I decided to write this post pronto because I am really missing the holidays. Logging onto my laptop Monday morning, I was thinking to myself, I need to figure out how to stay productive at work when I am just not feeling it.

Because after such a great holiday season and eating enough food to last me for the rest of the month, I was struggling to get into my “work mode.” If you’re wondering, like me, how to regain motivation at work or curious about ways to be more productive, stay tuned. Here are 8 easy things you can do to be more productive at work.

How to Stay Productive at Work

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How to be productive at work

I’ve split up my tips for how to be productive at work into a couple of categories: How to become more productive and motivated, how to motivate yourself to be productive, how to stay productive at work, and how to work effectively and efficiently. And of course, this all applies to how to motivate yourself at work when you’re not feeling it.

These are tips and tricks that I have done myself in order to regain my motivation at work and stay productive. While I recommend that you try all of them, I do use some of them more often than others. Try a combination of these tips until you find what works best for you.

And let me know how it goes! Leave a comment below with your successes. But before you go crazy as a super motivated and productive young professional…

What does it mean to be productive at work?

The simple answer would be getting your work done!

One of my favorite things about adulthood versus college is that we, young professionals, get paid for getting our work done. In college, we paid to go to school whether we got our work done or not! 🙂 

But in all seriousness, what does it actually mean to be productive at work? Besides getting your work done, it’s getting your work done in a timely manner and at a good pace. It means not pulling out your hair, drowning in stress, or having to carry tons over to the next day because you couldn’t finish it all.

Now a question that’s just as important…

What does it mean to not be productive at work?

To sit at your desk, twiddle your thumbs, and make little progress on your projects and tasks. This is what I feel like doing after a long vacation. I just have no motivation to work anymore and push everything to the next day.

Not being productive at work could also be independent of motivation.

There may be a lot of distractions, competing priorities, or an unreasonable amount of work that affects your productivity. You may simply feel like you are unable to accomplish what you need to and are looking for tips for how to be more productive at work. 

No matter which bucket you fall into, here are some great how to be productive at work tips!

How to Stay Productive at Work Tips

While there is no secret formula to guarantee you the highest productivity everyday, there are some small steps you can take to increase your productivity and motivation. Depending on the day, some of these tips may work better than others. The idea is to keep trying different combinations and adapt them to the culture where you work.

How to become more productive and motivated

1. Have meetings in the morning when you’re more energized. Mornings are the best times to have meetings because you can check in on progress from the previous day as well as get clear direction on how to plan out the rest of your day based on what’s most urgent. 

Also, we typically have more energy first thing in the morning. So if you’re an introvert, like me, you have the energy to interact with people and collaborate on projects.

2. Always schedule meetings with an objective. Everyone hates those meetings where no one can remember why there is a meeting! Do yourself a favor and avoid pointless meetings. Schedule meetings only when necessary and with a clear objective and agenda. 

If you’re invited to a meeting, but not sure if you need to attend, ask! That’s valuable time and energy you could use for other projects.

3. Block off your calendar to avoid being stuck in meetings. Now this “how to be productive” tip really depends on where you work and the culture there. But speaking from experience, there have been days where I just don’t have time to do work because my calendar is full of meetings!

If you’re working on something with an approaching deadline and find yourself in the same boat, try blocking off 2 or 3 hours on your calendar to dedicate to finishing that task. All of those meetings that you would have been stuck in can be scheduled another day after you meet your deadline.

How to motivate yourself to be productive

4. Make a list and plan your day/week. This is something I do every week regardless of whether I’m feeling motivated at work or not. It’s important to have a written or tangible list of what you need to accomplish each day/week. Then you can more easily break your day into sections where you’ll be able to focus on each individual task.

Sometimes just having a plan can make an overwhelming amount of work seem like much less. 

5. While you’re at it, track your progress, too. Tracking my progress always motivates me to do more. I feel satisfaction every time I get to check something off of my list, move a sticky note from “In Progress” to “Done,” or see the progress bar on a training course move another percentage point.

Tracking your progress is an easy way to stay productive because you’ll be motivated to keep the ball rolling.

6. Connect with colleagues to motivate you and encourage you. While you may prefer to only meet with people in the mornings, you can certainly reach out to your coworkers to motivate and encourage you throughout the day. 

If you’re having a bad day, sometimes knowing that someone else is also having a bad day is encouraging. Coming back from the holidays, I’m sure that you won’t be the only one in the office struggling to get back into the groove. 

On top of that, just hearing a colleague thank you for your work or explain to you the impact of your contribution can help motivate you by reminding you why you do what you do!

Related: Motivation can also come from Challenging Yourself at Work!

How do you stay productive all day?

7. You stay productive all day by taking breaks!  Or in other words, it’s impossible to be productive all day from 8 to 5 every day. Everyone needs to take breaks, and breaks can even be helpful to your work. 

After a 10-minute yoga session, short mediation, or walk around the block, you may come back to your desk with a new perspective and more ideas. Sometimes all it takes is a bit of space to get a new angle and more energy to power through and stay productive. 

8. Pray for strength. When it comes to how to stay productive at work, it’s important that we don’t rely on our own strength. God the Father is almighty, powerful, and our Creator. He knows our fragility, our weakness, and when we are tired. But He is there to strengthen us and encourage us when we are weary. So my last tip for how to stay productive at work is to reach for strength from your Heavenly Father.

“He gives strength to the weary

and increases the power of the weak.

 Even youths grow tired and weary,

    and young men stumble and fall;

 but those who hope in the Lord

    will renew their strength.

