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How to Become More Productive at Work: Life-changing Pro Tips for 2021

It’s a new year, new you, with new resolutions to stick to! And as we also enter a new decade, it’s a time to reflect on our goals and start afresh with a new approach to life and work. Maybe you want to achieve that promotion? Or maybe you’re starting a new role this year. For those of us who want to start 2021 with career success, this guide to being more productive at work will give you just the right practical advice and motivation you need!

Follow the 80/20 Rule

Followed by many great leaders and managers, the Pareto Principle (also known as the 80/20 rule) suggests that 20% of what you do produces 80% of the results. This means that managing your time and prioritising which are the most important tasks or goals is essential to achieving your desired outcome. If you think you might be giving yourself too many little jobs throughout the working day, then it might be time to assess your end goal and decide what your priorities are!

Learn New Skills Online

Accredited online courses are a great way to learn new skills, and you don’t even need to leave the house to gain a recognised qualification. There are plenty of e-learning courses that are focused on professional development, from work-life balance courses, to Microsoft Office training bundle programs and business management classes. The convenience of online courses is that you can study full-time or part-time at your convenience.

Take Re-energising Breaks

If you’re sitting down working at a computer all day staring at a screen or frantically going from meeting to meeting, at some point your energy and focus levels will plummet. This is natural for everyone, and even the best of us need a few minutes here and there to recharge our batteries and clear our minds. During each hour of the working day, a few minutes’ walk just to stretch your legs or make a cup of tea can be just what you need to re-focus and sharpen re-boot your brain.

Set SMART Goals

To be successful at anything, you must have a clear vision for your future. Goal-setting helps us to define our objectives and dreams, outlining where we want to be and how we’re going to set about getting there. These days, more and more business leaders are turning to the SMART method of goal-setting.

SMART stands for: 


By adopting this framework, it will become clearer to you what goals you want to achieve, are they realistic? How are you going to achieve them? When do you want to achieve them by? And how will these goals change your working life? SMART goal setting helps you work out the answers to these important questions.

Add Structure to Your Working Day

The key to a productive working day is to plan. Organising your workload helps to give your day structure, and there are many ways to sort and categorise your tasks to help you work to your best potential. These include setting realistic deadlines for projects, staying focused on one task at a time, making a ‘to-do’ list.  If your job requires you to sit at a computer all day, then following the 20-20 rule is also a great way to stay focused. All you have to do is look away from the screen at something in the distance for 20 seconds, every 20 minutes.

Plan Your Workday in Advance

Planning your work the night before allows you to start the new day with a clear mind and have a solid idea of your schedule. Whether it’s a few simple bullet points or full-blown chart of every task to be performed, organising your day in advance will reduce work-related stress and promote a calm mental state, which is crucial for a successful and productive day.

Web and mobile applications such as Asana and Trello are also a great way to manage your workload and plan your work throughout the week. They also allow you to share your work projects with colleagues, assign tasks and tick off tasks once they are complete.

Nourish Your Body, Nourish Your Mind!

As the saying goes, “A healthy body is a healthy mind”, and if you’re looking to boost your productivity at work, then the food you choose to fuel your body with matters more than you might think.

Healthy office snacks and foods that boost brain power include:

  • Fruit (fresh or dried)
  • Nuts
  • Protein bars
  • Yogurt
  • Granola bars
  • Dark chocolate

Foods to avoid include:

  • Highly processed foods
  • Sugary carbonated drinks
  • High fat crisps
  • Foods high in carbohydrates

While we’re on the subject of health, this brings us to another important topic – exercise!

Get up and moving!

Exercise is not only important for keeping our bodies in shape, it’s also essential for mental clarity and well-being. It is a scientific fact that working out reduces stress hormones and increases your heart rate, which in turn pumps more oxygen into the brain. This doesn’t mean that you have to be running marathons or deadlifting weights every day. Many of us don’t have time to go to the gym before we start work, but just a 30-minute walk during your lunch break can make a difference, and the fresh air will do a world of good!


Brainstorming with team mates and colleagues is a great way to get inspired and motivated. By sharing ideas and collaborating, your mind becomes re-energised and more focused on future work projects. Informal meetings also help to break up the day, which helps to keep your brain stimulated. 

Brainstorming can also be an effective solo activity, encouraging us as individuals to think outside the box when it comes to our work and how we approach our tasks. And as we practice brainstorming more and more, generating fresh ideas will come naturally.

De-clutter Your Workspace and Mind

Is your desk scattered with papers, post-it notes and endless to-do lists? Are your documents all over the place? Then it’s time for operation de-clutter! Thinking clearly and productively goes hand-in-hand with a relaxed and organised working environment, and you can’t be producing your best work when you risk being buried under an avalanche of old papers and misplaced spreadsheets! 

You don’t need to go full-on Feng Shui, but keeping your workspace free of unnecessary paperwork and other miscellaneous items will lead to a clearer mind when focusing on your work.

Be the Early Bird That Gets the Worm!

Let’s face it. Some of us are not morning people. But altering our sleeping patterns and waking up early can help us to be more productive in our working day. If you look at all the famous entrepreneurs and top business execs, many are early risers, as this allows them to start the working day feeling energise and relaxed. They have time to do their gym routine, eat a leisurely breakfast, plan their day, and have some valuable free time to themselves.

Starting your day tired and high on caffeine, as many who have rushed into work half asleep can attest to, is no recipe for productivity. So, why not make it your New year’s resolution to be that morning person you never thought you could be and start small by waking up 30 minutes early than usual, to ease you in to a new sleeping pattern.

Listen to Relaxing Sounds

There’s a difference between turning the radio up loud to drown out background office noise and listening to soft, lyric-free music such as the soothing sounds of the sea many people play to help them get to sleep. The first may life your mood, but it certainly won’t help when it comes to being more focused in the workplace. Studies show that a bit of background music can actually boost our productivity. So why not add a new work playlist to your Spotify and start downloading some classic Beethoven!

So, what have we learned from this comprehensive guide? Put simply – productivity means getting lots of sleep, looking after your body, keeping your mind engaged and ensuring your working environment is a distraction and clutter-free zone. Everyone is different, so if you want to know how to become more productive at work, you have to know the conditions that allow you to work at your best, and most importantly, know what your goals are.  A method that works for you might not work for someone else, so make sure that your working day is tailored to your needs, and everything else will fall into place!

Professor Bob Pozen on How to Become More Productive at Work

October 6, 2021

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