You have a to-do list stored somewhere at this very moment. It might be on your phone, on a notepad, or if you’re especially brave, you have it memorized. I know most of you swear by your to-do list and it’s the thing that keeps you going. You start each day by checking it and end the night by writing your goals for the next day. But are things still being left unchecked at the end of the day? Do you wish you could get more done in less time?
Cue increasing your productivity!
Productivity is a balancing act between doing tasks well and in a timely manner. Remember, you aren’t being productive if you’re just rushing through tasks and the end result is lacking. The key to becoming more productive and efficient is adding in small time savers that add up.
Freeing up minutes or even hours in our day leaves us with a great sense of accomplishment and more time to focus on things that matter to us.
Remember you’re not in it alone! We all procrastinate and secretly hope that some tasks will just disappear. But day after day, they’re still there. So, with a little willpower (ok… A LOT of willpower) and these do’s and don’ts, you will finally cross, check, and delete items off your list and accomplish much more in so much less time.
1. All of us have periods of high and low energy during the day. Spend some time tracking your energy levels. Put together your to-do list each night for the next day and save your most complex tasks for those hours when your spurs of energy hit.
2. Block time on your calendar for your most important tasks. Just like you would be focused during a client meeting, commit yourself 100% to the work you scheduled. Make sure the tasks you write down are clear. The “start new project” line you wrote the night before will not be seem very achievable or clear-cut at 3pm the next day. Instead of vague goals like starting a project, break them down into clear and actionable tasks. For example, instead of “start new project” write down “create a timeline for the new website launch.”
3. Sort similar tasks together, and you will complete them more easily and faster. For example, answer emails one after the other or work on creative tasks back-to-back.
4. If you must accomplish something particularly difficult or time-consuming, attempt to break it into three smaller, simpler parts. Separate your mini-tasks throughout the day or over a few days.
5. Change your location. Our environment affects our mood and motivation immensely. Instead of sitting at your desk while you finish up your unpleasant tasks, go to an inspiring coffee shop, sit in your favorite spot in your home, or head to the park. The change in environment will give you a jolt of inspiration to get started.
6. Even as adults, we are not above bribing ourselves! Promise yourself an enjoyable activity as soon as you finish your job-at-hand. Bonus points if you make plans with a friend, because you now have an extra layer of accountability to get things done on time.
7. Multi-tasking doesn’t work. Some people are proud multi-taskers but, in the end, it always ends up costing more time than saving it. Whenever you switch from one task to another, you spend time having to refocus and the other things you are working on still linger in your mind. When attempting to multitask instead of dedicating your focus, you actually end up getting less done.
8. If something takes less than two minutes to complete, do it right away. Tasks like cleaning up your workspace, sending a thank you note, or creating an invoice take a couple minutes but save time and worry in the long run.
9. Challenge yourself. If you think you need an hour to complete something, give yourself 40 minutes. This inspires a sense of hyper-focus. You’ll be surprised at how much you can accomplish when in competition with yourself!
10. Learn when to power through and when to not. When working on a project that is taking hours to complete, and you start losing focus and slowing down, take a 15-minute break. After those 15 minutes go back to the task, and if you’re still feeling sluggish, know that it is time to stop for the day. But if you have a new burst of energy, it’s time to power through.
11. Do you have too many items on your list? There is only so much you can do in a day. Loading up your to-do list with more items than you can realistically get through will only make you feel overwhelmed. And when you are overwhelmed you are more likely to stress out and procrastinate. Be honest with yourself and include only the things you absolutely must prioritize for that day. One way to identify what you should prioritize is to ask yourself what will I be working on late into the night if I don’t get done now?
12. Are you accounting for distractions? In a perfect world, you would have the luxury of working without interruption and getting everything done in the early afternoon. But kids get in the way, urgent issues pop up, and things just get complicated sometimes. There’s no magic wand that will make all distractions disappear, but we can work on learning how to deal with them and distance ourselves from triggers. As much as we all love it, social media is probably the biggest distractor! Our phones are always by our sides, and the constant notifications coming in while we work are hard to ignore. When blocking out time to work on specific tasks, turn off all social notifications on your phone and designate times during the day when you can check your feeds. If it works for you, leaving your phone in another room is even better. Out of sight, out of mind!
YOU control your time and how much you get done. So, step-up and own it!