How productive you are at work

Being really productive in the office is not only good news for employers: Having completed all of the workload and still being able to go home on time also makes most employees feel good. Nevertheless, productivity in the workplace cannot be taken for granted: 35 percent of employees state that they are temporarily or not at all productive. It is not surprising if we can believe this Microsoft study. Accordingly, people in the digital age have a lower range of concentration than a goldfish.

Nevertheless, we are not condemned to a lack of concentration and productivity. Various methods and little tricks help you to stay focused and to cope with tasks without any problems. We have collected the most important tips for you below.

What is "Productivity"?

productivity means the best possible ratio of Input (Time, energy, resources) and output (Result). Applied to people, being productive means achieving the desired results with a reasonable amount of effort through skillful planning and organization.

When are you really productive?

There is no really uniform definition of a person's productivity. Most of them relate to the efficiency of a production facility, i.e. productivity in a business sense. Such a mechanistic definition does not do people justice.

Roughly broken down, this is what productivity is about Relationship between input and output: How much time, energy or other resources do you invest in an activity and what is the result? Ideally, using as few resources as possible leads to the best possible result: because then you are both effective and efficient.

Whether or not you are productive in the office is not a fateful decision. Because there are a wide variety of methods and techniques with which you can improve your own productivity, for example by increasing self-motivation. Therefore productivity can be understood as follows: Achieve the desired results with a reasonable amount of effort through skillful planning and organization.

The five pillars of productivity

Anyone who Googles for tips on how to be more productive will quickly find out that there are tons of tricks and techniques on the subject. However, most of them can be broken down into a few basic elements. Consultant Frank Hamm therefore identifies five fundamental pillars of productivity.


The first important pillar is staying focused on the current activity. Try to To devote all of your attention to just one task and avoid multitasking. This also includes clear priorities to put. The tasks that are most important are done first, and only then do you focus on less important ones.

In order for you to be able to stay focused on one thing, it is also essential that you (as best you can) Avoid outside distractions. Put your mobile phone away or switch it off or at least switch off push notifications. A study by the University of Virginia shows that the constant ringing of notifications on mobile phones leads to inattentiveness and hyperactivity.

You should also communicate to your colleagues that you do not want to be disturbed at certain times. Either a precautionary note in a personal conversation or a corresponding note on the office door or desktop can help.

To support you in disciplined work, there are also all sorts of things Software tools available. Selfcontrol (for Mac) or FocalFilter (Windows) are free programs that consistently block pages you have specified for a certain period of time. The software Cold Turkey Writer ensures distraction-free writing. It blocks everything from emails to chats to the browser that could distract users. In addition, it registers how many words you have written in a certain period of time and lets you check productivity goals that you have set yourself.


Routines and habits support and relieve our concentration. Because rituals that we perform on a regular basis take care of themselves without us having to think too much about it. For example, who would have to remember to brush their teeth with a note?

You can take advantage of this effect by using such Routines as well as possible in your everyday work integrate. For example, take an hour off of each day to answer emails, then make yourself a cup of coffee, and then create a to-do list to prioritize the tasks that need to be done that day . Fixed processes of this kind prevent oblivion. Or get used to a basic approach to typical tasks. This can also include basically to prepare for the next day shortly before the end of the working day. So you can start the pre-structured work the following day without much effort.

In the home office in particular, it can be difficult to establish such rituals, as the separation between work and leisure areas is blurred. Here you can help with little tricks: For example, you should always dress appropriately for the officeeven if no one sees you. With this ritual you signal to yourself that the "working mode" is now beginning.

However, it takes until the new routine is in place some stamina: It takes an average of 66 days for a new behavior pattern to become routine.


The term "timeboxing" comes from project management and aims at every project or every task assign a fixed time frame for processing. This way, you avoid focusing too much on unimportant details and wasting time on the really important tasks. At the same time, it helps to get yourself up for unpleasant tasks, in particular, if you know in advance how long you will have to hold out.

