work productivity

5 Habits to Increase Your Work Productivity

***Updated on 11 February, 2021

Understanding habits

As you have likely noticed, many workplaces have shifted to remote working to manage the risks of Covid19. Now that we have made the shift, it’s likely that remote work and work from home will become an ongoing part of our professional lives. For remote teams to work efficiently, knowing how to manage remote teams is an essential piece of the puzzle. It is also important to understand the crucial role that habits play in our day and how to increase work productivity.

Now is a great time to review your work habits, to make the most of the potential benefits of flexible work. We all have an opportunity to improve work productivity – the secret is to change those unproductive habits and build good ones.

We can define a ‘habit’ as a repeated routine or behaviour. To form new habits – or change existing ones – it helps to understand how they work. Research shows that a habit loop has three components – a cue, that triggers a routine or behaviour, followed by a reward.

For example, you get a coffee at 9 am every day. The ‘cue’ is the time, the ‘behaviour’ is getting a coffee, and the ‘reward’ could be the caffeine hit. Once you identify the three components, you can choose a routine that gives you the reward that you’re craving.

work productivity

Source: T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies (August 2019)

How to form habits that increase work productivity

Here are our top 5 Productivity Habits and how to use them.

Habit #1 – Start each day with a plan.

You can drastically increase your work productivity just by having a plan. A plan allows you to focus on what’s important, instead of getting distracted by impromptu tasks that pop up.

We suggest creating a plan during the afternoon, for the next day. Planning the day before helps you switch out of work mode, so you don’t spend the evening worrying about tasks.

Before you end the workday, spend a few minutes choosing 1-3 essential tasks that you will finish by the end of the following day no matter what. Then block out time in your calendar to complete those tasks. We also recommend using your most productive time of day for the important work. Experiment, so you know what works best for you.

Habit #2 – One thing at a time.

Forget multi-tasking, single-tasking is the key to productivity – the process of focusing all of your attention on a single task at a time, making you more efficient at working through items on time.

Single-tasking is a skill that takes practice. Therefore, we recommend that you start small. Try just 10 minutes of focused time to begin with, and when you find that easy, try 25 minutes.

Focused deep work takes a lot of energy and effort, so it’s important to take meaningful breaks. Many people find the Pomodoro technique helpful: 25 minutes of focused work, followed by a 5-minute break.

The key is to find a routine that works for you – providing focused time for single-tasking and building in reactive time to deal with urgent matters that may pop up during the day.

Habit #3 – Time-blocking works wonders.

Time-blocking is an excellent tool for managing your time more efficiently. You simply divide your day into time blocks and assign tasks to each block.

Time-blocking forces you to prioritise your important tasks proactively and helps you to focus on one thing at a time (see Habit #2). Deadlines help reduce procrastination. Therefore, it is much more likely that you will complete your task.

Time-blocking also helps you to avoid distractions like emails, because you set aside a block of time in your day specifically for answering emails. Here are six easy steps to start time-blocking.

``The key is to find a routine that works for you – providing focused time for single-tasking and building in reactive time to deal with urgent matters that may pop up during the day.``

Habit #4 – Eliminate physical and digital interruptions.

Interruptions are the enemy of productivity. Creating a physical environment that minimises breaks in concentration can make a big difference to your productivity. Here are some simple tips:

  • Turn off notifications on all devices
  • Shut down your email client
  • Try noise-cancelling earphones
  • Close tabs in your browsers that you’re not using for your current task
  • Optimise home workspaces by setting up in a clutter-free, quiet room or space
  • Agree on communication rules with family members so they understand when you cannot be disturbed.

Habit #5 – Keep mental distractions at bay.

We all face multiple distractions each day. Have you ever been halfway through writing a report and suddenly you remember it’s someone’s birthday, or there’s an email you forgot to send? Before you know it, you’re responding to emails while sending a ‘Happy Birthday’ text and your report is still waiting for you, unfinished.

A powerful tool to reduce mental distractions is to create a “distraction list”.

Whenever you have a sudden thought to work on a different task, jot it down on your “distraction list” and get back to work. This technique works because a lot of the time, your impromptu thoughts are tasks that legitimately need attention. But the key is to put off attending to those tasks until you’ve finished your current work.

This simple technique helps you to stay focused, without worrying about forgetting an important thought.

In a new normal of remote work, now is the perfect time to review your habits and get more out of each day. Small changes can make a big difference – so just get started!

PEPworldwide has been the leading productivity consultant in Australia for over 30 years. We have developed a Remote Program to help you and your team build productive workplace habits, particularly for those working remotely.

Learn how PEP can help you build good habits to increase your productivity.

By Simon Nicholls

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