Seven ways to boost your productivity

Put down that smartphone and dedicate yourself to adopting these expert workplace strategies.

You put in long hours at the office, yet despite always feeling busy, you have little to show for it. Why? Because you’ve spent the entire day in reaction mode, responding to the myriad stimuli that surround us. You also feel unfilled and unproductive because you haven’t completed any of your key objectives. So, how is it possible to take back the time and accomplish what you need to do in a day? Here are seven expert strategies to boost your productivity, work smarter, and live a healthier, more balanced life.


People have always been sidetracked by things at work—look, squirrel!—but we’ve never been in such a “culture of interruption,” says Clare Kumar, who founded her Toronto-based productivity consultancy in 2005. When you have a task to complete, silence your phone and turn off all notifications, advises Kumar, because that LinkedIn post or text from a friend will still be there once work is done. Don’t be a twitching Pavlovian dog to technology.


Many people dread meetings because they eat away at valuable working hours. If a long meeting is scheduled, Kumar suggests looking at the agenda and then asking the meeting organizer if you can attend the portion applicable to you. To create balance in your schedule, she adds, you need to “gracefully set your boundaries, advocate and defend them.” If you are the meeting architect, make sure to create a clear agenda by issuing minutes, highlighting actions and respecting the attendees’ time. (Also, allow breaks to move around—or even consider a “standing” meeting to keep things on schedule.)


Don’t get swept away by all the incoming messages: block out intervals of time, between 60 to 90 minutes, on your daily calendar for working and deep thinking. With the growing trend of open-concept office space, there are even more visual and auditory interruptions, so make sure to “insulate yourself dramatically,” advises Kumar, and concentrate on the task at hand. If you have a door, close it; if you don’t, pull out the noise-cancelling headphones or put an “at work” sign on the back of your chair.


In order to think clearly and sustain energy throughout the day, you need to listen to your body and give it what it needs. And sleep is the productivity elixir: power-napping for, say, 20 minutes, reboots and replenishes our brains. Book a meeting room to take a snooze—or, if you can’t nap, don headphones to reduce stimuli and zone out at your desk or at a café. We have to make this “a culture of allowing rest,” says Kumar, if we hope to engage in deep problem-solving and true mindfulness (adding, for emphasis, “#NoSleepShame”!)


Start your day by looking at your calendar and choosing the key items that you want to accomplish by day’s end. Set yourself up for success by choosing a doable number of tasks, perhaps five, and keep in mind the time each task requires to complete.


After working solidly for an hour, self-awareness will again tell you if you need to go into sleep mode or shake it all about. If it’s the latter, move around and hydrate. Walk to the printer, walk around the lobby, or enjoy some fresh air. Being in nature is the best place to clear your mind.


January through June is an extremely busy time for CPAs. Kumar recommends planning a personal recovery break at the end of this season—even if it’s only a short break, like a spa or golf weekend—before stepping back into the work cycle. Planning that reward ahead of time is psychologically beneficial.


Any other tips that have worked for you? Post a comment below.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the interview subject and do not necessarily reflect that of CPA Canada.