So consider your tasks, estimate the time required realistically and divide your working day into appropriate time blocks. Important: It is essential to plan breaks and a buffer time block for unexpected incidents.

It is also part of sensible time management, to bundle similar tasks in the best possible wayto work through them together and set daily goals within the framework of the time blocks. Activities that are so short that it is not worthwhile to have a separate time block (for example a short phone call, wiping the desk, etc.) can also be combined in a common block for “other”.

However, you cannot freely divide some task blocks, such as meetings with your team. So that you have such dates as possible be able to take this into account early on in your planning and coordination takes place quickly, shared meeting planners are ideal.


For all productivity and efficiency: people are not machines and constant, total productivity is a myth. We cannot work perfectly for hours without taking a deep breath and taking breaks. On the one hand, this is about the much vaunted Work-life balance, but also about the little ones Oases of calm occasionally. The average course of our performance level within a day is not a straight line, but rather looks like this:

Image: Wikimedia Commons, Rfw-da

To cushion the phases with lower concentration, it is useful, for example, during work Listening to music for relaxationif that's not too distracting. Make sure you take your break times and don't succumb to the temptation to work through to get a certain task done. It makes much more sense to consciously take a break and, for example, go out into the fresh aironly to get back to work with a fresh mind. Also a 20 minute one "Power Nap" can replenish the energy reserves.

After 70-80 minutes of focused work, the body automatically switches to a recovery mode for about 20 minutes, in which we are less concentrated and more receptive. Now at the latest, a break is essential. In the ideal case, however, you do not even exhaust this period, but take short breaks at shorter intervals.

A good way to internalize this work rhythm is this Pomodoro technique, named after a tomato-shaped kitchen clock. Here you set an alarm clock for 25 minutes before you start work. As soon as it rings, take a five-minute break. After four work units of 25 minutes each, take a longer break of 15 to 20 minutes. In this way, you not only divide your work strictly according to time blocks, but you also make sure that you get enough rest.

Self service

With all the helpful tips: Don't forget that everyone ticks differently. For example, some are morning people who are most productive in the morning. In terms of their biorhythm, the others are more like night owls who can only work properly focused when most of them are already asleep. Some people use the “eat the frog” principle and work through the most uncomfortable tasks first, while others need the pleasant work at the beginning of the working day in order to get into the right working posture.

That is why the golden rule for all methods and aids in terms of productivity is: Listen to your own feelings. Don't think that a method inevitably has to be kept just because it is touted as being particularly efficient. Feel free to try different approaches and only keep the ones that feel really good and right to you. Don't be afraid either Modify techniques to suit the way you work.

But don't give up too quickly! Change processes, which also include the development of new ways of working, never run linearly, as this graphic shows:


After the insight into change has come and the initial resistance has been overcome, failures often occur first. Because as long as a method is not yet “working out” for you, you often need more time and cognitive resources in the beginning than before. But if you manage to get through this low point, methods will emerge more and more clearly that work for you and that can soon become routine.

Methods that increase your productivity

There are various methods with which the productivity principles described can be implemented in a structured manner. In addition to the Pomodoro technique, there are other prominent techniques that can boost your productivity.

Pareto principle

The Pareto principle, also known as the "80/20" rule, states that regardless of the task at hand, 80 percent of the results correspond to 20 percent of the effort can be achieved, and can be used in a wide variety of contexts. For example, if 20 percent of a company's customers are responsible for 80 percent of sales.

In terms of productivity, the Pareto principle means that often 80 percent of the results are achieved in just 20 percent of the time invested, while the remaining 20 percent of the tasks take up 80 percent of the time.

The consequence of this is one well thought-out prioritization. Identify the 80 percent of tasks that you can do quickly and don't get lost in details just because you may have invested too little time in a task. At the same time, ask yourself which 20 percent of the tasks take up so much of your time, why this is so, and answer honestly whether the result is worth the effort.

