Working in an office environment may not be the most exciting thing for some people. Whether you’re a business owner, office manager, or an associate, it’s good to make your time useful at the office. If you’re used to being in the office, or recently came back to the office, now’s the time to maximize your efforts. Knowing how to be productive in the office can enable you to stay focused and complete more tasks.
The challenges of staying productive in the office
Working in an office setting has that neutral feeling. Unless you’re working in a noisy environment (i.e. call center), it’s not too quiet or not super noisy as well.
But that’s the problem. A lot can take place while you’re at the office, and it’s easy to get distracted sometimes.
Also, working too much or being overwhelmed can lead to burnout. Similar to some people, I’ve had those moments of work fatigue and feeling burnout from working too many hours. In fact, work fatigue is a common problem in some workplaces today.
For the rest of this post, I will go over some best practices to make your time at the office valuable. This article will be very helpful if you are having trouble staying focused or if you need some refreshers.
Write priorities (at least 3) at the end of the workday
Typically, you might do this at the start of your workday, but I recommend doing it. It helps you prepare and know what you need to do the next morning when you are at work.
There are a ton of things we may need to get done in a day; however, it’s best to focus on a few things that need more attention. When writing out that list, write out the three most things to work on. Otherwise, everything else can wait for later.
Here’s an example of what that might look like:
Be punctual (Arrive on time)
Coming in on time is important not only attendance-wise, but to start your day on the right track. Arriving late not only might make your boss weary, but may put you in a bad mood.
It rarely happens to me, but that’s how I feel if I arrive late to work. It’s only happened one or two times, but I’m not always in the best mood when it comes to coming in later than usual.
So make it a good practice to come in at least ten minutes early. Referring back to the first point I made about writing a priority list, maybe use that time to get your list together. It doesn’t hurt to come in early as long as you won’t be late.
Avoid “settling in” your first half-hour
When coming into work, don’t get into the poor practice of chilling or settling in. For instance, that could make coffee or basically chit-chatting with your coworkers. That often is the case when coming in on Monday morning (after the weekend), or on Friday (right before the weekend kicks off).
It would amaze you to see how much time you waste in the first half-hour. 30 minutes is a lot of time you could have spent doing a productive task. For some people, that’s easily wasted on other things.
What I observed at work
I was not that type of person, but I had some coworkers who would do those types of things. Either they make some coffee, or have some breakfast in the break room area. It’s a time when they should do genuine work, but they’re unintentionally wasting time doing other things.
- My Best Tip: Come in early if possible, or hold off doing those things until later when going on break.
Work on your important tasks first
At the beginning of the workday, it’s best to begin by working on tasks requiring more time and effort. If they’ll take you longer, that puts your energy and focus time in by doing those tasks first.
If you hold off on those tasks (especially if they’re challenging), it might be harder to do them later on if you’re rushing. Some days, it might not be that way if you have other things going on; for example, going to a meeting or traveling depending on the work you do.
Set small deadlines for tasks
Unless there are deadlines set up by your boss, get in the habit of setting small deadlines at work. It’s a great way to practice self-discipline, along with getting ahead of schedule.
For example, if a project is due in one week, try doing a little work each day. If the project requires a full day of work, maybe take one-two hours each day to work on that project. It may help to set small deadlines each day, so that way you’re not caught up doing that project at the very last minute.
Take regular breaks (schedule them out)
Some people may think taking breaks is unnecessary (but believe me, they help a lot). It can be tempting not to take them, but it can help with refreshing our minds.
When we don’t take breaks, we slow down and feel weary. I know that when I don’t take breaks, I feel a little slow down and daydream a bit.
So what can you do? I think it’s a good idea to take a break every 90 minutes after doing focused work. Take 10-15 minutes of time out to walk around, stretch and freshen your mind. By doing that two or three times a day, you’ll feel less tired and weary if you work straight through your day without taking breaks.
Minimize using your phone
This one can be tricky: Some workplaces are strict on cell phones, while others are more lenient with them. If possible, put your phone away (in your bag) or locked in a desk cabinet during focus time.
If you’re allowed to use cell phones in the office, use them at a minimum. If it’s for listening to music or a podcast, I think that’s fine. Some light music to help you stay focused helps for some people.
