How do you feel at the end of the day when you glance at your to do list? Is that a smile or a frown on your face?
Don’t worry, you’re not the only one: Being unproductive is a common problem in modern society. And this applies to home and work life. Perhaps it’s the many distractions modern lifestyles provide? Or do we expect more from ourselves than a few decades ago?
However, you only have to look at a few successful professionals to know: There IS a way to make the most of each day. What do the experts know that you don’t?
Here’s the good news: The solution could be easier than you think. And no, these aren’t gimmicks. As the title promises you’ll only find the truth here: Techniques that have helped:
- Managers get more done
- Parents organize their home life better
- Employees deal with a heavy workload better than before
Sound like a good idea? Whether you’re looking for solutions in your own life or to enhance your business, scroll down and you’ll find relevant tips.
The myth we all believe
Firstly we have to create the right mindset, so the lie we all believe won’t hold you back. Here’s your major downfall: Multitasking.
You may think you’re getting more done by multitasking but the exact opposite is true. Dividing your attention between more than one task means you’re working slower. Neuroscience has proven that this approach leaves you feeling more tired than when you focus on one thing at a time. Chances are you’ll also make more mistakes which means you’ll spend time fixing them later on.
The right answer:
- Focus on one task, finish it and then move on:You won’t have unfinished tasks bothering you subconsciously
- You’ll work faster
- You won’t be as exhausted as before
Your health matters
If you don’t get this right the other techniques are of no value. Learning productivity hacks isn’t only about beating the to do list—It should be about creating a better, less stressful lifestyle. For that, you need to add these to your daily calendar:
- A healthy diet: You know that lethargic feeling that hits you halfway through the morning? That’s probably your sugar levels that fluctuate. You can counter that by eating better.
- Foods for concentration: Yes, this is a thing. Certain foods will help your brain focus as well as help you function well for longer hours. These include:
flax seeds, green vegetables (the leafy ones), green tea and fish (fatty is good)
- Get rest: If you plan on finishing that project late tonight you may be planning to fail. If you work when you’re tired you’ll probably make mistakes and you’ll have to redo it in the morning anyway.
- Exercise: This isn’t only to keep you fit, but to work off stress and tension which can prevent you from thinking clearly.
Use technology to your benefit
Take a look around you. Do you see how much technology fills your life? Have you used that to fast track your daily tasks yet?
Most software you use has automation options, but you’ve probably never tried them because you’re just too busy. Try putting aside a few hours to setup aspects such as:
- Mail folders
- Regular payments
- Social media management for the week
This can save you a lot of time in future. Even learning a few keyboard shortcuts can save valuable seconds that means you save minutes in the long run.
And let’s not forget apps: There’s an app for almost anything, so whatever is robbing your time could be done much faster than you think.
Your work speed doesn’t only depend on how skilled you are at the task. If you invest time in upgrading these aspects you’ll see it impact your workflow:
- A comfortable chair that supports your back prevents muscle and joint pain. You’ll be able to work for longer hours.
- Do you have appropriate light?
- Declutter your room and your desk. Feeling cramped can make you apprehensive about your day, so you’re bound to take longer breaks than necessary.
- Organize the desk and room so you don’t waste any time looking for items.
Remember, every second counts and any distraction such as a cramp will hamper your effectiveness. Creating the right environment isn’t an expense but an investment.
Do you lose concentration every time someone passes your desk or when a car backfires in the street outside? You lose time if you have to collect your thoughts, so instead try to prevent distractions from ever taking place:
- Put a sign on the door to keep people out
- Work with earphones playing music or white noise
- Turn your phone over so you’re not tempted to check for messages
Managing your schedule
If you’ve tried multitasking your daily schedule probably reflects this. Do you often do small tasks such as checking your emails while you’re busy with something else? It won’t take long, right? Or will it?
Time yourself. Much time is wasted by navigating between screens and seeing if there’s anything urgent before continuing with your other task. You didn’t really use that time optimally because later on you’ll have to scan through the list again and answer, delete or archive each one.
A block for each task
The better way: Allocate certain times each day to only reading and responding to emails. You save time because you read each one only once. You also jump between tabs on your monitor less frequently.
It’s a cliché, but it’s true: Every second counts.
For the same reason of saving seconds and keeping your focus on a task it’s best to block out time slots for:
- Seeing employees or colleagues
- Making necessary phone calls
- Doing research
- Doing shopping, rather than trying to shop online in between other tasks
- Writing letters
Do what you love…last
You probably walk in the door in the morning and get straight to the tasks you love. You think you’ll get it out of the way so you can focus on the harder (or hated) tasks. But how many times do you push the least likeable item to the end of the day’s schedule. And often it simply gets bumped to the next day, right?
Apart from the fact that you’ll probably get in trouble for procrastinating, you’re wasting time once again: The entire time that task is on your list your brain will subconsciously be working on it anyway, because you’re worried about it. Your brain is designed to find solutions, so you can’t switch off this reaction.
The problem: You don’t have your brain focusing on the other tasks before you.
Instead, do your least favorite tasks early in the morning. For one thing you have enough energy to face them and after that you’ll have a clear mind to deal with the rest of your to-do list.
Get an accountability partner
You probably work faster when you have to hand in a report or present a project at a meeting. Being held accountable makes you more diligent, but life doesn’t always require someone looking over your shoulder. If you’re struggling to reach your goals, perhaps it’s time you make sure there IS someone keeping you on your toes:
- You and a friend could start eating healthier together and sharing your planned menus.
- Show your daily schedule to a manager, your partner or an HR officer to get feedback.
- Join an online forum of others who have the same goals as you.
Important: The role of your accountability partner is not to criticize, but to encourage. Be careful who you pick.
Design magical meetings
Working in teams means you’ll have meetings. But do you even reach any goals while you’re in the boardroom?
If you need to order more than two pizzas to feeds the group, your meeting is too big. When too many people are present you’ll have too many people talking and some (possibly the ones with the best ideas) will feel too overwhelmed to share their thoughts.
Break up projects into more manageable parts. Then have small meetings with each group that will perform a specific task. You’ll have more meetings occasionally but they’ll be short and effective.
Tech to the rescue
Do you want your team to function in harmony? Software can be the key. Modern management software products are mobile friendly so you can share schedules, job tickets and information instantly. This minimizes the time you usually spend on meetings or requesting feedback.
Avoid at all costs
You also need to stop following bad habits. If you simply stop doing these you’ll see gaps opening up on your calendar:
- Stop saying yes to everything people ask you to do. Rather open up space on your calendar so you can do your other work well, travel less and keep focus on your priorities.
- Instead of trying to figure out how to do something on your own, ask someone who knows more. You’ll waste less time on that task so you can move onto the next item.
- Don’t let social media distract you. Blocking certain sites or deactivating notifications will help keep you focused on your work.
The best thing about implementing these techniques is that if you get it right you can get more done but also feel less tired at the end of the day. Chances are you'll smiling more often when you check your to-do list at the end of the day!