Eisenhower method

The Eisenhower method goes back to the US president of the same name, who allegedly used it for time management and conveyed it to his employees. Essentially, this is about the categorization of tasks in order to then prioritize and process them accordingly.

The basis is one Matrix of urgency and importance. The combination results in the following four categories:

Image: HubSpot

  • A tasksthat are very important and very urgent should be dealt with immediately.
  • For B tasksthat are important but not urgent, find an appointment to do them in the near future.
  • C tasksYou can delegate to employees that are urgent but not important. In this way, they are dealt with promptly, but you still have the capacity for A tasks.
  • D tasks are neither urgent nor important and can therefore simply be ignored.

"Getting Things Done®“-Workflow

Getting Things Done® is a productivity methodology from bestselling author David Allen, who developed five mandatory steps in completing tasks:

  1. Collect: The system is based on the fact that really all tasks, ideas and thoughts to be completed are collected centrally in as few places as possible, the metaphorical inboxes.
  2. To process: All collected impulses are regularly examined and evaluated: Which of them should and must really be processed? The following applies Two-minute rule: Everything that can be done in a maximum of two minutes is tackled immediately and not postponed.
  3. To organize: This step is about ensuring that all tasks that have been assessed as worthy of processing find their place in a clear workflow. For example, all tasks that need to be done on the computer can be bundled.
  4. Look through: The point here is to regularly check your own approach. During the course of the day or, at the latest, in a weekly review, it should be ensured that the "inboxes" are empty and the workflow is up to date.
  5. Take care of: Only now is action being taken. Above all, the context decides which tasks are done first. For example, if you are currently sitting at your PC, it makes sense to tackle the computer-based tasks. The time available and personal energy resources are also taken into account in the order in which the tasks are processed

In addition, there are four lists for the GTD®-Workflow decisive:

  1. Action Lists: The next steps are listed here in a formulated form so that they can be carried out immediately without further thought (ie “collect receipts for XY” instead of “bookkeeping”). The task lists can then also be divided into context lists such as “telephone”, “computer” etc., depending on their scope.
  2. Project list: Projects are collected here. It is important to know that for David Allen all tasks are projects that include more than one step.
  3. Calendar: The calendar should only contain tasks that are time-specific. This includes specific deadlines and tasks that have to be completed on a specific day.
  4. Waiting for list: All delegated tasks are recorded in this list so that they cannot be lost sight of and tracked.

ALPS method

ALPS. is an acronym and stands for:

  • A.Record tasks, appointments and activities
  • L.estimate the length
  • PPlan for idle times
  • E.make decisions
  • Nfinal inspection

For the specific workflow, this means: First of all collect any tasks to be done. Then you can realistically assess how much time you have to work off the respective task or how long an appointment is likely to last. Hereinafter be sure to add slack to cushion unforeseen incidents (illness, unexpected urgent tasks, etc.).

Now you have to decide which tasks have the highest priority and should be edited first. You can also question the assessments made. Have you allowed too much or too little time for an item on the agenda? At the end of the day then review your assessments. Was it reasonable to set priorities? Is the time management realistic? In this way, you will learn more for planning future tasks.

General tips for more productivity

Sitting posture and movement

Lax hanging on the office chair not only makes you tired and unable to concentrate, it also quickly leads to back and neck pain, which certainly does not contribute to increased productivity. Instead, try to maintain a healthy posture or work better while standing. The Protects your back and gets your circulation going, You feel more alert and focused.

It is just as useful to integrate exercise into everyday work. Do during a phone call just a few steps in the office and use the lunch break for a walk. Also regular short stretching exercises not only offer a short break, but also prevent unpleasant tension.

to clean up

A clear space makes a clear mind. ” It is difficult to be productive in a completely chaotic workplace. On the one hand, you spend unnecessarily long looking for individual notes and utensils, on the other hand, you quickly lose track of things and tend to be distracted more quickly. Studies also show that. While a chaotic work environment encourages creative ideas to a certain extent, a neat environment encourages conscientious behavior.

