50 Best Productivity Tips | HomeOfficeHQ
The following productivity tips can help you accomplish more in the small 24-hour window period we have each day, minus the 7-8 hours we spend sleeping. Who doesn’t want to be more productive with the time they have? I know I do! The following productivity tips have helped me accomplish more and I’m excited to share them with you.
The Top 50 Productivity Tips
Experts in a variety of fields have their own secrets to getting more done. Here are the 50 best productivity tips out there!
One: Eliminate the Attention Residue Factor.
CEO Time Management Guide Mike Salomon of Sherpa Performance [https://sherpapg.com] works with Fortune 500 CEOs, some of the most time-challenged people in the world. His productivity tips apply to us all:
Only check your email 3-4 times a day. Researchers have found that when you check email, you distract yourself and hurt your productivity. Checking email, answering a phone call, or getting distracted, leads to an effect called Attention Residue, which has to do with switching tasks.
Let’s say your mind is working on a task (like writing a proposal, or an article. You glance over for two seconds to see if you have new email. There is an email from a client asking for a date regarding an estimation for a new project. Although you go back to your task, part of your brain is already working on a response to that new email. You think you’re focused on your original task, but researchers have clocked the length of time before you are fully focused on your original task (both in the lab and in the workplace), is an average of 23 min and 14 seconds to a full 25 minutes!
Related: Best Home Office Chair
Sophie Leroy, a business professor and attention researcher at the University of Minnesota, coined the term “attention residue,” in 2009. She found that the higher up the corporate chain we go, the more likely we are to work on multiple projects at once, but only to the detriment of the quality of the work. Leroy says, “people experiencing attention residue after switching tasks are likely to demonstrate poor performance on that next task.”
The average worker checks email 11 times an hour, 77 times a day, and responds within 6.11 min. Reset your client’s and colleague’s expectations to your new response time by adding something to your email signature like, “To improve my productivity and ability to focus, I only check email 3 times a day. My first check is at 10 am PST. If you have anything time-sensitive, please don’t hesitate to call or text me at 619-777-5555. Put it in red, or any stand-out color, so people won’t miss it!
Two: Never Check Email in the Morning
If you check email as you get up, your mind will get distracted from the key events you planned for the day. Your mind will start up on “reactive” mode. Most people are at their cognitive best and able to focus first thing in the morning. That time should be spent on what Cal Newport calls “Deep Work” or cognitively demanding tasks. According to this productivity tip, you should use your less cognitively sharp times of the day for less demanding tasks.
Three: Avoid to-do Lists. They are the Enemy of Productivity.
In spite of all we’ve been told, to-do lists are the enemy of productivity. Our brains are hardwired to crave a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. For instance, have you ever added something you just did to your to-do list so you’d get that quick feeling of satisfaction? You’re not alone. Our brains love checking things off lists. So, instead of creating a to-do list, create a “next step list.”
Instead of listing a project, like “Paint the bedroom,” on a list, list the next, “doable in 15 min,” step of the project. For instance, “Buy painting supplies.” Your next step might then be, “Cover the furniture,” or “Move furniture out of the bedroom.” By listing the steps of the project rather than the project itself, we satisfy our brain’s craving for reward. This helps us stay motivated and on task. If you’re creating a list for work, do the same thing – break your project into tasks that take no more than 10-15 minutes each. You can still list the project name in parenthesis if you want. If you want to take the next step beyond a smile to-do list, then create three lists:
- Tasks List (which the “Next Action” of each project listed)
- Projects Inventory (an inventory of all your projects)
- Waiting On list. Here you list all the thing you are waiting on, which may include, “Waiting on someone to return an email, waiting on someone to finish something you asked of them (or delegated to them), or waiting on an item you are expecting to arrive in the mail, or on an item to be done when the situation is right (e.g. frame the photo can only be done when you get the print in the mail), or when you’re in the right location, like reading a business book on your next business flight.
These productivity tips are backup by scientific studies. To learn more, go to the FAQ section of www.sherpapg.com.
Four: Manage Your Mail, Don’t Let it Manage You
Don Long, President, and owner of Long Brothers Landscaping in Raleigh, North Carolina, http://www.longbrotherslandscaping.com has been in business for more than three decades. He attributes his success to several things, including managing mail.
“Don’t open any mail, emails or physical mail, unless you have time to deal with it immediately, usually two to four minutes per email or mail,” he said. Setting aside time just to open and deal with mail is one way to ensure you aren’t wasting time.
