Do you ever finish your workday feeling like you weren’t able to accomplish anything on your list? You start with a plan, a list, a goal… but at the close of your work day, you can’t seem to have made a major headway? I get it.
Being productive at work can be quite the challenge sometimes. However, when you are not sure of how to start, bear in mind that effective time management is key to optimal productivity.
The work environment (whether you’re a regular “nine to five” or you work from the luxury of your home) is filled with “noise” that can distract you from focusing on important tasks. This is why it is important to take a proactive approach and arrange your work space in a way that helps you clear your mind enough to do your best work. It may seem little, but it works every time. An untidy work space can start you off on the wrong side of productivity.
Regardless of who you are, you need to be more deliberate about how you utilize the twenty four hours of every day. This is because if you don’t, you might find yourself scrambling to catch up with deadlines for projects, answering the slew of emails and phone calls, and so much more. With more and more companies adopting the motto “do more with less”, where does that leave you? Not in a very good place.
There are certain strategies or tips you can incorporate to increase your flow of productivity and work smarter!
Execute the “Two-Minute Rule”
“Make the most of your time at work by filling every tiny windows with actual tasks”. According to entrepreneur Steve Olenski, finding and immediately completing tasks that take two minutes or less actually saves you time.
So, if it takes less than two minutes, do it now. Olenski postulated that completing the task right away actually takes less time than having to get back to it later. Implementing this has made him one of the most influential content strategists online.
The other aspect of the two-minute rule states that any goal or habit can be started in less than two minutes. This doesn’t mean you’ll be able to complete every task in 120 seconds, but starting new goals is the first step to accomplishing them!
Is Multitasking A friend or foe?
You need to stop Multitasking! That right…
It may feel like you get more done when multitasking, but countless studies have proven that people’s productivity diminishes when they engage in multitasking.
Contrary to popular beliefs, multitasking reduces creativity, causes a higher ratio of mistakes, makes it harder to remember important details, lowers IQ and reduces the performance with which you can complete any task. Shocking right? Yeah, we thought so too…
Even if these tasks seem small or easy, multitasking simply doesn’t work. According to neuroscience professor Earl K. Miller, “multitasking is not humanly possible.” We’re fooling ourselves when we say we can easily juggle phone calls, presentations, and eating lunch all at the same time. We recommend that you focus on one activity at a time and nothing else and you’ll actually end up completing it faster and more efficiently.
Get Rid of Interruptions
If you feel the need to increase your productivity at work, resist the temptation of putting in longer hours or adding more into your already-full calendar. Instead, we encourage you to take a step back, and think about ways you can work smarter, not harder.
Having a colleague pop her head into your office to chat may seem innocuous, but even brief interruptions appear to produce a change in work pattern and a corresponding drop in productivity. This is because your state of concentration has been interrupted. Minimizing interruptions may mean setting office hours, keeping your door closed, or working from home for time-sensitive projects.
You don’t always have as much control over your day as you’d like. What often happens is, your workday becomes a series of interruptions, making it impossible to stay productive because you constantly have to deal with them.
Interruptions range from minor irritations (such as an unexpected phone call) to major problems (e.g., illness or the death of a family member). They also include major life changes such as getting married, giving birth or making a job change
When these interruptions happen, it’s easy to fall out of your routine or lose your rhythm. Whether you fail to complete your tasks for one day or drop your entire work routine for the week. Interruptions definitely make it difficult to stay on track.
We all encounter interruptions, but what separates the successful people from everyone else, is knowing how to handle them when they occur.
Here are a few ways to do this:
- Accept the fact that interruptions will happen—they are a fact of life. What you can control is your response to these random events.
- Create interruption buffers – Identify how you’re often interrupted (phone calls, text messages, email or people in your office) and take a proactive approach that prevents them from happening when you’re engaged in an important task.
- Choose the items that always (or almost always) merit interrupting you.
- Give yourself a break – The important thing is to allow a certain amount of time for a break and schedule a specific time (or date) to resume your routine.
- Rediscover your motivation.
- Start over – If your routine completely fails and you lose all momentum, simply have the courage to start from scratch. This can be discouraging, but it is better than never getting back to it.
Hard Tasks Come First!
We all sometimes push aside big goals because we’re not confident we’ll accomplish them later on. By the time we eventually get to them, we’re already burned out from our day to give it the attention it needs. That’s how projects end up bleeding into additional days, and making it feel like productivity has disappeared.
Understanding when and how you work best is paramount to getting those big projects done on time. There’s no set schedule that works for everyone. If you’re a morning person, tackle the big tasks first thing in your day.
You may think you’re pretty good at gauging how much time you’re spending on various tasks. However, some research suggests only around 17 percent of people are able to accurately estimate the passage of time.
A tool like “Rescue Time” can help by letting you know exactly how much time you spend on daily tasks, including time spent on social media, emails, word processing, and apps.
Your ability to make decisions and think critically diminishes throughout the day, so tackle your most important projects earlier in the day when your brain power is at an optimum.
This big project or difficult task may take up most of the time but in order to get other things done in the day, you have to complete tasks in batches. Sometimes, it may take time for you to get into a rhythm with whatever you’re working on. If you constantly start and stop that process, you’d find it difficult getting back into your work flow or catching up on where you left off, instead of achieving completion on your set tasks. So what do you do? Keep going, and don’t stop your rhythm!
Kill “The Monkey Thoughts” and Break down your Tasks.
This is a dangerous mindset where you let the thoughts in your head negatively impact the task you’re currently working on. The best way to “kill the monkey thoughts”, is to jot down your thoughts on a piece of paper (even on your to-do list), then explore the idea when you’re not focused on a specific task.
Part of the reason we recommend this, is that it forces you to focus on a task and ignore all distractions. If you strictly adhere to this concept, then you don’t need to “count” a task if you break concentration and do something else. The idea here is to teach you the discipline necessary to kill the monkey that often pops into your head.
Make sure there is a set agenda and goal for each day and in every meeting. No agenda and goal, no meeting.
After killing the monkey thoughts, looking at our goals may then become overwhelming. Seeing a handful of big projects on our calendar can be stressful, however, if you break it up into smaller tasks, you’ll feel more in control and will be much more productive. Rather than write down “finish project A,” break “project A” into smaller tasks you will execute to accomplish the bulk. This way, you will be able to keep track of your day-to-day activities and make the bigger projects seem less daunting.
While we usually think of stress as a bad thing, a manageable level of self-imposed stress can actually be helpful in terms of giving you focus and helping you meet your goals. For open-ended tasks or projects, try giving yourself a deadline, and then stick to it. You may be surprised to discover just how focused and productive you can be when you’re watching the clock.
Note that every day will not be perfectly productive. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Instead, refocus your energy and implement these tips. Once you find the sweet spot that works for you, you’ll be amazed at how much more you can get done both in and out of the office.