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How to be more productive at work

Is it possible to put in a better performance by putting in less effort? Putting in fewer hours and still getting better results is no utopia. It depends only on how you manage your personal energy. If you are efficient, you are productive.

Productivity is one of the most important challenges for our society. In fact, the Spanish economy is arguably lacking in productivity. A boost in productivity could enhance all prospects. On a personal level, productivity can also change your life.

Being productive is about conquering more objectives without having to invest more time, without having to put in extra effort. If you manage it, your productivity goes up. And if you do it by reducing the time or effort needed... your productivity is multiplied.

Productivity goes hand in hand with efficiency, which is to achieve the best results with the least possible resources. If you know how to manage your personal energy, you will be more efficient and more productive.

We speak to three professionals who have applied some of the latest personal productivity recipes to their daily lives.


Working better is not about working more

Your efforts work like the kWh of electricity you spend in your home.It’s not about switching it all off and going back to candles.That is not efficient because you give up certain goals instead of trying to achieve them.What is efficient, for example, is to be able to use all your appliances at will but not pay for it at certain times​.

The same happens at work. Being more productive is not about staying at the office until everyone else has gone home. In fact, that means being less productive and less efficient: yes, you may achieve your goals, but at the cost of investing many more resources (hours, effort, life).

“Staying for more hours in the office to achieve the same results is being less productive and less efficient”

We have talked to three professionals so that they explain to us how they are able to be more productive at work. Their work and personal situation is different, but their challenges are very similar.

Julia and María, both freelancers, develop part of their work in a coworking space. They came to IT for different reasons, but they agree that the fact of being surrounded by other professionals helps them to be more productive.

Gonzalo’s case is very different. He combines two tasks, one as a freelancer and another as an employee.


Coworking that enriches

Julia, periodista y copywriterlleva tres años como redactora freelance. Afirma que trabaja bien en casa pero desde hace seis meses acude de manera puntual a un espacio de coworking para evitar que le “pase factura estar tantas horas aislada”.

“Meeting professionals from other sectors is very enriching. In addition to exchanging ideas, ways of working and concerns, it is easy for collaboration opportunities to arise”, says Julia. “The environment there also positively influences your own efficiency.”

Julia acknowledges that in this workspace she is more productive than when she is writing at home since “there are hardly any interruptions” and she can also condense her work into “several consecutive hours”. The place is specially designed for it.

On the ploys she uses to increase her performance, Julia is very clear:

  • Dedicated and delimited space: “If you work from home you need have your own space that is only used for that purpose.” This way you avoid distractions.
  • Performing tasks instead of just letting the hours go by: if you set yourself a certain number of tasks per day and set a time for each of them, this also helps you to get more work done. “In my opinion it is a much more productive method than setting a rigid work schedule".
  • Careful environment: for Julia one of the key issues is music. “For me, it is essential to work with music on".

Family-work life balance is another of the issues that most worries her. For Julia, being self-employed gives her an advantage that salaried people do not have, she can manage her own time, her own energy. “My family and friends live far away. If I worked for a company, I couldn’t go and see them as often as I do now.”

“Employees are wholly subject to a schedule that occupies most of their day. Add to that, the home-work-home commute and holiday dates that they often have no choice about. In the end, they have about two hours left to enjoy their free time, but these two hours are ones in which the prevailing need is to rest and finish domestic or family tasks”, she says. 

In this way, the quality of personal life is seriously affected. Many companies have realised this and are already establishing programmes at their workplaces that allow their employees to enjoy labour flexibility.

But despite these inconveniences, Julia admits that self-employed people can separate the two facets of their life much better. “We freelancers can adapt our schedules and our holiday dates to whatever is most comfortable, but in return we end up flowing from one space into another too often, many times without realising it.”

“Many companies are beginning to grant their employees the advantages of labour flexibility that have proven valuable for the self-employed”

Your time is your greatest source of energy: manage it well

María has been using a coworking space for five years. Her decision to go there had to do with many reasons, including the need to separate her working life from her family life. “I have young children and it is difficult to work from home. Also, I like to get home and disconnect. I don’t want to associate my home with my workload”, she says.

This writer, dedicated to creating content for others as a storyteller and copywriter, states that freelancers can sometimes feel “alone and misunderstood”. This does not happen in a coworking environment since “the fact of being surrounded by other professionals generates team energy that can be perceived in the environment itself”.

But for Maria there are more advantages: being able to share expenses, establish synergies with other professionals or access relevant information about courses, training sessions or events that could be relevant to her activity.

In addition, she admits that since she began working in this space, she has increased her productivity. “At home you can get tied up with any little thing and you don’t even get half of your work done".

So, what are your tips to improve your performance?

  • Get up two hours before your children.
  • Plan the tasks for the next day at the end of the day.
  • Always work in blocks of time, in a rational manner.
  • Exercise every day: “It opens my mind and gives me clarity. It is when I come up with my best ideas".

As for the advantages of being self-employed, María states that work-life balance is one of them. “It gives me freedom since I manage my time according to my needs and those of my family.” In addition, she argues that since she has become a freelancer, she is more productive than when she was employed.

However, she acknowledges that being a salaried employee also has its positive side: to receive a salary at the end of the month. “There is not as much economic instability nor do you live in uncertainty,” she admits.

In addition to all these benefits, working in a shared space means significant energy savings. If each of the professionals had their own premises, the expenses to be faced individually would be high. If we add to this the fact that there are electricity rates for freelancers where you decide when and how to save, the equation is complete.

“Energy efficiency is often combined with personal productivity and new ways of organising work”

Pluriactivity: blessing or condemnation?

Gonzalo, a plumber and electrician by profession, has for a few months been combining his work as a salaried employee with that of a freelancer. Like Julia and Cristina, he has to organise himself in order to maintain his productivity.

For him, the greatest risk is spending too many hours on not achieving sufficient results. Every unprofitable hour reduces productivity, and he acknowledges that one cannot “waste time” on anything that is not important.

Being productive does not mean working very little. Nor does it mean working additional hours. It all comes down to what is achieved. An hour well-spent can yield the same results as eight leaden and unmotivated hours.

Gonzalo’s ploy is not a major example of productivity, since it consists in subtracting hours from his rest time. “Now that I am also self-employed, I have less time than ever, which makes it quite difficult for me to balance my work and personal life.” He uses lunch time and part of the night to get some work done so he can spend more time with his son.

He admits that if he were only self-employed, he could better combine his professional and family life. And he also says he feels “much more comfortable” working for himself, “although I acknowledge that at the level of productivity, I hardly notice any difference between one job and another.” “The responsibility is the same when you work for someone else or for yourself".

Gonzalo believes that job performance as an employee largely depends on what the person who hired him is like. “There are times when everything would be much easier if bosses realised the advantages of working in shifts and not with split schedules. Our quality of life as workers has a lot to do with how we organise our working day".

“Being productive is not about working less or working more hours. Being productive is about trying to achieve the maximum with the minimum”
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