Five: Change the Subject.
If you’re responding to an email, change the subject line to address the issue in the email itself so it’s easier to search. Don’t just keep replying to a thread with the same topic. This may take a few seconds more, but it will pay off in the long run. Include a date or keyword in the subject line, or whatever works for you. It’s easier to scan or search a subject line than to open or search the body of a dozen emails with similar content. This keeps important emails from getting lost.
Keep it simple, silly. Another productivity tip is to keep your emails as short as a text message, or tweet. Get to the point quickly and let the recipient know exactly what you want, need, or are writing about. Instead of rambling on about something, state the issue, and be clear what you expect the recipient to do after reading the email. For instance:
- Problem: I just received a call that the shipment of widgets is going to be two weeks late. We need them today.
- Solution: I have an alternative supplier who is more expensive, but who can supply us with widgets today.
- Request: I need your approval to order them, do I have it?”
Seven: Schedule Time for Employees to Meet with You
An open door policy is great, but it can be a time waster. Have set times employees can come to you with non-urgent issues. This lets them know they’re able to address issues, but only at specific times. They’re more likely to be prepared and you won’t have to stop what you’re doing to address an issue. Be clear about what issues should be addressed immediately, and what can wait. Try to talk with every employee at least once a week to make sure they are addressing any productivity issues as well.
Eight: Create, Communicate, and Enforce Boundaries
It may not seem like boundaries have anything to do with productivity tips, but they do. Learn to say “No,” to requests that will distract you from the task at hand. Don’t be afraid to put a “Do Not Disturb,” sign on your door, or shut off your phone. Let people know you’re serious about not being interrupted during designated times. This includes family and friends. A good place to notify people of your schedule is in your email signature. A simple, “I only respond to emails three times a day, at 10 a.m. 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.” Or, “If you need my attention for more than 10 minutes, let’s schedule a time to meet.” Anything to let others know you value your time and expect them to as well, will work.
Nine: The Third Space – Rest, Reflect and Reset.
That’s right. This productivity tip is all about rest. You don’t have to go full-tilt boogie to be productive. In fact, resting between each activity will help you be more productive. This can be a short five-minute reset where you stop, take a walk around the office or a water break, or just sit back and breathe. This what performance researcher and consultant Adam Fraser calls our “third space.” The third space is a mindfulness and self-awareness technique that helps us to decompress in a matter of minutes.
Related: Best Office Chair for Back Support
Take a moment, no matter how brief, to stop collaborate and listen to yourself between tasks. Reflect on what you’ve just done, then reset and move on to the next thing. “This is where we have a moment of stillness to focus, become present and prepare ourselves for the next space,” Fraser says. “This may only last two seconds as you duck between meetings or a couple of hours as you read a book in the backyard. No matter how long it lasts, rest is essential.”
Ten: Eat the Frog First.
Mark Twain once said that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worse things that is going to happen to you all day long. In terms of productivity tips, however, your “frog” is your biggest, most important task, the one you are most likely to put off tackling if you think about it at all.
Eleven: Use Your Phone, But Not Your Voicemail
A simple, two-minute phone call can often resolve an issue faster than a series of texts or emails. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and make a call. It’s more human, more personal and faster than emails, says TrackMaven CEO Allen Gannett. Gannett wrote an article for Fast Company about his weeklong experiment of jumping on a phone call every time he’d otherwise fire off an email, saying he was surprised how much more productive a phone call could be. 
Twelve: Add Fun Stuff to Your Calendar
Work isn’t the only thing in life. Schedule fun stuff to do during your workday as well—yes, this is a productivity tip! This can be something as simple as stopping in your favorite coffee shop for a latte or going by the bakery to treat yourself to a pastry. Making time to call a friend or spouse, exercise, listen to music, workout, or grab a quick nap is as important as cranking out that next big project.
Thirteen: Take a Nap
Power naps, usually 6-30 minute naps between 1 and 4 p.m. actually increase productivity in a variety of ways, including:
- Enhance the ability to remember information.
- Improve mood and reduce stress (which impairs cognitive performance when left unchecked).
- Decrease the risk of making errors on the job.
- Increase mental alertness and reduce fatigue.
Take your naps at the same time every day when possible to train your body to fall asleep quickly. Most of us feel sleepy after lunch and in the afternoon as our bodies natural hormone levels drop. Don’t sleep longer than 30 minutes or you’re likely to experience “sleep inertia” — that unpleasant groggy feeling that takes a long time to shake off. Napping after 4:00 PM can disrupt your regular nighttime sleep.