But I think it’s best to put it away while staying focused. If someone needs to reach out to you (if it’s urgent or in an emergency, let them know to call you on an office phone (if applicable). That way, if someone needs to reach out to you immediately, they know to call you on a number where you can be easily reached.
Use headphones (if applicable)
Believe it or not, I think headphones are great for blocking any type of distraction. Some people don’t enjoy listening in on other people chatting, or if they are in a noisy environment.
If people (coworkers) walk around and see you wearing headphones, they’ll know not to distract you. To me, I interpret that as “please do not bother unless the place is burning down right now”.
Where I worked at
In nearly every job I worked at, we could wear headphones if that helped us stay focused. So it’s very common to see that in any type of office environment.
I was not a big fan of it myself, but I understand why people want to do it. If it was listening to music or a podcast (while still staying focused), then there was no problem doing that.
Have fewer meetings & keep them short
If you run a business or manage a team, how long you have meetings is crucial. Meetings can be a waste of time if you don’t communicate your main points; or just simply not getting to the point sometimes.
Everyone’s time is valuable, so try to keep meetings to a minimum. Some examples may include a half-hour meeting once a week, or hold brief five-ten minute huddles each day. The quick huddles are great to get some game plans in place at the office.
Delegate tasks to team members
If you’re a manager, you understand you cannot do everything by yourself. So learning how to delegate properly can save you a lot of headaches; also, it’s part of having good time management skills.
Also, the ability to move/assign tasks to other team members helps as well. If you notice one person might be overworked, then consider giving some of their workload to someone else. That helps with managing teams- it helps everyone to be more efficient as well.
Do not skip out on lunch (get away from your workstation)
Taking a lunch break is necessary, especially if you’re required to do so at work. Some people may not do so, which is bad either way. If it comes to a company’s HR policies, taking a lunch break is required for their employees.
My suggestion is that you eat somewhere else away from your workstation. Whether that’s eating in the break room, going outside to eat, or heading out to a cafe or food court. Whatever place you decide to take your lunch, make sure it’s not at your workstation.
The reason I bring it up is I used to see some coworkers eating at their desks. It’s not wrong, but I prefer people to get out and away from all the work happenings that go on.
Especially if it’s in an environment where you have no windows or good lighting. Getting out in another area helps now and then.
Check your email less often
Email is a great tool for communication; however, it can be a significant time waster. If you check it every hour, it can slow you down if there are new emails flooding in. The notification sounds can be the worst sometimes.
Instead, it’s best to limit it to three times a day (preferably late morning, mid-afternoon, and maybe during the last 45 minutes of work). You’ll likely be more productive and get a lot more done rather than checking it ten times a day. Also, you’ll be quicker to respond to them as well.
- Best Tip: Check your email twice a day: One during the late morning, and then the second time toward the end of the day
Mix it up between sitting and standing
Sitting for long periods of time can be rough. It’s why I find sitting and standing throughout the workday helpful. Standing for 20-30 minutes can improve posture and body movement in particular.
If possible, look into getting an ergonomics/standing desk. If your workplace allows it, request management or HR to look into it. It sure can help, and standing desks come with great health benefits.
Keep your workstation organized
One easy way to keep yourself in check is having a clean, organized desk. If your workstation is messy, then it’s time to clean it up.
If you have piles of paper lying around (or even worse, food that you have not thrown away), clear it out right away. Having a clean desk can help you feel less overwhelmed, and less time having to clean things up now and then.
One practice I do is I clean up my workstation. When I do, sometimes I’ll put out work that I’m ready to do the next day. It’s part of my planning as I write out my priority list at the end of each day.
For more information on that practice, I wrote a post about it awhile back. It’s a great way to prepare for the next day ahead.
Get enough rest
This one may be obvious, but getting enough rest the night before goes a long way. If you’re not getting enough sleep, then you’ll feel tired and possibly moody when you’re at the office.
Not only that, it may slow you down if you feel sluggish and not being at peak performance. Lack of sleep means more fatigue and not feeling well. In my experience, that’s how I feel because of a lack of sleep (and not feeling like doing anything).
