Most of us have a lot to do every day and are always looking for ways to increase our productivity. Really, it comes down to two things: correcting bad habits and staying organized about your to-dos. Here are a few simple strategies to adopt that will help you do both:
Focus on one thing at a time. Working on multiple priorities sounds like a good idea, but recently, experts have been sharing the negative aspects of multitasking. The brain can become overstimulated and overwhelmed. Each item you work on receives an inadequate amount of focus, actually leading to worsened productivity. And some researchers say multitasking negatively impacts the memory. So, next time you’re tempted to check email while you’re in the zone writing a report or read a memo during a conference call, stop. You’re actually doing more harm than good.
Maintain a detailed to-do list. Whether you’re a faithful day-planner user, someone who writes daily to-dos on the whiteboard each day or an Outlook enthusiast, find a method that works for you and stick to it. If you like using technology, check out some of the popular apps out there for keeping track of your projects and deadlines like Todoist and Any.do.
Cut the tech distractions. Speaking of technology, there are lots of ways you can waste an hour (or three) these days—from checking social media to surfing your favorite news or entertainment websites. Schedule short breaks for yourself throughout the day, but if you’re not disciplined, there are apps to help. Check out RescueTime, which tracks the time you spend on websites, social media, email and other applications and sends you detailed productivity reports every day. You can even block distracting websites and set “focus” periods.
Rein in the meeting madness. Sometimes meetings are important, but if you find that much of your day is spent in the conference room rehashing topics that could have easily been ironed out via email, it’s time for a change. Commit to meetings only when your presence is essential, and when you’re the organizer, put together an agenda to ensure that time is used efficiently.
Take breaks. Guess what happens when you work from dawn until dusk without taking a breath? Burnout. It’s a common problem and one you can prevent by taking care of yourself—and not just after hours. Stand up and stretch or walk around the office every 30 minutes. Eat lunch somewhere other than your desk at least a few days a week.
Get your game plan together. At the start of the day, dedicate a few minutes to prioritizing your to-do list from the “must complete” items to the “non-essential” items. This will help you get into the right frame of mind and mentally plan out your day. Once you have your most important tasks in front of you, schedule time to complete them at the time of day when you feel most alert and focused. At the end of the day, spend 10 minutes looking ahead to tomorrow’s priorities and taking note of any meetings or calls on your calendar.
If your goal is to accomplish more, it simply takes a little effort and consistency. Try incorporating some of these things into your work habits and see if it makes a difference in your production output, stress level and efficiency.