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November 19, 2014

What's Your Favorite way to Stay Productive?

Caroline Smith


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There seem to be hundreds of articles, infographics and apps around to help us become more productive at work. Since joining Mind Tools, I have personally learned so many useful tricks by editing our Time Management articles, and by reading our fortnightly App Reviews.

For example, I now use online tools such as to write my daily To-Do list, rather than scribbling everything on a scrap of paper. Memo pad is another one I couldn’t do without. It’s just a simple program that I use daily to jot down notes when a new idea pops into my head, and want to store them in a safe place; or to write down important items for action during a meeting. Online tools like these are brilliant for me, because I’m not mislaying bits of paper anymore, and I can access the information on my computer whenever I need it. This saves me time and energy, and keeps me focused.

When we recently asked our friends on Twitter and Facebook for their #mindtoolstips on staying productive, we received some great responses. Thanks to all of you who took the time to contribute!

Some of the comments focused on how you can be more productive if you take time to create the right working environment. Vaibhav Gupta on Facebook said how it’s important to “remove the traditional management jacket” to foster better engagement. The point here is to be approachable. If you build strong relationships with people at work, you will have more support when you need it to get things done.

Similarly, Ganapathy Shankar posted that you should surround yourself with positive colleagues. When you have a strong team around you, you’ll find that there are always people who can help you out when the going gets tough. I can identify with this! My good colleagues at Mind Tools are always willing to chip in to help one another meet tough deadlines. That old adage that a good team is greater than the sum of its parts is definitely true, in my experience.

Ganapathy also said that to be productive, you need to get yourself in the right frame of mind. So, rather than getting frustrated by obstacles that are causing you to slow down (for example, having to draw a complicated diagram in Photoshop – a challenge I frequently come up against!) we should embrace them, and treat them as a learning opportunity.

An alternative approach, suggested by Jeanne Josef, is to: “Focus on what you can do, and not what you can’t.” (Taking my Photoshop example, sometimes – when I simply can’t do them –  I admit when I’m defeated, and ask for assistance. I find it’s better to get help rather than struggle away at something for hours, which doesn’t benefit anyone!)

We also received a number of messages from people who focus on practical ways to be more productive. Liku Belachew posted that it’s important to have clear objectives, and an action plan in place, to tackle your goals. @Dwyka_Consult on Twitter splits out her large tasks into smaller goals rather than worrying about the bigger picture and getting overwhelmed. This is great advice!

I find that once I’ve broken down a task into smaller sub-tasks, I suddenly gain perspective about what it is that I need to do. For example, I was recently asked to check a large number of articles on the new Mind Tools’ responsive website to make sure that they are correctly formatted before our launch. At first I thought: “I haven’t got time!” But actually, by breaking down the numbers, I worked out that I only needed to do ten a day, which seemed much more manageable!

One final comment to mention, which I thought would be a good way to end this post, comes from Jennifer Macadlo, who says: “Do not worry about what you cannot control! Enjoy your career!’ Wise words indeed, and surely we should remind ourselves of this when we start to feel bogged down.

If you have any comments or suggestions about how to raise your productivity levels, we’d love to hear from you! For further tips, see our related articles on leveragingimproving concentration and unblocking bottlenecks, or take our quick quiz to see how productive you really are. Enjoy using them!

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