Working in an office setting may not always be easy. Distractions will always be inevitable, so it may be challenging to stay focused at times.
The tips laid out earlier are great starting points on working more efficiently. Some of them may be a little more challenging to start out, but it’s worth giving them a try.
I find that nearly all of these tips have helped me in one way or the other. Take advantage of your office time when you’re there.
Your Turn: How well do you work in an office?
I would like to read some of your thoughts on this topic. Do you work well in an office environment? Or do you find it to be distracting sometimes?
Which of the tips have you tried or might want to give a try someday? Is there anything in particular you do when it comes to working in the office?
Feel free to share your thoughts by leaving a comment below. I look forward to reading your thoughts, and I’ll gladly respond promptly.
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Eric is a content writer and the site owner of notimekillers.com. He takes great pride in helping people manage their time and grow their businesses. Eric is a firm believer in time freedom, as he believes in taking ownership of time. “Time is your most important asset. It can be your best friend or worst enemy. How you use your time can shape the future you desire to have.” In his leisure time, Eric loves to write and read whenever possible. He enjoys going for long walks outdoors while doing in-home workout videos every week. You can follow Eric on LinkedIn.
8 thoughts on “How To Be Productive In The Office: 15 Tips For Success”
Great tips for helping one stay on top of tasks and meet deadlines while working in the office. Love your tip about getting enough rest or sleep!
Getting enough sleep can improve concentration, learning, and problem-solving at work in the office, thereby positively impacting work relationships, productivity, and work performance.
Personally, I try to aim for 8 hours (not always possible, but I try) of quality sleep to optimize productivity.
Yes, it’s important to get as much rest as possible. That can be the key to staying more focused, and really get the most out of your day.
It sure can make a difference when it comes to staying put at the office. Whatever happens can really make a difference going forward.
It sounds like you make sleep a priority. It sure can be a key factor to optimizing productivity.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts- they’re very much appreciated.
Your ability to be effecient and productive is one of the best indicators of the person’s value in an office environment.
These tips are very useful and helpful. Now a days, there is such a push for office efficency; this reults in stress in the workplace.
I would be interested in hearing your views about overcoming stress in the workplace. The tips you have provided are perfect for someone to become more productive, but what about mental breakdowns and other health issues?
I would think that a healthy workplace will be a balanced place where one can be productive and yet have opportunitites to reduce the stress factor. Some occupations have workstations that have different types of requirements and train employees so they can be moved in their day between them to reduce the stress of the work.
You absolutely bring value when you’re able to stay efficient and productive. Those are factors that employers value out of someone who works for them.
Regarding your question, I can’t say how to overcome stress in the workplace. That is something not in my area of expertise.
So I don’t know how to answer your question. However, I do think it’s something that needs to be addressed.
I’ll have to look into other sources that have more on this issue. It’s certainly an issue to know more about it, and see the implications in the workplace.
But it’s a great question overall. These tips can be helpful when it comes to increasing productivity.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts- they’re much appreciated.
Be on time for work: It is good to stay productive- one way to stay proactive is to stay organized, take short breaks standing and sitting for a short time, write out the three most important things first and work on those first.
If you get that done you can start on the others, sometimes people don’t be working around the desk pretending they are working, there are people that would do those types of things. I am not one of them, so I avoid wasting precious time.
Thank you, for sharing.
Exactly- what you laid out is what will help perform our best. I couldn’t agree anymore with you- you’re spot on.
As I mentioned in the other comment, you understand how to do these things the right way. So kudos on looking out for that.
Thank you again for your great insights- they’re very much appreciated as always.
Being at work on time is a good practice. Not only being on time is good but to start your day on the right track, avoid sitting the first half-hour chit-chatting and wasting time when it could be productive.
Also working too much or being overwhelmed can lead to burnout. Similar to some people, I’ve had those moments of work fatigue and feeling burnout from working too many hours.
In fact, it is a common problem in some workplaces.
What you laid out is exactly what we should and should not do. As I mentioned earlier, these are bad practices to do while at the office.
It seems that you have a great understanding of what we’re it supposed to do. What we can do to perform our best is what matters the most.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts- they’re very much appreciated.