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Falling behind on work can be stressful when your tasks are critical for a project’s success. Often solutions can be found by identifying poor planning habits or discovering new technologies that can be used to get work done more efficiently. We’ve put together a dozen ideas you can use to increase your productivity.

1. Find New Ways to Make Your Processes More Efficient

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When you are too busy to learn the advanced functions of software or find ways to automate tasks you assume must be done manually, you can get stuck in an unproductive rut. Force yourself to stop working on specific tasks to take training courses, and talk to colleagues to see how they accomplish the same type of tasks that take up most of your time. You may discover you can do the same work in half the time in some cases.

2. Cut Back on Meetings

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One way to boost productivity is to reclaim time that you’ve given away to various meetings for projects in which you only have a tangential role. Cut back on meetings that rarely require your participation or that you attend simply to take notes. Those hours could be spent catching up on your backlog of work. When meetings are absolutely necessary, consider business VoIP solutions that allow you to easily collaborate via high definition video or audio.

3. Take a Look at Project Management Tools

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If the scheduling and planning tools you’re using aren’t meeting your needs, look into what’s new in project management tools. The options have exploded in recent years with many web apps entering the market. Many of these apps are lower cost and easier to access remotely from any device when compared to traditional planning software.

4. Try the SMART Method

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An effective productivity method is setting SMART goals, which are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. When you think through these criteria when setting goals, you’ll recognize assumptions, unrealistic expectations, and scheduling issues before you begin. The SMART method of goal-setting can help cut wasted time and back-tracking that can happen when upfront planning is hasty.

5. Break Tasks Down into Mini-Tasks with Deadlines

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One way to create discipline while multitasking two or more long-term projects is to break tasks that normally take more than a day into chunks that you can accomplish each day. You can build a Gantt Chart of milestones that outlines the progress you need to make each day and use it as a roadmap.

6. Delegate Tasks to Online Assistants

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With the advent of unified communications, an effective strategy to become more productive is to offload overflow or routine tasks to online assistants. Video conferencing and messaging apps make collaboration with remote teams more efficient than they were in the days of telephones and email. Be sure to do your homework before delegating, though, to ensure that the assistants you choose to delegate tasks to can get them done in the time you expect.

7. Stop to Review Progress Periodically

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Planning isn’t always effective when it isn’t re-evaluated often. Your estimates for the time it takes to do tasks can be off enough to impact your ability to hit medium-term deadlines, so it pays to stop and conduct reality checks at least once a week. Some tasks may take longer than expected, and some may not take nearly as long as you feared. Make adjustments to your daily schedule as you discover where you need to devote more time.

8. Break Projects into Tasks and Schedule Them

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Making effective use of projecting planning tools, even if it’s just Outlook’s scheduling tools, can help you stay on task by reminding you of milestones that need to be met. Keeping the bird’s eye view of projects each day can help keep you motivated to push through difficult tasks. You’ll also stop being surprised by deadlines when they arrive.

9. Clean Off Your Desk

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If you find it difficult to focus because of distractions, you may also be someone who loses focus because of a messy desk. Finding what you need while you work can become frustrating, and seeing all your back work lying in front of you can make it difficult to concentrate on one task at a time. If this sounds like you, then start your day by cleaning your work area and organizing your supplies and papers.

10. Try the Pomodoro Methods

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If you have difficulty focusing on tasks for long periods of time or your work require intense concentration, try the Pomodoro method to stay on task longer. It’s like mental calisthenics. Set a routine in which you work for a set number of minutes, and then take a short break to rest your mind. For instance, you might work on writing a proposal for 30 minutes and take a break for 10 minutes. Then go back to where you left off and work on it for another 30 minutes. This can be an effective way to improve your mental stamina when working on tasks that require sustained effort.

11. Track How Long Tasks Take to Complete

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Productivity doesn’t just require time management; it requires realistic measurements. The trap that you can fall into is over-scheduling your day to maximize how much you get done. Worse, you can find yourself over-scheduling at week’s end because you didn’t get the tasks you’d planned to complete done at the beginning of the week. Your planning will become realistic when you measure the actual amount of time you spend on tasks and use conservative estimates based on those measurements.

12. Work Alone for Better Concentration

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Some people work well in co-working workspaces because their tasks require frequent cross-communication with their team members. This may not be a good setting for tasks like writing or coding that require large blocks of uninterrupted concentration. If your company has a work-at-home allowance, use it. You can also move your workspace to a place away from noisy chatter. Consider contacting a VoIP provider for options that can allow you to stay in touch with team members when it’s needed.

Better planning, forming habits that help you stay on task, and exploring new technology solutions are all ways to improve your productivity at work. If you can find the weak links in your work routine, you’re certain make progress by using one of these suggestions to mitigate them.