You would probably be surprised how many people go to work every day never accomplishing anything. Sometimes this is not entirely their fault because most jobs are chaotic and involve putting out fires all day and wasting time with corporate bureaucracy, like meetings, with no time left over to do anything productive. But often low productivity is a result of poor time management skills. If you're not productive, does the company really need to keep you around?
Another cause of lack of productivity can be a boss that keeps piling on assignments without regard to the work he has already placed on your platter. Your low productivity may be partially your bosses fault but if you're not productive you may be at the top of the list of people marked for downsizing. To be productive you need to keep a task list and a time log.
When your boss gives you an assignment, record it on your task list. When your boss gives you a second assignment, show them your task list and ask them where the new assignment fits in based on priority. When your boss gives you a third assignment, again ask where it fits in based on priority. This lets your boss know that if they want to pile on another task, something else has to give.
Many times tasks come from people who are not your direct boss. Show that person your task list and tell them you'll ask your boss where this new task fits in based on priority. This will usually cause them to drop the task, or go talk to your boss directly.
The exception to the above procedure is when you're doing a favor for a co-worker with whom you network. In order to succeed at work you'll need the help of other employees. So when a co-worker asks you for a favor, it's best to help them if you can. But even though you're doing a favor for a co-worker, you still may want to show them your task list to let them know the value of the time used for the favor you're doing for them.
A favor may be requested by a fellow employee who is not in your network, that is, a person who is not in a position to ever repay the favor, or a person who you don't want to cooperate with for one reason or another. In this case, show them your task list and tell them that you're just too far behind schedule to help them, or that you'll ask your boss where their task fits into your task list based on priority.
To be productive you also need to keep a time log. A time log is a chart of your time each day and what you were doing during each block of time. A block of time might be 15 minutes. It's very good to be able to show your boss a time log when they ask why it's taking so long to get something done.
Your time log should record any time blocks taken up by putting out fires and corporate bureaucracy, like meetings and training sessions. Unless your company has a very chaotic environment, your largest blocks of time should be for the task that your boss indicated is first priority.
Normally you should work on the assignment that is first priority until that assignment is complete. Then you should begin working on the assignment that was second priority, but is now first priority. That is what you should do, but that's not always possible.
Sometimes progress on your first priory assignment comes to a screeching stop because of something out of your control, like a missing part. In that case you should start working on the assignment that is second priority until the problem on the first priory assignment is resolved. If both your first and second priority assignments are held up because of something out of your control, move on to your third priority assignment, and so on.
Some people can do the same thing for days with no problem. Other people's productivity drops like a rock after doing the same thing for only a few hours. This is because some people get bored more easily and this causes their productivity to drop. If you're one of those people, working on tasks in the exact order of priority may be difficult just because of simple boredom.
If you're the type of person who's productivity drops drastically because of boredom, you may want to take a break from working on the first priority task and switch to a lower priority task for a short while. But don't do this if it will cause you to miss a deadline. Don't do it if your boss can't go along with it.
If you boss catches you working on the second priority task because you got bored with work on your first priority task, your boss will probably think nothing of it, as long as he catches you working, not slacking off. But if your boss asks you why you're not working on your first priority task, just explain that you're taking a short break from it because boredom caused your productivity to drop and you want to maintain maximum productivity. Most likely your boss will give you a nod of approval or even praise you taking steps to keep your productivity up.
Let's be honest, nobody works 100 percent of the time during their working hours. Everybody takes a little time to socialize. In fact some socializing can help you at work by giving you friends to go to when you need information or help. But the amount of time you spend socializing should be so small that it would not be relevant on your time log (and of course it shouldn't be recorded on your time log).
By using the techniques described here you'll be able to manage your time and be more productive at work. Not only will being more productive make you a more valuable employee, but at the end of each day it will give you the feeling that you made an important contribution to the company's mission.