So take the time to keep your space neat and tidy. When cleaning up, you can do one at the same time new, more effective organization system that makes it particularly easy for you to quickly access important documents and to keep an eye on to-do lists.

Use productivity tools

We have already introduced you to a few tools that you can use to protect yourself from unwanted distractions. However, there is still a variety of other software solutionsthat can give your productivity a boost.

Noisli, for example, creates pleasant, subtle background noises for those who miss the bustling office atmosphere in the home office. Wunderlist helps you create, edit and link various to-do lists. Evernote offers you a digital notebook in which you can capture spontaneous ideas in the form of text or voice notes and organize them later.

It is therefore worthwhile to look for small digital helpers when striving for more productivity.

Lighting: How much can daylight improve our concentration and productivity?

Light has a decisive influence on our biorhythm. Special Daylight signals to our brain that it is the middle of the day and stimulates the “awake” mode. On the other hand, the body associates darkness or dim light with night, it switches to rest and we become tired and unable to concentrate.

It is therefore important to ensure good lighting, ideally with daylight, while working. So place your workplace in the home office as close to the window as possible and encourage the installation of in the office Daylight lamps at.

Proper nutrition and drinking enough

Eating enough and as balanced as possible can also increase productivity. So our body needs Calories to keep the brain energized - Concentration does not work optimally on the low flame. A hearty lunch, however, leads to the infamous "Soup coma" and inhibits your productivity. Light, nutritious alternatives are preferable here.

You should also pay attention to enough to drink. Because as tests show, dehydration ensures that our brain has to use more energy for the same performance.


Cardiff University researchers have shown that productivity in offices increases by around 15 percent if there are plants there. There are different reasons for this. On the one hand, plants simply make a room more homely, so that employees are more likely to feel feel good. On the other hand, plants improve them Air quality and thanks to photosynthesis ensure more oxygen. This in turn has a positive effect on the ability to concentrate.

Keep to-do lists and check them critically

The methods and techniques already listed make two things clear: Keeping to-do lists simplifies work, because that Memory relieves will, you definitely do not forget and tasks on paper better organize and prioritize can.

However, to-do lists and your own way of keeping them should always be critically scrutinized. Because often enough we tend to simply write everything down and intuitively classify it as important. So take a critical look at long-term to-do lists on a regular basis and ask yourself honestly, whether each item really deserves its place on the list. Why is it that a task hasn't been done for weeks? Is it just plain uncomfortable and you should finally tackle it? Or is it just not important enough to you and can be deleted with a clear conscience?

Set deadlines and meet them

It should also be made clear that tasks be clearly timed have to. Often, submission deadlines are set externally, but sometimes we also have to create them ourselves in order to work consistently on a task. However, in the second case it is often not so easy to actually meet your own deadline. Here it can help Telling colleagues about the planned completion - this creates the necessary incentive not to simply let the deadline slip by the table.

Absolutely should also buffer planned in order to be able to deal with unforeseen events in a relaxed manner. But: Be realistic here and not too generous. This only increases the tendency not to take a deadline of your own choosing seriously.

Delegate and cooperate

Don't get stuck on the idea of ​​having to tackle tasks on your own. Instead, think as a team. What tasks can you give up with a clear conscience in order to have time for the really important ones? And where can you get help from colleagues or split up the work? If there is a balanced give and take, the productivity of the entire team increases.

Just start

And last: As important as well-thought-out planning and good organization are, sometimes we just have to start. Because we often try so doggedly to plan everything down to the smallest detail and to optimize our organization that the actual task is never actually realized. You should therefore dare to draw a line under the preparation phase at some point and put a project into practice.

Originally published September 4, 2019, updated January 29, 2020

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