When last did you get through your day’s entire to do list? No, that’s not a sarcastic remark. Those in the know get it right. Often. Do you want to know their secrets too?
Be aware: It won’t happen overnight. It will require killing a few bad habits and cultivating new ones. But the end result will be worth it. Do you want to taste the satisfaction of labelling a day ‘successful’? Then keep reading through our tips below. You’ll probably be surprised: The habit you thought was good for productivity may be the most limiting one.
First tip: Despite your perception, experience or philosophies, multi-tasking doesn’t work. Now let’s show you what will.
I used to simply start the day and do whatever lands on my desk. When I compare that to how I function with a clearly designed schedule I realize how naïve I was about my productivity levels.
The longer you stay in a position the more tasks will be added to your list of responsibilities. There’s no way you’ll keep to deadlines and keep everyone happy if you act randomly. As with most things in life, planning leads to better outcomes. In your office this is called your daily schedule.
Firstly, it will help you determine how much you can get done during the day or week. This must be used to discuss timelines with colleagues or clients.
Adding unique tasks into a standard schedule takes it one step further. Now you’ll cultivate routines:
The benefit here is that you’ll waste less time getting started on a task. When it’s time for your daily email session you’ll simply start instead of considering doing other items or trying to do it while talking on the phone. Multi-tasking often wastes more time than saving any.
Happy tip: Buffer time must be part of your schedule. This is when you take breaks, but it can be used when your meeting runs late or a phone call takes long. You’ll be under less pressure but all your tasks will still get done.
Before You Start, Track Yourself
It’s difficult to set up a dynamic schedule from scratch. Here’s a tip: Track your activities for a week. This will teach you:
Now you can already see what problems you need to counter when setting up your new schedule. Now you simply have to train yourself to keep to the new plan. Can you do it?
Luckily you live in the modern world where many technological innovations will help you manage this new approach to office life. Have you tried out these?
Your schedule should be easily accessible which is why mobile apps are necessities. You’ll also find apps that play white noise or other background music to help you concentrate if you find office noises distracting.
Despite what you’ve been taught, working for eight hours straight isn’t your best option. All people are different but many people are more productive when working for 20-30 minutes at a time and taking short breaks in between.
Do you dread standing in queues or waiting for someone to arrive for a meeting at a restaurant? Those few minutes don’t have to be wasted time anymore: Simply make sure you can access your work via your laptop or mobile and you’ll be productive no matter the situation.
Will you get everything done, every day? Probably not. Even with expert scheduling you’ll still need to decide what to do first. That’s where prioritizing comes in.
The benefit of attending to the most important items first is that it helps manage your stress levels. You know that all important report will get done, so it won’t distract you while you do other work.
Important (and surprising) tip: For this same reason it’s best to schedule hard or less attractive tasks at the beginning of your day. If you keep postponing them they will bother you subconsciously and even affect your work speed until you tick them off your list.
This is an excellent example of how small bad habits affect overall productivity. Isn’t it better to learn new ones?
Now, here’s another good habit that will increase your productivity. Perhaps you think allocating time to each task will only produce tension and stress. Yes, what if it could be positive stress?
Have you noticed you often work faster when a superior gives you a deadline? Why not use that tactic with all your tasks by setting a timer? Now try to beat the clock. It won’t be negative stress if the reward is that you get more done each day. That means your lunch times can be more relaxing from now on.
Can you see this is an entirely new way of functioning? To make it work and ensure your schedule is a realistic goal, you’ll need a few skills:
No, these skills don’t make you selfish. This is how you increase productivity to benefit everyone involved.
You can do all of this, but if you don’t have an organized work setup yet, it will be futile. Make sure the basics of office life are in place even before you draw up that schedule. That means stationery, a functioning computer, filing system and quality communication. Without them you’ll quickly feel overwhelmed again.
Now, are you ready to get more out of your day tomorrow?