There’s no shortage of hacks when it comes to being productive, but finding what works best for you can often be a little catch-as-catch-can. If you’re still in search of that magical efficiency elixir, have no fear because you’re not alone—70 percent of the workforce doesn’t feel engaged at work, according to Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workforce survey.
Part of that burden falls on the employer. After all, a happy employee is a productive one, so it’s important to make sure people feel valued, enjoy their work and sustain that all-important work-life balance.
The office environment also matters. It must suit the company’s personality and be a true top-to-bottom reflection of its inhabitants; your workspace will influence the way you feel and, in turn, the work you produce.
In other words, productivity begets productivity. Simply seeing others hard at work inspires you to do the same—and in a more focused way, no less. That said, it’s up to you to shape your workday into productive time. This often requires a combination of focus, determination and dedication. It also doesn’t hurt if you’re self-motivated at work.
Hit your productivity peak.
Hitters know their strengths and adjust at the plate when necessary. Employees have to do the same thing at the office, tweaking their own approaches to put themselves in the best possible positions to succeed.
Whether your office is “all work and no play” or vice versa, the following can make it that much easier to hit your productivity out of the park:
1. Stay in your zone.
My dad always told me, “When you’re at your peak, make the most of it.” Sure enough, his words of wisdom have proved invaluable in guiding me through my life and career.
Personally, I’ve found that my productivity cycle mirrors the basic sine wave, with a series of peaks and valleys throughout the day. To get the most out of myself, I put the pedal to the metal each time I reach my apex; it’s my prime opportunity to get a ton of work done.
But when you hit a vale, don’t fight it. Take your foot off the gas, and give yourself license to coast. Go to lunch, catch a quick catnap or take a walk. To do your best work, you sometimes need to step away for a while.
2. Drown out the crowd.
Work in an open space? Talk about distractions galore. Investing in noise-canceling headphones and other sound-eliminating devices not only allows you to tune out those around you, but it also signals co-workers that you’re not to be bothered. Throw on a pair, and you’ve just hung the equivalent of a “do not disturb” sign that creates a sense of solitude that can boost your job performance.
University of Sydney research found that nearly 60 percent of workers in low-walled cubicles are dissatisfied with their sound privacy, so headphones can go a long way to combat distractions.
But headphones alone won’t always keep distractions at bay. At its core, being productive is all about finding a way to maintain your focus, so you want to be habitual in your approach. During those productivity peaks, turn off your phone, email, etc. You’re most productive when in the office, so make sure nothing waylays your motivation.
3. Personalize your space.
Personality is key to our company and within our office. It’s one of the reasons we decorate it with such bright, fun colors. Grays, whites and beiges can bring about feelings of sadness, according to a study from the University of Texas. But saturated colors like blues and reds—especially in colored lights—can increase alertness and energy and can help spark ideas.
Although your two cents might not go far in your company’s choice of paint or lighting, personalizing your space can inspire a more positive attitude at work. Stash essentials close at hand, stow snacks in a drawer and brighten your cubicle with some color-friendly décor.
4. Stay ahead in the count.
Any task that seems boring, frustrating or difficult can cause you to experience a range of emotions—from dread to anxiety. At first, delaying that task can help combat these feelings and even yield an emotional boost.
But studies show that this high wears off rather quickly and can lead to feelings of guilt or diminished self-worth. In the end, procrastination inevitably leads to that stressful time crunch, which is no way to do your best work.
Instead of leaving those undesirable tasks for later, stay on top of it all and be proactive with your workload. Don’t wait until a burdensome project is pressing. It’s all about keeping yourself out of panic mode.
Cut yourself some slack when you hit those lulls. Personalize your workspace and processes—it’s up to you to position yourself for success.
Jim Fowler is founder and CEO of Owler, the world’s largest community-based business insights platform that business professionals use to outsmart their competition, gain competitive insights and uncover the latest industry news and alerts. Prior to Owler, Jim founded Jigsaw in 2003 and was CEO until it was acquired by Salesforce in 2010 for $175 million.