10 App-Free Ways to Increase Productivity at Work

Filed Under Mind Mapping

Technology in the hands of businessmen
Owen Ray

July 29, 2013

It might sound crazy, but there are a few ways you can increase business productivity besides using productivity apps or other high-tech tools. I know, I know — as someone who spends his days of toil finding new ways to get people to love Mindjet, it seems patently insane. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t head over to our shop to try a certain collaborative work management app, but there are plenty of tech-free ways to get more work done — and be happier doing it.

10. Eliminate Distractions.

Yes, there are amazing things happening on Facebook right now. If you don’t check Twitter in the next 20 minutes, you will be a shell of a person. And if you don’t talk to your coworkers right now about what you just read about J-Beebz on Gawker, you’re just going to die. But if you give in, you also aren’t going to get any work done. It can be tough breaking your Interwebs-at-work habit, but you’ll have much greater attention to detail and get more work done, faster, for it. That said, distractions are not all self-inflicted — you might have sales guys yelling in one ear, and not-so-quiet open door discussions invading the other. Whether or not you know it, you’re listening — and being distracted. I’ve actually found that I type significantly faster when wearing noise-cancelling headphones. Get yourself a set and feel the magic.

9. Stick to a Schedule.

This can be tough. Your tasks change faster than Rupaul’s shoes, and every day different things come your way. But you can make your schedule tighter. Keep meetings to their scheduled times, and skip meetings that aren’t important (I know, that’s a lot of them, but let’s be reasonable.) Schedule your tasks by type, and stick to the list. If you’re writing from 9am-noon and editing from 1-3pm, stay with it unless you run up on do-or-die deadlines. If your tasks change more day-to-day, try to hash out a schedule each morning. And if you stay off of Facebook, you can probably manage.

8. Keep Your People Happy.

Angry, resentful, sad people are not productive. Unless they’re writers — that’s just the way we are. But everyone else is more productive at work when they’re happy with what they’re doing and who they’re doing it for. If you’re a leader, it’s your responsibility to make sure that your employees have the tools they need, and to establish a welcoming workplace culture. Recognizing people and making sure they know that the work they do is important to you and the company is huge. Nobody wants to be treated like a robot. Oh, and free lunches totally help. Nothing makes people feel more welcome than food they don’t have to pay for.

7. Measure Performance.

Part of keeping people happy is recognizing the work they do (see #8), and one of the best ways to do this is with regular performance evaluations. Review time isn’t always fun, but it’s the best way to let people know where they’re doing great and what needs to improve. Everyone might like to think that they’re perfect little working angels, but most are willing (and even eager) to hear constructive criticism from a second party. Everybody wants to get better at what they do. By establishing clear goals and providing meaningful feedback, you allow that to happen.

6. Take a Break.

I know what you’re thinking: “Hold up, you’re joking, right? I thought you just told me to stop slacking off.” Let me explain (if you haven’t already run off to have a beer in the park, that is). After sitting at your desk hammering away at a task for a couple hours, you get fatigued. You make mistakes. Your business-innovation-miracle-ideas start turning into a pile of suck. Plus, your insides get all crumpled up from sitting down all day. Get up, go outside, and go for a walk. Think about flowers and puppies and soft peanut butter cookies — anything but work. You get your focus back, your body is happier, and you’re ready to be utterly brilliant again. Just don’t think about beer though, because you’ll — hey, where are you going?!

5. Empower Employees.

It’s no secret: everyone hates being micromanaged. If you treat your employees like dimwitted drones that can’t make their own decisions, they’ll act like it, too. When you empower employees to make their own decisions, it saves time, money, and improves service. Not only that, your employees will innovate more, because they feel more creative and are less afraid to make mistakes. Giving people more control over their projects benefits everyone, from executives to customers to the employees themselves, and it has a real effect on the bottom line.

4. Just Say No.

Somewhere along the line you were taught that it’s bad work ethic to tell someone “that’s not my job” or “go to hell, I’m too busy” when they ask you to do something. In many cases, this is true — you should go out of your way to be helpful if you don’t want everyone to hate you. But sometimes the best thing to say is no. Whether have hotter deadlines to meet or it’s just plain not something you can do, more gets done if you say no than if you accept a project you can’t realistically complete. Of course, it’s always better to offer alternatives than to tell someone to buzz off.

3. Communicate & Collaborate.

We can’t say it enough: collaborative teams are more innovative and productive. You’re awesome, but not as awesome as you and five of your awesome teammates put together. Have regular conversations with your team to make sure that everyone is on the same page. If one person is going in the wrong direction, or has a better way of doing things, you’re doing the whole company a disservice by not finding out as early as possible.

2. Clear Your Space.

Clutter is distracting — and that moldy, month-old cup of coffee in your cube isn’t doing anyone any favors, either. If you have to scrounge through piles of paper and candy wrappers to find a pen, you’re not just wasting time, you’re losing focus. Your brain wants to pay attention to the disarray, causing the mess to compete for the attention you should be using to work. Not to mention that all that junk is secretly stressing you out. Grab the garbage can and a box of Clorox Wipes, and go to town.

1. Improve the Environment.

Old, blinky florescent lights, sticky floors, crappy chairs, and closed doors won’t just keep you off the local 10 Best Places to Work list; it’ll make everyone hate coming into the office. If the office is too bright, too dark, or ergonomically incorrect, it throws everyone off. If it’s in your budget, hire a professional office designer and a couple of ergonomics experts to whip things into shape. If it’s not, go to Home Depot, get some new light bulbs and markers, and start drawing on the walls. Whatever makes your team comfortable.

**It doesn’t hurt to try Mindjet, either.

  • Arlen Mark

    Awesome post. But to increase productivity I think project management tools like proofhub.com and basecamp.com should also be used.

  • Sameer Nigam

    Useful pointers, I will try for a week at least.