A groundbreaking NASA study from 1995 looked at the beneficial effects of napping on 747 pilots. Each participant was allowed to nap for 40 minutes during the day, sleeping on average for 25.8 minutes (which is just about right). Nappers “demonstrated vigilance performance improvements from 16% in median reaction time to 34% in lapses compared to the No-Rest Group.”
Fourteen: Find an App for That
Evernote, Fantastical, Boomerang, Google Docs, Monday, whatever you do there’s an app to make it easier, faster, and more efficient. True, it can take a while to find that perfect app that doesn’t require hours of learning the ins and outs, but it’s worth it. Start by asking colleagues about their favorite apps, then experiment with each to see what works best for you. If you find yourself not using it, delete it.
The “Minimal Movement,” is wildly popular with homeowners and small apartment dwellers, but it works for offices too. Your workspace doesn’t have to be crammed with books, furniture, and stuff. To declutter is an important productivity tip! Clean, uncluttered, open space frees up your mind, your energy, and makes you more productive.
Sixteen: Clean Your Desk at the End of the Day
It’s true. A cluttered desk is often the sign of creativity, but it’s rarely the hallmark of productivity. For this productivity tip, clean off your desk at the end of every day so you start fresh the next morning. It’s okay to pile the next day’s project on a corner, or in your “in-box,” but it should be as organized and uncluttered as possible.
Seventeen: Avoid Personal Meetings When Possible
Meeting in person with someone can be incredibly rewarding and productive, or not. Not everything you do needs to be done face-to-face. Decide what can be best handled by phone, email, video call, or a text, and what needs to be done in person. After all, meeting in person involves commuting time.
Eighteen: Learn to Create, Love and Write Out Your Agendas
Agendas are simply one-page, or even one sentence declarations of what you want to accomplish during a phone call, meeting, or work session. When you have a call to make or a meeting to organize, create and write out an agenda regarding exactly what you hope to accomplish. Rather than say, “Talk to the staff about the bottleneck in manufacturing,” say, “Define and resolve the problem with the manufacturing bottleneck.”
Nineteen: Turn Off Your Phone
For this productivity tip, it’s time to turn your cell phone off. Whether it’s a cell phone or office phone, turn it off while you’re working. It can be a distraction. If you have children, certain clients, a boss, or other “must-have” access to someone, then set your phone to do-not-disturb. Only allow potentially critical calls to get through.
You don’t have to “do it all.” If and where you can, delegate chores, items, writing, or other things to someone else. If you work alone, or at home, hire someone from Fivver, Upwork, or other online sources to handle the things that can be handled. The increase in your productivity will pay for itself.
Twenty-One: Enforce the Two-Minute Rule
We love this productivity tip! Set aside time to deal with small demands on your time, then don’t handle mail or any task that will take longer than two minutes. If something will take longer than two minutes schedule it on your calendar like any other appointment.
Twenty-Two: Don’t Handle Any Paper More Than Once
This is one of the best productivity tips because we’ve all done it – looked at mail, memos, or requests and then set them aside to “deal with later.” To increase your productivity never handle any piece of paper more than once. If you have to schedule an hour or time to go through your mail, or messages, then do it.
Twenty-Three: Schedule Your Day
What we focus on is what gets done. The best way to focus is to schedule your day, making sure that the things you want to accomplish are on your calendar. When we schedule our time we focus our time. Spend time once a week to create a calendar of things you want to accomplish in the coming week.
Twenty-Four: Track Your Productivity
Productivity tip #24: What gets measured gets improved. No matter how many productivity tips you implement you won’t know if they’re working unless you measure them. This can be something as simple as a spread sheet or check marks on your calendar to see what you accomplished and when. Use apps like https://www.rescuetime.com/ or https://www.toggle.com to track your time online.
Twenty-Five: Take Care of Yourself
Productivity tips can only help so much without self-care. Self-care isn’t just about manicures, massages, and treats. It’s about regular medical check-ups, a healthy diet and exercise and getting enough sleep (7-9 hours a night). You can’t be productive when you’re sick, tired, stressed, or not able to properly metabolize your food for energy.
Twenty-Six: Find Your Sweet Spot
Are you a night owl or a morning person? Figure out when your best, sharpest, and most cognitively productive time of the day or night is, then do your most challenging and demanding work then. You may need to rearrange your schedule or change jobs, but it’s worth it if you can get more done. Schedule mindless tasks like cleaning your desk, running errands, lunch etc. for the times of day when you’re not at your sharpest.
