We all start the year with the best intentions: clearing out our inboxes, cleaning our workspaces and planning out the year ahead. As the weather starts to warm up and we hit the mid-year mark, these hopeful efforts are usually in shambles, with greater, more urgent business priorities and team targets taking centre stage.

What I’ve come to realise over the years, is that it’s the small things that can make all the difference in the long run. After all, wouldn’t you prefer to work smarter and not harder, so you can get out and enjoy some sunshine?

Here are my top productivity tips for revamping your workflow, improving communication and driving efficiency:

Productivity tip 1: Empty your inbox

It may seem obvious, it may seem daunting, and oddly it’s not something anyone ever teaches you, but email overload is only a hindrance to success. It will slow you down and increase the chances of something slipping through the cracks. It may appear to be a mammoth task, but it’s really very simple: file, delete, forward or take immediate action.

Beyond this, don’t make things harder for yourself. Unsubscribe from pointless newsletters: there’s no need to be bombarded by every business you have ever worked with. Create a separate folder for where these are to live or use a tool like Unroll.me which makes bulk unsubscribe easy.

Furthermore, it’s a good idea to think about other ways in which you can reduce the number of emails coming in. Instant messenger tools can allow for speedy responses, cutting through formalities to get to the crux of the subject matter; while work management tools such as Asana ensure conversation happens alongside tasks where the work is actually happening, enabling a dialogue in situ. No more going back through threads of old emails and piecing that back to the activity in question.

Productivity tip 2: Say goodbye to unnecessary meetings

According to McKinsey, the average worker wastes 61% of their time coordinating their work in meetings, email & chat rather than doing their actual work. Too often people schedule meetings to discuss progress and problems that could have been resolved without one. A frequent catalyst for unproductive meetings is relying solely on traditional communication pathways. Many conversations about work are siloed in email chains, or housed in lengthy spreadsheets – which are often disliked and therefore not updated – this necessitates regular face-to-face time.

A first step in freeing up your calendar could be to look where you can shorten meetings and where you’re able to eliminate those that provide little to no value. Beyond this, think about how you can create a flexible working environment where teams can access and share the latest materials, formulate new ideas and drive projects forward without necessarily needing to be in the same room, let alone the same country.

Productivity tip 3: Clean up, back up

We all know we should be doing this regularly but so few people do. At a basic level, deleting old photos and files, and creating new folders for improved organisation can help put you on the path to success. Cloud-based tools, like Dropbox or Google Drive, lead to increased accessibility, ensuring the whole company has access to the latest documents and information. By embracing these tools and processes, you’ll have peace of mind that you’re mitigating any mishaps and enabling more efficient ways of working across your organisation.

Productivity tip 4: Re-examine to remain competitive

Now’s the perfect time of year to check in with your partners, customers, employees, or other stakeholders to reflect upon your relationships and what can be improved. By examining these relationships with fresh eyes, you’ll be able to spot any issues and establish new processes to increase efficiencies, which may lead to more profitable outcomes and set you up for success for the second half of the year.

Productivity tip 5: Small steps, big strides

As the temperature rises, so does the level of mid-year panic and chaos. Rather than focusing on trying to do everything at once, focus on the one thing that you can do in a day or a week to help get things under control. Taking a step break to reflect, even just for 10 minutes, can also help you to regroup, reprioritise your to-do list and approach work with a fresh set of eyes. By taking small, actionable steps to help declutter, you’ll soon find that these activities will become daily habits that will allow you to get ahead, rather than falling further behind.


Read more: Boosting productivity in 2019: Three tech leaders share their top tips