Advice on how to maximize productivity is seemingly endless – from avoiding multitasking and kicking that coffee addiction, to optimizing your sleep pattern. What works for one person isn’t a fit for everyone. Looking for ways to ramp up your productivity? We’re no gurus, but at least we can share what’s working for each of us! And don’t worry, none of these tips involve waking up at 5 AM. Here are some tried-and-tested workplace productivity hacks from the Spoke team.
One of the most enduring myths around productivity is that being busy is the same as being productive. But this isn’t the case. Often, the tasks that keep us busy are in fact distracting us from deep work.
Scheduling is key to avoiding the busyness trap. Jack makes sure to block off time for focused work in his calendar, so his schedule doesn’t get filled up with meetings or other tasks.
“This time block might move around, but the fact that I have it in my calendar helps a lot. I also schedule recurring events for things like preparing user stories, so I've always got time to work on this. I'm excited to go one step further with the if-it-isn’t-scheduled-it-isn’t-happening philosophy when Amie.so launches!”
When you need to focus, it doesn’t work if you’re being distracted by notifications every 30 seconds. Preventing interruptions helps you to focus on deep work. For Kaili, that means turning off mobile and desktop notifications to avoid interruption when working on a task that requires more creative flow.
Meetings have taken over the workplace. Organizations now spend 15% of their time in meetings, and most of these meetings aren’t even productive. But a little bit of preparation goes a long way. Here’s how Gráinne does it:
“For every meeting I set up, I make sure I can articulate all the questions I am hoping to have answered. I don't leave that meeting until I have either clear answers or next steps to get those answers.”
Carl finds that having predefined objectives for each meeting not only makes them more productive, but more enjoyable too. “Providing an outcome-focused structure leaves more room for social interaction, and will significantly reduce your own frustration with wasting time in unproductive, impersonal meetings.”
Multitasking has a bad reputation, and an unfair one too. Often multitasking is confused with the productivity-harming practice of task switching – hopping between projects and to dos. One way to minimize time wasted on task switching is to choose your tools wisely.
The list of tools that support productivity, internal communication, and project management keeps growing longer. Swapping between apps and checking notifications across different channels disrupts focus and eats into our time: 68% of people reported spending 30 minutes each day switching between apps.
Max suggests using email only for external communication, such as with partners or suppliers. Instant messaging is simpler for internal communications (at Spoke we use Slack). And choose specialized tools for specific workflows – like Figma for design and Notion for documentation.
While you don’t want to fill your day with minor tasks, it can be motivating to cross off a few low-priority to dos before moving on to more complex topics.
“When I have a large to-do list and am feeling a little overwhelmed I like to tackle a few of the smaller items as it gives me a positive feeling and I feel more confident about taking on the rest of the list.” Gráinne.
Max uses the 2-minute rule to stay on top of his email inbox. This means responding immediately to any emails that will take 2 minutes or less to answer – and the rule applies to other topics too. The mental weight of simple tasks can pile up, sometimes becoming more stressful than important projects. So if it won’t take long, get it done.
But remember to consider the scope of a topic or question before ambushing a team member with it.
“Can your query be resolved in under two minutes with a quick answer? Go ahead! But if it’s a broader issue with different contingencies and follow-ups to be discussed, schedule a block in the calendar to approach the topic in a more focused setting.” Carl.
Focus on topics that bring you joy and you’ll not only be happier, but more productive. Research carried out at the University of Warwick found that happy people are 12% more productive at work, compared with those who reported lower levels of satisfaction.
So make time for tasks you enjoy to boost your productivity. For Gráinne, this means data visualizations. “Working on them makes my brain happy, and I reserve time each week to make a visualization of some Spoke data.”
The early bird gets the worm – except if you’re a night owl. Everyone has an internal body clock (or circadian rhythm) which dictates the times of day when we feel more awake and switched on. Knowing your own rhythm means you can adjust your schedule to complete focused work when you’re feeling most alert.
Workplace productivity is personal, so find what works for you – whether it’s trying out the pomodoro technique, planning around your circadian rhythm, or investing in some noise-canceling headphones.