Twenty-Seven: Reduce or Eliminate Your Time on Social Media
Who doesn’t love connecting on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest…you get the picture. Social media is fun, but it’s a huge time suck. Reduce or eliminate your time on it and have a purpose for getting on it. That purpose may be sharing photos of your kids, party, family, or work outing, but limit your time to what you can handle without cutting into work.
Twenty-Eight: Don’t Underestimate the 15-Minute Lull
Most of us find ourselves with 10-15 minutes in-between meetings, projects, or tasks and waste that time kicking back. Do that several times a day and you’ve wasted an hour. Keep a list of things you can do in 15-minutes, then do them. It might be reading an article, making a phone call, or a sales call, or speaking to an employee or co-worker about a project.
Twenty-Nine: Try the Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique is one of the more helpful productivity tips. This time management method uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. It’s simple, but powerful. Use a physical timer, not an app, but a real timer to keep you on track. Set it for 10, 15, or even 45-minute increments. When the bell goes off, take a 5-minute break, then reset your timer and get back to work.
Thirty: Don’t Try To Be Everything to Everybody
In his best-selling book, The Pumpkin Plan, author, speaker, and serial entrepreneur Mike Michalowicz urges business owners, entrepreneurs, and freelancers to focus on one thing – doing what they’re best at. “Find the thing you do best, fire the clients or customers that don’t help move you forward towards that thing, and focus on that. Don’t try to be all things to all people.” Don’t be a wandering generality, but a “meaningful specific.”
Thirty-One: Systematize Your Work Flow
If you don’t have routine or “work flow,” now is the time to develop one. Productivity tips are more beneficial when you have routines, systems, and schedules that don’t impede creativity, but instead, create it.
Thirty-Two: Don’t Waste Energy with Small Decisions
There’s a reason Mark Zuckerberg wears, and Steve Jobs wore the same outfit every day. It eliminates the energy sucking time of deciding what to wear, and it’s called “Decision Fatigue.”
Related: Best Office Chair Under $500
From deciding what to wear, what to eat, where to go for dinner, what movie to watch, it’s said the average person makes 35,000 decisions every day. To cut down on the brain power drain, simply cut down on the number of decisions you need to make. The most successful people in business have already figured this out. They simply wear, eat, and do the same thing each and every day.
Thirty-Three: Get Comfortable
The old joke about being more productive “working from home in your underwear or pajamas,” has some validity to it. We all work better when we’re comfortable, whether it’s our clothing, our environment, or the people we’re around. If you must wear a suit-and-tie, high heels, or business clothes, find ones that you feel comfortable in. If and where you can choose your desk, office chair, and surroundings, find ones that make you feel good.
Thirty-Four: Buy Some Plants for Your Office
It’s weird, but true. Live plants, the kind you have to water and care for, really do help your productivity. Researchers have found that having plants in your space can increase your productivity by up to 15%. They not only oxygenate the air, psychologists say, they help relax people, and provide a stress reducing break for those who care for the plants (watering etc.).
Thirty-Five: Be Realistic About What You Can Get Done in a Day
If you’re like most people, especially those climbing the corporate ladder, it’s easy to overestimate what you can get done in a day. Try to limit yourself to one-to-three big things, and three-to-five small things, or less, per day. Big things may be writing reports, a sales presentation, or a project that involves a lot of time. Small things might mean going to the grocery store on the way home, watching a movie, making a series of phone calls, or meeting a friend for lunch.
Thirty-Six: Check it Off
Whether you use an app, a whiteboard, a paper list, or a series of Post-It Notes or cards you can check off or toss when you complete a task, make sure to “check it off.” Checking off items on a list, no matter how small, releases dopamine, a “feel-good” hormone into our system. It not only makes us feel happy, but it keeps us motivated to do more and check off more items.
Thirty-Seven: Complete One Big Thing Before Lunch
This is one of the great pre-lunch productivity tips. Accomplish at least one big task before lunch. It not only sets the bar for the rest of your day, it relieves the stress of trying to “get ‘er done,” in the afternoon.
Thirty-Eight: Plan Your Week
Whether you sit down on a Friday, Saturday, or even Sunday afternoon, plan your upcoming week before Monday morning. Block out a time to schedule the things you want to get done the following week and what you’ll need to do, buy, or do to make sure they get done.
