Ever notice how the hours in a day have a way of disappearing? Some days I have a long mental list of the things I’m going to accomplish between morning and night – but despite my efforts, at the end of the day I often feel as though I’ve barely scratched the surface. This week’s blog post is the result of brainstorming ways in which we can all be more productive. I’ve tried to make this post brief, so that you can read through it in a few minutes and get back to being your wildly productive self.
1) Do it now. We all encounter many small tasks throughout the day that always seem so easy to “just do later.” In reality, these tasks would probably each only take a minute or two, and we’d be better off doing them immediately as they pop up. A few examples: answering an email that requires a quick, simple response, or putting a paper into your filing cabinet, or paying a bill. I’ve found recently that if I do these small jobs as they come up, I feel generally more on top of things at the end of the day.
2) Eat that frog! This phrase comes from Brian Tracy’s best selling book, Eat That Frog: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time. It basically means, do the hard thing first – don’t save it for later. It’s easy to justify pushing your most challenging task to later in the day if you’re doing smaller easier jobs that also need to get done. However, usually the hardest thing is also the most important thing – just eat that frog! You’ll be so glad you did.
3) Set a timer. This tip works in a few different ways. One way you can use a timer is to set it for a predetermined length of time during which you want to completely devote yourself to something, be it for 30 minutes or two hours. Then while that timer is going, you allow yourself no distractions. Do whatever you need to do to ensure that you’ll be focused – whether that means turning off your computer or devices, closing the door, or putting on your noise cancelling headphones. Knowing that your timer will go off at a certain point and that your work session is not indefinite could be a powerful motivator. Another way a timer can be helpful is to set it for a short length of time – just five or ten minutes – and tell yourself “I can do anything for five or ten minutes.” When the timer goes off, chances are you’ll have already become invested in what you’re doing and will be motivated to keep going.
4) Know when to take a break. If after hours of working, I feel as though I’ve hit a road block and I’m staring blankly into space – I know it’s time to take a break. If this happens to you, try taking twenty minutes to do something that allows your mind to get out of work mode. Take a walk around the block. Make yourself a snack or beverage and enjoy it slowly. Draw a picture. Do anything you find relaxing. I often find if I take a break and then return to my work, I have a fresh perspective and I’m able to push through my previous block and keep going.
5) Schedule your day. Remember in high school when you had classes all day long? When that bell rang, no matter what you were doing, you had to pack up your stuff and move to the next class. Scheduling your day creates that same kind of format – it forces you to move from one thing to the next so you don’t get bogged down with any one thing. If you have a large block of time in which to work (say at least three or four hours), try breaking it up into time slots to work on various tasks. This method won’t work for everyone but can be helpful if you’re someone who’s able to get into a schedule mindset.
6) Love what you’re doing. This is easier said than done, but if you’re finding that many of the tasks you need to do each day are ones you really hate – it might be helpful to take a step back and look at the big picture. How can you do more of what you love, and less of what you don’t? We are all, without exception, more productive when we’re doing things we enjoy. And while it may not be possible to do only things you enjoy all the time, I do believe a balance can be reached.
I hope you’ll find these six tips for increased productivity helpful. We may not be able to stop those hours from disappearing, but we certainly can do our best to take advantage of them before they’re gone. Now go on, eat that frog!