It’s the season of spooky sights…is your workplace one of them? Is the paperwork piling up? Are there unanswered messages to be returned? How will you make time for that meeting? All of these frightful thoughts might make you want to grab a mask and hide. But, alas, your work will still be waiting. How can you better manage your time, be more productive and leave work each day with a sense of true accomplishment?
It’s a good idea to create a list of tasks which need to be accomplished for the day, but be realistic. Don’t write out an impossible list which will leave you feeling overwhelmed and deflated at the end of the day. Try using the “1-3-5 Rule” from The Muse COO Alex Cavoulacos. This is a to-do list limited to one big thing, three medium things and five small things you can accomplish each day.
The “2-Minute Rule” is another handy tool touted by productivity guru David Allen. As you are planning your day, you’ll think of many little things that could be done quickly — in less than two minutes — things like tidying up your desk, responding to one email or plugging in your phone to charge so it’s ready when you need it. Instead of adding these tiny tasks to your daily list, just do them! Now.
So you’ve identified that “one big thing” that needs to be accomplished. But if it’s a really big project, you may need to break it down into more manageable pieces and delegate the work over several days. Never make a huge project just one item on your to-do list. Every project has big, medium and small tasks involved in its ultimate achievement.
You’ve created a simplified to-do list. Great! Now don’t just stare at that list in horror. Where to start? With the most important item first! You have a limited amount of time in any given workday. What good would it be to check all the small tasks off your list only to realize at the end of the day that you’ve never gotten to your highest priority item? Tackle the toughest task first. Imagine your sense of accomplishment if you knock it out before lunch!
Before you schedule a meeting, ask yourself, is it really necessary? Can the goal be accomplished more efficiently through email, a phone call or video conference? Never schedule an “update” meeting; updates can almost always happen by email. If you must do a face-to-face, don’t schedule a full hour. Limiting meetings to under 40 minutes and phone calls to less than 20 minutes will help keep chit-chat to a minimum and encourage focus for maximum productivity.
Turn the ringer off your phone, or better yet, put it out of sight when you need to focus. Constantly checking those notifications will derail productivity. Thought you could just respond to that one text? Before you know it, you’ve wasted an hour catching up with social media notifications. If you’re lacking self-control, there’s an app for that (several, actually) to help you escape from online distractions during your workday.
Highly successful people often swear by their to-do lists, but consider making another kind of list. What do you need to stop doing in order to be more productive? If you end the day exhausted, you need to identify the things that are taking up your time but don’t really matter. Maybe you need to stop worrying about things you can’t change (like another person’s attitude), or stop engaging in office drama.
It’s time to take the mask off the multitasking fallacy. Our brains are not wired to do more than one task at a time. Make a conscious effort to mono-task until the job is done. Constantly switching from one task to another makes each task take longer. It is impossible to fully commit your mental energy to the most important work while simultaneously trying to accomplish something else.
Have you ever gotten to the end of a workday and wondered where the time went? If you have little to show for your eight hours on the clock, start hunting for time vampires. They might be things like checking your personal email and social media, or they could be people — the coworker who always want to chat, the client who treats everything as a crisis or the employee who demands hand-holding. Identify the scenarios that are sucking away your time and address them.
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