How to Increase Productivity at Work

How to Increase Productivity at Work

Would you be interested to find out not only how to increase productivity at work but also how to achieve stress-free productivity?

High levels of productivity and low levels of stress – this is my vision of a healthy work environment.

Unfortunately most of my “busy days” used to be the exact opposite: high levels of stress and low levels of productivity.

Even now, I still have some days like that but at least now I know why it happens and what I can do about it.

Relax. Breathe deeply. Wipe out all thoughts and clear your mind. Prepare a paper where you will write down your notes as we are about to dive in into the world of productivity.

Ways to Increase Your Productivity at Work

During every moment of your working hours, you will be doing one of the 3 things:

  1. Planning your work
  2. Working on preplanned tasks/activities
  3. Doing work as it shows up

Although this sounds like common sense, I actually never thought about it until I read about this threefold daily work model in David Allen’s book “Getting Things Done”.

I gave some thought to it and I realized that the secret to daily productivity lies in this model.

When I was thinking and analyzing my most stressful and busiest days, I realized that more than 90% of the time I was doing work as it showed up (answering on emails, taking calls, dealing with request of other people, etc.) without actually thinking or judging if there was something more important what I should be doing.

On the other hand, my most productive days were those which I planned in advance (more than 90% of my working hours I was working on tasks that I planned and scheduled earlier).

According to Brian Tracy, every minute spent in planning saves 10 minutes in execution. Bearing this in mind, it’s definitely worth investing 10-15 minutes to plan your day.

You are also less likely to procrastinate if you have a daily plan and you know exactly what you should be doing.

So, the best way to increase productivity at work is to do more “planned work” and less “unplanned work”.

So how should your ideal working day look?

Simply put, the key to stress-free productivity is to:

  1. Plan your work
  2. Work your plan (and stick with it, unless some real emergency shows up)

Let’s look at this more closely.

1. Plan Your Work

I believe that one of the reasons why people are not planning their days is because they don’t know how to even start with planning so they just end up doing work as it shows up.

Therefore, when the amount of work increases stress levels also increase because everything looks like it is an emergency.

This was happening to me a lot.

Sometimes I was so stressed out and overwhelmed by the amount of work that I needed to do, I actually started to panic and couldn’t focus on doing anything.

As Natalie Goldberg said:

Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency.

If you want to avoid an out of control, stressful work environment you need to start planning your days.

Planning your day is actually deciding what needs to be done. During this decision-making process, not only that you need to define tasks that need to be done, but you must also evaluate how important these tasks are.

A simple decision-making criterion called the “Eisenhower matrix” or “Eisenhower box” can help you to plan more effectively starting from today.

This model is based on the important/urgent principle and is derived from the time-management strategy used by the 34th President of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Eisenhower was considered to be a master in time-management as he was able to stay productive for decades.

Eisenhower’s quote:

What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important,

sums up the concept of the Eisenhower Urgent/Important matrix.



As you can see this matrix has 4 combinations of possible tasks:

  1. Urgent and important
  2. Not urgent but important
  3. Urgent but not important
  4. Neither urgent nor important

The greatest leaders and most successful people in the world always focus on the important tasks first.

On the contrary, many office workers focus on whatever tasks are put in front of them. These tasks seems urgent, but very often are not.

So, how can this matrix help you to increase productivity at work?

You can use this template (The Eisenhower Matrix Template) to schedule your daily work. The idea is to spend 10-15 min every day to think which tasks you will do, which one you will defer, which one you will delegate and which one you will delete.

This is the idea how to evaluate:

  • If something is both important and urgent, you should DO this tasks immediately. For example, customer issues, urgent reports for your boss, finishing important projects on time, etc.
  • If something is important but not urgent you need to DECIDE when you will do it (schedule time in your calendar). For example, strategic planning, personal and professional development, financial reviews, etc.
  • If something is urgent, but not important you can DELEGATE such tasks to someone else. For example some emails, technical problems, call request, etc.
  • If something is not urgent or important DELETE it. For example you can skip tasks like surfing the Internet, scrolling on your Facebook wall, reading news stories etc. because they have very little value (whether you do them or not it will not make any difference at all).

Just remember the four Ds (Do, Decide, Delegate, Delete)!

