"Do you ever feel like you are stuck in the same place, and every day is the same, and nothing you does matters?" These words Bill Murray's character, Phil Connors said in Groundhog Day (1993) echoes a sentiment often felt by employees stuck in the same cycle every day at work. There are a few simple strategies to begin feeling purposeful again and avoid looking at your own proverbial shadow.
Maximize your time
Spending all your time and energy in a day on one specific task can actually damage your productivity. Multiple tasks coupled with varying deadlines is where this risk typically drives this type of burnout and can overwhelm your workday if you let it.
- Divide projects into snackable tasks that take no longer than a couple of hours to complete. This will mitigate the stress involved with larger assignments, and the results will encourage you to stay focused and driven.
- Focus solely on accomplishing one goal at a time - DO NOT MULTITASK. Multitasking has been proven to be ineffective for completing important tasks. If might feel productive at home, switching between multiple apps or computer programs, but experts say working this way can take you much more time to actually finish a task.
- Prioritize, but do not preoccupy. It is important to utilize time management skills and categorize jobs by deadlines and priorities. However, the most important aspects of your job can have a way of creeping to the forefront of your mind and distracting you throughout the day. Finishing or working on the most crucial tasks at the beginning of the day can help you alleviate the pressure.
It might seem counterproductive, but taking breaks throughout the day to maintain physical and mental health can benefit the quality of your work. These breaks should be taken in intervals, but there are a few specific ways to fully maximize your personal time at work.
- Get moving at least every hour. Moving around helps your circulation and prevent health risks associated with sitting for too long such as shoulder and back pain, and cardiovascular disease. Walking to the bathroom or break room, even outside for some fresh air, can help you regain your focus and reset your mind.
- Relax and read. Depending on your occupation, reading might already be something you do quite often in a work capacity. Reading for fun though, reading what you like that does not relate to work, can help stimulate different areas of the brain related to creativity and problem solving. Professionals recommend reading in the morning for the best results.
Distractions can be one of the biggest enemies to productivity in the workplace. These distractions can be self-imposed such as funny videos and social media, to work related tasks like checking emails and meetings. Staying flexible to your environment is one thing, but when you really need to focus consider taking these extra steps.
- Have an "eventual email" policy. Instantly being able to communicate with your coworkers is usually a benefit, except when you need to actually work. If you have a busy workday ahead, turn your email notifications off or even close the program altogether for a set amount of time, checking it only periodically. Do the same for any instant messaging programs, and, if possible, mark your status to "busy" or "away" so people know you are not able to get back to them right away.
- Too many meetings? This can be difficult to address, especially if you are the one who is not scheduling the meetings. Filling up your shared schedule can communicate your previous commitments and send a message that you are busy. However, if unproductive meetings are still being scheduled, be firm with your agenda and make your timeline known.
- Wear headphones. Sounds are the most common distraction in the workplace. Wearing headphones can help, or be just as distracting. Listening to music with no lyrics or with lyrics you already know can help you stay focused on your work instead of trying to listen to what the song is actually saying.
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