Here are some top tips for being more productive during your work week

With May being Mental Health Awareness month, it’s about time we address the inevitable burnout and Zoom fatigue we’re all feeling. After reading Grace Beverly’s latest novel, Working Hard, Hardly Working, I decided to outline some of the top takeaways that you can use to work smarter, not harder.

Coming from New York, I always had a mentality that we ‘live to work’, but, after spending a few years here in London, I’ve realised that it’s more of a ‘work to live’ mindset here – and for the better. Too many of my friends and family back home work the weekends, incredibly long overtime hours and have little time for a personal life. And, while it’s only human to get a bit overwhelmed with work and want to work a bit extra, it can lead to burnout and chronic stress over time. With more flexibility with work than ever, you and your team can start to figure out how to be more productive during your work hours.

Set goals accordingly

Take your standard to-do list to the next level, and start creating goal-setting prompts. These can be for both yourself and your employees to use especially during monthly reviews. But before you set a goal, be sure to ask yourself if it’s worth setting in the first place. Grace suggests evaluating the following first for yourself:

  • A professional goal you’d like to achieve.
  • A professional habit to instate.
  • A personal goal.
  • A personal habit.
  • The feeling you want to achieve by setting these goals.

This is for your personal use as you’ll be able to clearly outline your own, as well as your employee’s, long-term trajectory.

An even better template Grace suggested can be useful for project management.

For each project or task that you take on, you need to make sure they’re SMART:

  • Specific: clearly defined.
  • Measurable: criteria are specific enough to know when something has actually been achieved.
  • Achievable: attainable.
  • Relevant: aligned with your views of success and company trajectory.
  • Time-bound: gives a realistic timeframe.

This not only helps keep you accountable, but it can be really useful to use if someone on your team is being overly ambitious. Maybe one or two of the criteria are a bit off and, rather than disagreeing, you can point to the SMART template to say what works and what doesn’t work.

Motivate yourself with a podcast or article

We all know the feeling when we’re about to ‘dive in’. It seems incredibly daunting when you’re about to start a huge project that will take up your undivided attention. You know you’ll need to be in a state of what Grace calls ‘deep work’. 

Grace gave an excellent tip, which was around getting ramped up using an article, podcast or TedTalk as motivation. These are called instant creativity triggers, which can help you get into the headspace to start cracking on with work. Just like a workout, your brain needs time to warm up as well. Something as simple as a podcast can spark engagement and critical thinking. It'd be even better if it’s related to your work, but it doesn’t have to be.

Simply reading or listening to thought leadership content can be the boost you need to start. Perhaps you have a favourite B2B marketing podcast or you’re reading up on the latest TV campaign an agency did. Whatever it is, it’s the perfect warmup to get into the ‘deep work’ state.

Do admin tasks at the right time

This tip is to be proceeded with caution. Admin tasks are known for being mindless. You’re scheduling meetings and sorting through your unread emails, and it can be tempting to cross those off your to-do list first thing in the morning.

However, save your email inbox for the afternoon if you can. Obviously, the urgent ones will need to be attended to right away, but the ones that aren’t warranted a quick response should be saved for when you have the energy (or lack thereof).

Typically, right after my morning coffee, I’m ready to be productive up until lunch, but right around that 2-3 pm post-lunch state, I do my admin tasks until I liven up a bit more around 4 pm. It’s all personal preference but whatever time you feel the most productive, should be when you tackle the more mentally taxing tasks.

Save your weekends to do ‘nothing’

It might sound counterproductive, but, with Covid-19, it’s been so important to prioritise the mental health of both you and your colleagues. If you have a habit of doing side hustles, catching up with your inbox or getting a jumpstart on a project, don’t. Instead, do nothing. Grace outlined a whole chapter on how hard it can be for people to do absolutely nothing but enjoy their weekends.

Burnout symptoms increased for 24% of UK employees in 2020, and the number likely increased since then. In addition, 51% of respondents said they're working outside of their contracted hours, which can contribute to that eventual burnout. Taking the weekend is a form of self-care that can prevent this.

But a full recharge, whether that be some alone time or spending time with your loved ones can be extremely beneficial. That being said, if there is that one nagging task that’s looming over your head, you know yourself better than anyone. Do what will give you some peace of mind for Saturday and Sunday, but do not make the weekends focused on work. We used to normalise burnout culture, but it’s time to stop glamourising overworking.

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