It seems like everyone is always wishing for more hours in their day. Think about how often you’ve said something along the lines of, “If only there were 26 hours in the day, then I could get everything done.” Well, we can’t control how many hours are in a day or wish the day longer. Why is it then that some people seem to accomplish more than you do?
We all have the same 24 hours in the day to accomplish our goals. The difference is how you utilize you time. Successful, productive people understand the importance of using every minute of their day efficiently. This is key to getting more done during the day.
These 12 simple tricks will help you become a more productive you:
1. Exercise in the morning. Exercising is one of the things that seems to get pushed to the wayside as you get older. This is why setting aside time to work out in the morning, before the kids are awake or your work day starts, is the perfect solution. Not only is regular exercise good for your health, but it’s also be shown to increase focus, productivity and is linked to a better mood. Try it one morning and see how much better you feel throughout the day.
2. Write down your to-do list daily. Planning out your daily tasks gives your mind a map of what it needs to focus on for the day. Prioritizing your tasks is important as well, so pull out your priority actions for the day from your list of tasks. These are the things that must get done. At the end of the day, you can gauge what you’ve accomplished. Also consider the value that you added to your workplace from accomplishing your tasks. Not only does this make you feel more productive, but helps you feel like you are working with a purpose.
3. Set up a system. Find how you work best and make it a system. Organizing your time during the day is a great way to do this. Layout your day by devoting certain blocks of time to certain things. Something that I’ve found helpful is creating focus days and buffer days. Focus days are for concentrating on your priority tasks, your big goals for the week. Buffer days can still include daily tasks, but can be used for other things aren’t necessarily daily tasks. For example, I meet with my leadership team on buffer days and focus on aspects of running the business, as opposed to meeting with clients.
4. Close your door. Don’t be afraid to schedule blocks of uninterrupted time for yourself. Make others aware of this also. A study by Microsoft researchers found that it can take the brain up to 15 minutes to refocus on the task at hand after your attention has been turned elsewhere. This is why making sure you have time where you can focus solely on the task at hand, without threat of interruption, is key to increasing productivity.
5. Put your phone away. Thanks to technology, we’re now constantly connected to our social groups, whether it be through social media, text or phone call. But these are also large distractions during the work day. That’s not to say that you can’t answer a text or take a phone call, but specify blocks of times where you put your phone away and don’t answer it. Remember that saying “out of sight, out of mind?” If your phone is out of site, you won’t be thinking about what your friend is posting on Facebook or itching to answer incoming text messages.
6. Focus on one thing at a time. You have to accomplish more than one thing in a day to be productive, but trying to focus on more than one thing at a time can actually hurt your productivity, as was found in a study by the American Psychological Association. How many times have you been talking to a co-worker while trying to type an email, and realized that you actually didn’t hear anything they said to you? Now magnify that effect for larger projects. As the study points out, we’re not designed for heavy-duty multitasking.
7. Say no when you have to. Helping your co-workers boosts a healthy workplace morale. However, taking on work from others to help them detracts from the priority tasks that you have to accomplish for the day. It can be hard to do, but saying no is critical for preserving your level of productivity. Also, if you can’t give something extra your best work and full attention, your help could actually be less helpful than you planned.
8. Eat lunch away from your desk. Even though interruptions can affect productivity, it’s also been shown that stepping away from your work for a short amount of time can be helpful for rejuvenating your mind. Rather than always working through your lunch and eating at your desk, use it as an opportunity to step away from your work and clear your mind, even if it’s only for 30 minutes. It’s hard to be constantly firing on all cylinders for eight or more hours at a time.
9. Sleep. Getting enough sleep at night is key to high levels of productivity. A lack of sleep can cause your mind to feel cloudy, and can even affect your general well-being. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the average adult needs seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Are you getting enough? Try to find a routine at night, like going into your room at the same time every night or reading before bed.
10. Keep a clean inbox. When you open your email and see 100 messages sitting in your inbox, it can immediately induce anxiety. It can also cause important messages to get lost in the clutter. Delete emails that you don’t need. Make folders and file emails accordingly once you’ve responded to them. A clutter-free inbox is the first step to a clutter-free mind.
11. Make your time valuable. Don’t fill your day with unnecessary meetings. Make sure that any meeting on your schedule is truly necessary, that you’re prepared for it and that the objective of why you’re meeting is clear. While there are times when you have to meet in person with people, decide if what you’re discussing can be done through email or on the phone.
12. Leave work at work. There’s always going to be something that didn’t get done. But making work your life isn’t necessarily the healthiest, or most productive, strategy. Be content knowing that you used your time as efficiently as possible during the day, and accomplished your priority tasks. Then go home and enjoy time with your friends, family or doing things that you enjoy. Don’t check your email, don’t answer calls – unless you absolutely have to – and unplug.
Source: Scott Jarred, Jarred Consulting Group. Nov. 15, 2016