How To Have A Productive Work Day

What is productivity? If you had to explain it to someone, what would you say? 

  • It’s about getting things done
  • It’s about being efficient
  • It’s about improving the profitability of a business. 

But I believe that the more we search for productivity, the more we lose the true meaning of it.

It doesn’t matter what your job title is, where you work or how many hours you work – we all want to be as productive as we can. But endless amounts of sugar and sticky notes isn’t really the best way to go about it. Over the past few months, I’ve become very productive with my time and today, I wanted to share the ways I’ve been able to achieve this with you. 

Organise Your Work Place

Can you get anything done with coffee cups all over the place and a mountain of untidy papers? There’s something that productive people have in common – organisation. If my desk is a mess, it’s much harder to concentrate and focus on the day ahead. Really, it’s just plain stressful. None of us enjoy being in the situation when we’re asked for something and we can’t find it. If this sounds like you don’t worry – you’re definitely not alone. I’ve tried to put a system in place so I can find what I want exactly when I want it. I work for an agency, so I find it useful to have a folder for each client and split that up into sections. There’s no harm in having a mountain of folders, as long as they’re organised. Or you could try a tool like Evernote, where you can keep absolutely everything in one place - I spoke more about the benefits of Evernote last week.

It may seem really silly to tidy your desk and sort out your things when you’ve got a to-do list the size of your arm, but in the long run, it saves a lot of time. 

How to do it:

At the end of each day, I take five minutes to clear my desk. No matter what mood I’m in. This involves getting rid of rubbish and anything else that doesn’t belong there, and sorting out paperwork. Only essentials are kept on my desk – a pen, water, my phone, hand cream and important files and notebooks. It’s also really important to make sure you’ve got a chair that supports your normal spinal curve, your feet are flat on the floor and you’ve got a straight back.

Keep Focused On The Outcome

Prioritisation is a skill that many productive people have but one that is difficult to master. It means not checking your phone every ten minutes and staying away from social media – I know, tricky right? It’s about knowing what you need to do each day and not getting distracted by “other things”. Only you have the power to manage your tasks and what needs to get done. Then it’s about being focused and making sure they’re completed.

How to do it:

I know women are supposed to be really skilled at multitasking, but guess what? I don’t multitask. Say I’m in the middle of writing this blog post and something pops into my head that I need to do. Do I stop what I’m doing to complete this other task? No. I write it down on my list and come to it later. I don’t check my emails or my phone. I also say ‘no’. A lot. If someone in my office says, ‘Holly, can you do this?’ I look at my list, and if it’s full for the day I say, ‘no, not today, but I’ll be able to fit it in tomorrow.’ We don’t have time to do everything and please everyone. Delegation is useful for teamwork, but you can also delegate yourself tasks too – make sure you’re using the most of your personal skills.

There’s an 80:20 rule of workload – 20% of our work contributes to 80% of its value. Experts say to identify what the 20% is and make that the focus of your output.

Plan Your Time

In the past I used to plan my time in terms of AM and PM. Now, I plan it by the hour, and I base this on my productivity levels. I know I’m a morning person so I plan to get most of my big tasks done then. During the afternoon I wind down, so my creative juices don’t flow as much. You can plan your schedule according to your creativity.

How to do it:

I swear by writing my to-do list the night before. That way, you don’t have to procrastinate first thing the next morning by deciding what you need to do. You can come in at 9 and start there and then. I also make sure I log everything down. I’ve got a document on my computer at work that tells me everything I’ve done, every day since I started. So not only do you have back up, you’ve got proof of your efficiency too.

Speak Up

I truly believe that in order to thrive at work you need to be surrounded by creative people. You and your work won’t flourish unless you’re working in a strong team. This is something I’ve learnt over the past few months. At work, you should be able to contribute at every opportunity with your opinions without being made to feel inadequate or undermined. Simply getting your ideas out in the open will help to drive your business forward.

People say communication is the key to a good relationship, and it’s exactly the same at work. Not only does it maintain strong relationships with people, it also helps to maintain a successful company. Your voice equals value. You should be appreciated if you speak up.

How to do it:

Try and make a point of saying something all the time. Even if it’s just one thing. I’ve found that two of the best skills a person can have is listening and being observant. That way, you can think of something really valuable to say. Don’t worry if your comment is pushed aside. At least you’ve said it.

I’ve also found that being prepared is the best thing you can do. Come prepared to every meeting with an agenda and ideas. And when you’re alone with your boss, don’t talk about what you’re doing this weekend. Use it to address something important – whether it’s a problem in the office or information about your role.

Don’t Be Intimidated

By people, deadlines, challenges – anything. If you are productive and use your skills to your advantage, it may actually turn out that other people are intimidated by you.

Say you have an appraisal with your boss and it goes badly. They speak down to you, criticise you indirectly, and ultimately, you are made to feel intimidated by them. That is not okay. No one should ever make you feel like that. I know you’ll want to leave the meeting, sit at your desk and not want to do anything. Well, why should you if people you work with think that? But you will prove them wrong if you carry on working. Look at the situation differently and do the exact opposite of what your boss expects you to do. It’s natural to feel intimidated sometimes, but you determine the space that takes up in your mind.

How to do it:

Don’t overcomplicate it – note down the main issues and use your creative talent to think how you can solve them. Also, always keep your eye out for opportunities. You could be the answer to a problem your business has been wanting to solve.

Take more breaks

You might not believe it, but those people who are most productive take regular breaks. When your eyes start to go blurry, you get that ache in your head and your body starts to sink, it means you need to take a break. Think realistically about your work day. For me, my working hours are 9 till 5. In there I get an hour for lunch – which I use. That leaves me with seven hours. I don’t work straight through from 9 until lunch and I don’t work straight through from after lunch until 5. I wouldn’t get anything done. The brain can only take in information for around 45 minutes at a time. So every hour, I get up, stretch and go for a walk up and down the corridor outside of the office. It helps me to come back much more refreshed and ready to carry on.

How to do it:

I used to use my lunch break to blog. Now, I take fifteen minutes of that to go for a walk by the canal. Getting out of your normal surroundings is one of the best ways to refresh yourself creatively.


I'd love to know, what are your secrets for being productive?

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