They will soar on wings like eagles;

    they will run and not grow weary,

    they will walk and not be faint.”

Isaiah 40:29-31 (NIV)

How else can I be more productive at work?

Focused work is the key to being more productive at work. Did you know that it takes only 15 seconds to derail you or distract you from work? On the flip side, it takes you 15 minutes to get back in the groove and focus back on the task at hand. (Or something like that they shared with us at new hire orientation…)

That’s a precious 14 minutes and 45 seconds that you lose every time your phone dings, or you stop to check your email, or someone drops by your cubicle to say hey. Save the chit chat for the water fountain, mute your notifications, and set a timer to check your email every 30 minutes or hour. 

If you’re wondering how to stay productive at work, stay focused on the task at hand and finish it before interrupting yourself with other tasks, messages, and emails.

Headphones and Productivity

Is it okay to wear headphones at work? Do headphones increase productivity?

Headphones in the workplace are a very controversial topic, and I see both sides to the argument. 

The positives are that they help you stay focused, drown out noise and distractions, and for me, help me work faster because I’m working to a rhythm. On the other hand, people say that headphones make people appear closed off, antisocial, and disengaged from their teams.

To the “other hand,” I laugh and say, headphones do not mean that someone is antisocial. It probably means that the person is drowning in work and trying to get stuff done!!

So for me personally and the culture at the company where I work, headphones, at certain times of the day, are acceptable and necessary. Ask some more seasoned coworkers to see how headphones are perceived in your office before using them. But listening to music, podcasts, and radio stations is a great way to be more productive!

Want more workplace tips? See Valuable Career Advice for Young Professionals

Bonus: How to Stay Productive Working from Home (WFH)

Since a lot of people are working from home nowadays, there’s been a mass scramble to try to adjust to life working from home. The lines between work and life have blurred, making work-life balance more of a myth than a reality right now.

So, how does one stay productive working from home?

My best advice would be to do what you normally would do if you were going into the office.

Get up around the same time. Eat your breakfast and drink coffee or tea as per usual. If you have a lot of extra time since you are no longer commuting, you can use the extra time for a devotional, prayer time, catching up on adulting things, or a hobby. I have traded my commute time for a longer devotional and time to write and blog.

For me, what makes the biggest impact on productivity when working from home is my clothing. If you try to spend the whole day working from home in your pajamas, you will only get as far as your bed. Trust me!

While you don’t have to wear a blazer or a pencil skirt, getting dressed in some casual clothes that are not pajamas and not workout clothes helps your brain get into the mindset of working. 

More Working from Home Tips

Make sure you have a designated space to work–a desk and a chair are a good start. If you work on your bed, you’ll be tempted to go to sleep. If you work on the couch, you’ll be tempted to watch TV. 

Having a separate work space is also important for delineating between work-life and home-life and maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

When you are able to leave your laptop at your desk, away from the couch and the bed, it’s less tempting to return to your desk after dinner.

Take it from someone who works in an organization where Friday has always been a work from home (WFH) day. Get up, eat, put on real clothes, and go to your desk. These things may seem small but they do wonders for staying productive working from home.

Stay Productive: How to Work Effectively and Efficiently

Sometimes the key to staying more productive at work is learning how to work smart. I’d heard the phrase “work smart” several times before I realized that:

At its essence, working smart is about how to work effectively and efficiently.

For example, working more effectively is making sure you understand the requirements and expectations for the project that you’re working on before you get started. If you get ahead of yourself and start without clear guidance, chances are, you’ll have to do rework on the project because it’s not what your team expected.

As a young professional, this has happened to me too many times for me to admit here. I wish someone had told me how to work more effectively and efficiently upfront. Instead, I’ve gotten stuck in endless review cycles and tons of rework because I did not establish and document the requirements before starting my project.

Related: Don’t make my mistakes! The Best Career Advice I Ever Got as a Young Professional

Ways to Be More Productive, Efficient, and Effective

So, from a young professional who’s worn out from rework, here’s how to work more effectively and efficiently.

  • Before starting a project or task:
    • Gather any written documents that detail project requirements.
    • Document any additional verbal requirements.
    • Meet with the reviewers, your team, or anyone who will sign off on the document. Make sure you are all on the same page on what is to be delivered.
    • Ask questions — better safe than sorry applies here! Don’t be afraid to speak up if something unexpected comes up.
    • Show a sample. If you have a prototype or the project 10-25% complete, show it to your team and some reviewers to make sure you’re producing what is expected.
    • Question the business case — always have a clear understanding of the why and the urgency of the project. Ask your team:
      • Why does this project need to be completed?
      • What is the purpose of this project?
      • How will this project be used?
      • What is the deadline for this project? Is that a fixed or flexible deadline?
      • If I can’t complete it at that time due to competing priorities, how will this affect other projects?
      • How should it be prioritized against my other competing projects?

Resources for How to Be More Productive

If you want to know how to stay more productive at work, working smart is an essential to the list!

Check out the book: Essentialism by Greg McKoweon to learn more about the art of essentialism.

Find out more about Essentialism.

This book, which I read for my corporate book club, changed my perspective on how doing less actually accomplishes more. For any young professional, it’s certainly worth the read. Read my full thoughts on my instagram #bookstagram review.

To wrap up, KJL wants to wish you productivity and motivation for this “after holiday season!”

How do you stay motivated and productive?

Leave me a comment below!

Don’t miss this! More posts about Working and the Young Professional Lifestyle:

Featured Image: Pixabay, created with Canva.

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