are analytical, strategic, or require deep focus and avoiding meetings or distracting activities. “I use Google Keep to stay on top of each of my lists,” she says. “It’s easy to look at different lists from my peak times to do’s to admin and more. It’s gratifying to check them off as I get through each task.”
We’re afraid to ask… How many Zoom meetings do you have on your calendar right now? “Before scheduling a meeting, ask yourself if you can easily achieve the same objectives with an email, shared document, or casual chat,” says Laura. “I’ve never met anyone who wished they were in more meetings!”
Laura also suggests that if you must meet online or IRL, schedule a shorter amount of time than you think is required. “According to Parkinson’s Law, ‘work expands to the allotted time,’ meaning if you put 30 minutes on the calendar for a meeting, you and your colleagues will feel like you have to use all of that time even if you’re done within 20 minutes,” she says. Her final tip on get-togethers: be sure to send an agenda to keep the meeting on track once it kicks off.
“Getting through email is one of the most daunting tasks of any job, and everyone’s experienced the pile-up problem,” Laura says.
“Respond to emails that require your input within 24 hours — even if it’s just to say ‘I can’t get to this right now, but I will by the end of the week.’”
Wait… is this an excuse to daydream? “We spend a lot of our time at work getting things done, or ‘closing loops.’ But, it’s important to make time to just think and brainstorm, to come up with new ideas.” says Laura. She sets up reminders throughout the week when she knows she’ll have some downtime to think through creative ideas.
In pandemic times, this tip is of the utmost importance. “Your hotspot is the place you usually work,” explains Laura. “Consistently working in the same place causes the sights, smells, and sounds of the spot to become associated in your brain with ‘thinking about work,’ and you easily slip into ‘work mode’ when you’re there,” Laura says. “Your not spot is a place where you never work or think about work. This allows your brain to easily slip into ‘relax mode’ in that spot. Treat your work at home like a guest.”
With that, we’re ready to have our most productive week yet!