5 Habits of Highly Productive Professionals
In the past, I’ve talked a lot about how to improve productivity. Quite frequently, in fact. Some people might think I’m a bit preoccupied with the subject, but let’s be real; I’m a millennial, of course I’m worried about my productivity levels. Still, it’s an important subject, especially for those of us who work for a small business; we tend to wear a lot of hats, and if we’re not on top of things, important tasks may end up slipping through the cracks, making life difficult for everyone, not just ourselves.
So what does it take to be productive? Apps are great for keeping you on task, but telling Siri to schedule a meeting for four o’clock and blocking Facebook doesn’t automatically make everything better (but blocking Facebook definitely helps!). Productivity is also about making the best use of your time while you’re working, so while these 5 habits might not get you off Buzzfeed’s addictive clickbait articles, as you start putting them into practice, you might find you get more done while you are working, leaving you with more time throughout the day to check your Twitter.
1. Never stop learning
As we graduate from school and settle into a career, we tend to develop the mindset that we know everything there is to know. After all, we’re adults now, right? We’ve been to school and read the books and taken the tests. Now that we’re employed, we should be putting hard-earned skills to use, not spending time acquiring new skills! So why should we need to worry about learning more?
This infographic from MindFlash.com shows that not only does on the job training help employees expand their skillset, but it can also help boost employee engagement.
Well, for starters, we don’t live in an information vacuum. Knowledge is not static, and new technologies, strategies, and skills are being discovered all the time. What was true while you were in high school or college may not be true five years down the line. Continuing your education will not only keep you competitive in the office, but it will show management that you are a proactive and engaged worker. Not only that, but taking the initiative to improve your skills and knowledge base makes you more valuable as an employee. Having a wider variety of skills and experience makes employees more versatile individuals, allowing project managers and team leads to utilize them in places where there may be a gap in knowledge.
2. Ask for help, no matter who you are
Asking for help is hard to do. I certainly struggle with it. It’s a humbling experience to admit I don’t know something, and in some cases, I feel like I’m being a bother because I had to go to a human being instead of asking the internet. It’s pretty easy to Google the answer to many questions these days, but as it turns out, not all questions have answers online. So when should you ask for help and when should you you search for the answer on your own?
Haveing trouble finding the answers you want? This infographic by Nicola Watts demonstrates how to ask questions effectively.
Inevitably, you’re going to reach a point where you’ve spent more time struggling on your own than you’ve spent being productive. At this point, it’s just better to stop what you’re doing, find a supervisor, and ask clarifying questions. It may seem trivial to you, but asking for help will get you on the right track faster than waiting for the answer to come to you. Furthermore, asking questions will reduce the amount of mistakes made based on assumptions. Asking for clarification on things you are unsure of will save you time by having the correct information from the beginning, instead of making an assumption and having to go back to correct the mistake.
It’s also important for project managers and team leads to ask questions as well! This demonstrates that not only are they engaged in the company’s well being, but that they’re willing and available to help when they’re needed. There are few things as intimidating as distant authority figure, especially when you’re feeling uncertain. Check-ins also make sure that employees are staying on track, and give them a chance to ask questions of their own.
3. Practice open communication and active listening
Communication is key to keeping any business afloat, whether it’s two people speaking together in person, or the exchange of emails. I talk a lot about the importance of documentation within a company and between businesses and clients, and that’s not just because it’s my job. One of the reasons we push so much on the importance of clearly written work is because documentation is a great way to practice open communication. It’s a means of transferring knowledge between two or more people, and it covers everything from memos from the company CEO to the instruction manual for the printer that never works. But skimming the documents often isn’t good enough; you need to actively be engaged in what you’re reading. While you may get the general idea of the document’s content through skimming, it’s very easy to miss important details that can come back to bite you later on.
Similarly, when speaking to other coworkers in the office, especially about job related activities, it’s important to stay engaged and actively listen to what they’re saying. Don’t be formulating your response while they’re in the middle of the sentence; let your response be guided but what they have to say. Not only do you gain full comprehension of the information they’re conveying, but people notice when you’re paying attention to them. Everyone likes to be listened to and acknowledged, so by taking an active interest in what they have to say, you create a positive impression on them, and the office around you. Positivity, of course, creates a better work environment, creating a productive atmosphere for not just you, but your entire office.
4. Don’t forget to hydrate!
Here’s a surprising tip: drink more water. Making sure you’re properly hydrated isn’t just for athletes. Everyone loses water every day, regardless of the amount of physical activity they partake in. Being dehydrated can impact even the hardest of workers by causing them to lose focus. Common symptoms include headaches, fatigue, confusion, and dizziness, all things that are extremely distracting when you’re trying to focus on your very important paperwork. Keeping a water bottle or two at your desk will go a long way towards keeping you healthy.
Want something with a little flavor? No worries! Natural fruit and vegetable juices (not those processed “juice cocktails”), milk, and herbal teas can go a long way towards keeping you hydrated. Try to only consume caffeinated drinks like coffee and soda in moderation. Caffeine can cause anxiety and jitters, and in some people, it increases the need to use the bathroom. The other downside is that many of those drinks contain extra sugar and calories that water just doesn’t have. Thankfully, there are also a number of water flavoring drops that can make your boring bottle of water taste a little more exciting, and some, like the MiO brand water enhancer, add nutrients like electrolytes and vitamins.
5. Be proactive, not reactive
There’s not much going on at the office. You’ve just finished your latest project, your email inbox is nice and clean, your desk is organized, and you’ve got a clear schedule for the rest of the day. It sounds like the ideal time to mentally check out and hop on the social media, right? Sure, but you could also be using this time to work on yourself as an employee, and learn some new skills that you may want down the road. Not sure what to learn? Ask around and see what knowledge sets other people might find it useful to have. Spending part of your day on professional development is great because not only are you putting habits one and two into practice, but you’re being proactive. Being proactive shows that you’re engaged in your career and that you care about your progress as an individual.
Learning new things and seeking out help when you’re stuck are two examples of proactive behavior, but they’re not the only ones. Planning out your day, making lists, and responding to emails are all proactive behaviors that can not only keep you on track, but keep you motivated for the day. Got something on your list that you dread doing? Do that first! By completing it first, you remove the anxiety and anticipation from the rest of your day, making everything feel easier and less stressful in comparison.
Keeping productive is not always an easy task. It requires active effort and motivation to stay on track, but these five simple tips can help keep you going through the slowest of days, creating an atmosphere of productivity not just for you, but your entire office!