Thirty-Nine: Review Your Next Day the Night Before
Were you one of the lucky ones whose parents had you lay out your clothes, homework, and school projects the night before so you didn’t forget anything? Lucky you. Hopefully those habits stayed with you. If you didn’t learn those habits early, it’s not too late to do so now. Set aside at least 30 minutes a day to “prepare” for the next day. Preparation can be as simple as setting out what you want to wear, but it can include reviewing your calendar, looking over a presentation, thinking about what you want to accomplish, or reviewing your goals.
Say bye-bye to spam emails with this productivity tip. Once a quarter, or once a month go through your emails and unsubscribe from any service, blog, or website you’re not using. Archive all emails older than three months, and delete everything that you no longer need to deal with. Not only will this reduce the amount of email in your inbox, it will reduce your stress, and ensure you’re not letting important email slip through the cracks.
Forty-One: Limit Yourself to One Calendar or Planner
Many of us move back and forth among two or more calendars, apps, and physical planners. Pick one, or at the most two, planners and stick with it. It’s too easy to have something fall through the cracks when you’re juggling multiple calendar apps. If you have personal and professional or work events, color-code them on one calendar rather than have two separate calendars.
Forty-Two: Sync Your Technology
Phone, laptop, desktop, office computers, etc.; we all have multiple technical devices we access throughout the day. Where possible, sync the information on your devices, or use a cloud based system like Google Docs, Basecamp, etc., to ensure all the information you have is the latest, updated, and most accurate.
Forty-Three: Embrace Technology
For this productivity tip, learn to use the most common workplace apps, like Google Docs, Evernote, and whatever your industry turns to when collaborating. It’s not only embarrassing to tell colleagues, clients, and customers you don’t know how to attach a PDF or photo to email, or suggest changes to a document, but it’s a time waster for everyone. There are multiple, free tutorials on YouTube for everything from Word, to Google Docs, to Evernote. Take time to learn the basics, and then move onto the advanced features to boost your productivity.
Forty-Four: Never Be Afraid to Redirect a Conversation
It’s easy to go off on a rabbit-trail in meetings, conversations, and phone calls. Learn to say, “That’s interesting, but let’s focus on ______,” for whatever the task at hand is. If things go off topic, don’t be afraid to say, “Let’s schedule time to discuss that later. We only have __ minutes left,” works perfectly every time.
Related: Best Lumbar Support Cushion
Forty-Five: Protect Your Time Off
Even Superman took time off to retreat to his ice castle to relax. Another one of our favorite productivity tips, protect your time off, whether it’s one or two days a week, schedule time to relax, sleep, pursue a hobby, be with family and friends, or do something non-work related. Not only will you recharge and refresh, you’ll be more productive when you do return to work.
Forty-Six: Find a Mentor, or Coach or Make a Friend
Being productive isn’t all about cranking out work. Improving yourself, your skills, and your goals is critical. Having a spouse, friend, therapist, coach, or good friend you trust can help you review what’s working, and what’s not working in your life, career, or business so you can improve it.
Forty-Seven: Read Regularly
Successful executives, entrepreneurs, and business people read regularly. This means keeping up with their industry and that of others. Whether it’s a book, an article online, a magazine, or a video or podcast, learning what others are doing to increase their productivity, market, sales or business success is critical to increasing your own productivity.
Forty-Eight: Group Meetings and Phone Calls Back-to-Back
Schedule your meetings, or a series of phone calls back-to-back as much as possible. This means scheduling phone calls during a block of time every day, or only on certain days. If you must meet with clients or customers during the week, schedule them all on the same day so you’re focused on meetings, and not distracted with other tasks.
Forty-Nine: Take Exercise Breaks
Research shows that healthy adults need at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day. If you’re a gym rat, good for you. The rest of us can get that 30 minutes in by exercising for 10 minutes a day, three times a day. That might mean walking from the parking lot and taking the stairs, or walking around the block, to lifting some hand weights at our desk during lunch. The healthier you are, the better you feel, and the more productive you’ll be.
Fifty: Bring Your Pet to Work
Not everyone can bring their cat or dog to work, but if you can it might be a great idea. Pets have been found to help workers be more productive. It’s not for everyone, but owning a pet has been proven to relieve stress, promote a positive mood, and even increase physical health as well. These factors lead to a positive work environment as well. Having to take a dog out a few times a day gives an employee time to refocus for the rest of the day.
We hope these productivity tips help you accomplish more every day of the week!