How to boost productivity in your graduate job
Starting a graduate job is often a shock to the system. After years of living via your own personal body clock and using the library from midday until 2am simply because it suits your mood, strict working hours can make productivity feel elusive.
If you have discovered that you are losing the bright spark that got you the grades at degree level, then maybe it’s time to switch up your day and find new ways of increasing productivity to fall in love with delivering meaningful work again.
1. Limit distractions
You probably learnt this rule back when you were scrambling to finish your dissertation. Taking distractions out of the equation is the fastest way to reach productivity nirvana, because it limits your brain to concentrating on the task at hand. Today smartphones are always within easy reach, lighting up with the latest ‘like’ you scored on social media, but does it really matter if you see the notification now or in a couple of hours? Do yourself a favour and turn off notifications to your phone. Turn them off on your computer too if that red flag by your emails goes off a little too often.
2. Go for a walk
This comes across as counterintuitive when compared to the previous point, but I think we can all agree that having a short break and stretching your legs does wonders for a piece of work that you are stuck on. A change of scene from your familiar expanse of desk is ideal for kicking your mind into action again. You are more likely to feel settled and focused once you return, knowing that you had the opportunity to take a break.
3. List everything
Embrace your inner Monica Geller and become hyper-organised by creating lists of things to do. Break everything down into the smallest possible chunks, as seemingly insignificant as ‘send confirmation email to Brenda’ – even if you know that you would certainly remember to email Brenda, don’t deny yourself the satisfaction of crossing it off the list. As the list becomes shorter you will begin to realize that the tasks that appeared onerous when you first came in that morning might already be halfway finished without you even realising.
4. Get in early (or leave late)
If you are really struggling with the demands of a rigid work schedule, then have a conversation with your employer about the possibility of flexible working hours. Many startups are happy to forgo the traditional 9-5 in favour of working hours that suit your productivity, so there’s no harm in asking.
5. Switch up your lunch
The afternoon slump is a real thing and we’ve all been there. You had a large lunch heavy on the carbs and when you get back at your desk it feels like there is a tiny gremlin pulling your eyelids shut. You can try and prioritise tasks around this time of the day that need less brain power than others, but that’s not always possible. Have a review of the stuff you are eating for lunch and try making it lighter, perhaps incorporating healthy snacks throughout the day for powering through.
6. Stop trying to multitask
Stop trying to split your focus between multiple tasks and get focused. You might consider yourself a talented multitasker, able to reply to emails whilst drafting a blog post, but the reality is that you are likely to deliver subpar work on both fronts if you aren’t giving it your full attention. Have a go at prioritising tasks and doing them one at a time and see if the quality of your work and your productivity improve.
7. Make small personal improvements
How quick is your typing? Can you speedread? Take the time to develop a few skills for your own personal portfolio and the likelihood is that you will end up with excess free time to cram tasks into, as well as new bullet points for your CV. The early years in a graduate role are meant to be formative, so make the effort to move towards a version of yourself that is more productive and works efficiently if you are aiming for success later in life.
8. Download a few apps
When in doubt, get an app to help you out. Momentum will replace your new tab in Chrome and serve up daily inspiration while reminding you to stay focused on the tasks that you input. Block site is another Chrome extension that will do exactly what it sounds like – block the sites you really REALLY need to stop checking. Forest app is a cute way to add some gamification into your work life by giving you a thirty-minute window in which to do a task while growing a little tree made of pixels. Have a shop around and find the apps that will work for you and your own personal brand of procrastination – all it takes is a quick Google search.
Staying productive throughout the day is a hard ask for most people, but using some of the tactics outlined above will gear you closer towards feeling zen at the end of your day, knowing that you have completed everything that needed to be done.