We have natural tendency to deal with the urgent things, as these things are “loud” and “screaming” for our attention (other people texting us, emailing us, calling us, visiting us, etc). But the most important things in our lives are quiet…silent. There is not even a tiny sound from them. But we can feel them. Deep inside we are not happy if we are not paying attention to them.

Taking care of our health, personal and professional development, taking care over relationships with people who are important, planning your future, doing things that you enjoy – those are the things that have true value. Nobody will remind you or call you to ask: “Hey, what did you do for your future today?” That’s why you are responsible for thinking about things that are important. If you work every day on the tasks that are important for your growth and the growth of your company, you feel good about yourself and you will increase productivity at work.

This is my example for today:



No matter how good your daily plan is, there will always be tasks that pop up during a day. But if you have a plan then you can compare new requirements with already predefined work and evaluate which are the more important.

For example, writing this article was my most important task for today. However, I’ve received urgent requests to send important contacts to a customer. Since the new tasks that popped up was both urgent and important I’ve decided to give priority to it and put my writing on hold for a moment. In meantime, I received some other email requests, but I decided to schedule them for later because those tasks can wait.

A trick to increase productivity at work is to constantly evaluate what the most important thing to do in each moment. By doing this, you will make best use of your time and you will not have to worry about other things that are awaiting action. As long as you are aware that tasks on your waiting lists are less important than tasks you are doing now, you can benefit from a controlled, stress-free work environment.

The problem comes when you don’t plan your days and when you don’t think about the importance of the tasks. In such scenarios everything seems like an emergency and with every new request, whether from your boss, colleague or a customer, you are losing control more and more. If you ever heard the expression that somebody “burnt out” from work, you will know why this happened and how you can avoid it!

If you are a business owner then you are the one who decides which tasks are most important. However, if you are an employee you need to think about which tasks are the most important and of highest value to your manager and to the company that you are working for.

Many employees spend huge amounts of time working on tasks that they think are important but are not important to their boss. That’s why you must always have in mind a bigger picture and every day evaluate what’s the most important for the company you are working for. People who do this are the ones who are rewarded the most both financially and in terms of appreciation.

2. Work your plan

Once when you have a plan in place, you need to ensure that you work your plan. The best way to do this is to create a supportive work environment.

Here are some examples of how you can create a productive and stress-free work environment:

  • Declutter everything (your work desk, computer files & folders, Inbox, computer desktop, your house, etc.). MESS = STRESS! The best time for decluttering is t weekends. Once your environment is clutter-free, you can start your week completely fresh and ready for new challenges. If you are working Monday to Friday, schedule one hour on Friday afternoons for decluttering and organizing your next week.
  • Find a distraction-free and motivational place for creative work that requires 100% of your attention. I very often go to libraries, cozy cafes, and lounges where I’m undisturbed and motivated by the creative ambience as well as by the other people who are also working hard. Many companies will allow flexibility to work from home once a week, usually on Fridays. Use that day to finish all important tasks for the week and prepare for the following week.
  • Mute all communication channels and make yourself unavailable for a certain amount of time, even if is just one hour. If your job consists of many calls, emails and meetings, find time early in the morning or later in the evening when you can take time to disconnect from everyone and work on things that are important.
  • Minimize the number of emergencies – In many cases “emergencies” are just tasks that weren’t dealt with on time. Make sure that you take care of important things before they become emergencies.

Planning your work and working your plan is not always as simple as it sounds but if you use the Eisenhower matrix and you make the effort to create a supportive environment, you will not only increase your productivity but also reduce stress at work.

Mantra for today:

I plan my work and I work my plan.

Eva Lu

Written by Eva Lu

Eva Lu is an ex engineer who decided to give up her successful career and dedicate her life to inspire and motivate others to find the best in themselves. She founded the “Mind of a Winner” website because she strongly believes that success is a skill developed by persistent people and her passion is to motivate others to become persistent enough. Her inspiration and her mentors are self-made millionaires who helped thousands of people to change their lives and who managed to build careers with their passion and vision towards doing something what they love. She also helps young entrepreneurs with business advices and encourages them not to give up on their dreams. She teaches them how to turn dreams into clear visions and ideas, and ideas into actions and results.
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