We’re all busy. We’re all trying to get more done in the time that we have. We all want to be efficient in our working hours so that after work, we can focus fully on our families and friends, our hobbies and passions. Unfortunately, we live in a world that is distracting us constantly. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, television, billboards, podcasts, Spotify and YouTube.
Everything is constantly demanding our attention, and it’s hard for us to turn all of that off, buckle down, and get work done. How are you going to get everything done when you keep having distracting thoughts about everything you need to do after work? How are you going to prevent your co-workers from chatting you up all afternoon?
Here are some tips for increasing your productivity so that you can make the most of the time you have to get things done.
1. Write everything down
Write down all of the tasks you need to get done in a day. When you finish one, you can cross it off the list. It always feels good to cross things off the to-do list.
Keep a notepad nearby and every time you have a thought like “I need to write that person an email” or “I need to buy stamps after work” write it down. This way you can forget about these things right after you write it down and focus on the work that needs to get done now.
Whenever you finish the task you’re in the middle of, then you can write the email you need to write. Or whenever you get off work, then you can worry about buying stamps.
2. Take frequent breaks
Take short five minute breaks every 45 minutes or so. Don’t use your break to check your Facebook. Use it to go outside or take a short walk. Use it to drink a glass of water. Do something to clear your head and give your mind time to go blank.
You may even want to take quick meditation breaks throughout the day where you simply sit and do nothing for five minutes. Put on some relaxing music, close your eyes, and just be. When you return to work, you will feel refreshed and ready to focus.
3. Use productivity apps
There are tons of apps that will help you to be more productive. Try an app like Todoist or Any.do to make to-do lists. Take voice notes with voice recording apps. Use reminder apps like Memento or virtual assistant aps like 24me.
You can use apps that help with distractions like SelfControl, Freedom, or Anti-Social. These apps will help you to not waste hours scrolling on Facebook or Twitter.
4. Stay organized
If you have a lot of clutter around your desk, your mind will also be cluttered. Cleaning up your external space can help you to stay more focused internally. Keep things simple and minimal. Having a lot of space on the outside will help you to have more space on the inside.
5. Don’t leave your email open
Leaving your email open all day is a sure way to get distracted every time an email comes in. The same thing goes for Skype, Slack, or Google Hangouts. Unless you have to be on these things to communicate about work, don’t leave them open. You will be able to focus on the tasks that are the most urgent and need to get done right away.
6. Turn off your phone during working hours
Maybe you can’t turn it off for all of working hours, but when you are really focusing on a big project you need to get done, turn your phone off. This is another way to get distracted, especially if you have notifications on all of your apps.
7. Plan tomorrow before today is over
If you don’t make a plan for tomorrow, you’ll start your day not knowing what to do, and it will take time to plan the day. If you take 20 or 30 minutes at the end of today to plan tomorrow, you can come in in the morning and get straight to work. You’ve been working all day so your head will already be on the tasks that you need to get done.
8. Cut down on the meetings
Meetings can be productive. They can also be huge time wasters. Don’t spend an hour in a meeting accomplishing something that could be accomplished in an email. Before you schedule a meeting, ask yourself, “is this really necessary?” If it’s not, don’t schedule it. It’s as simple as that.
9. Do the task you are dreading first
If there’s something you really don’t want to do, get it done first thing in the morning. Not only will your brain be fresher and more capable, but you won’t be dreading the task the whole day. Click To Tweet After you get done what needs to get done, you can race through the rest of the day with your easier tasks.
It’s nice to get these things out of the way so that they aren’t hanging over your head throughout the day, making you feel guilty for not getting them done. If you don’t get it done now, you may end up pushing it off until tomorrow. Then tomorrow comes and you push it off until the next day. Stop doing that. Just do the task.
10. Don’t over commit yourself
It’s okay to say no to things that you need to say no to. If something doesn’t help your career, help others, or make you feel joy, you may not need to say yes to it. We don’t have to do everything. Saying no every now and then gives us more time for the things that really matter, the things that we really need to or want to do. Click To Tweet
Don’t take on tasks that don’t matter to you or anyone else. Don’t let your day be taken up by someone else’s priorities. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries and say no when you need to.
11. Break up big projects into smaller tasks
You don’t want to just put a big project that’s going to take months as one task on your to-do list. Then it will take you months to cross anything off the list, and you won’t feel like you are accomplishing anything.
Instead break up huge projects into smaller tasks. This will help you to not see such a large task looming over you. This will allow you to take one step at a time. It’s impossible to write a novel in a day, for example. Writing a chapter, however, is not only possible, it’s doable.
12. Outsource more
Are there tasks that are taking up your time that you really don’t enjoy doing? Could you outsource any of these tasks? You may want to hire a virtual assistant to answer your emails, for example, or hire freelance writers to write those blog posts you don’t enjoy doing.
It will make you much more productive if you can outsource tasks like transcription, file management, calendar scheduling, data entry, and meeting minutes.
13. Track your time
There are plenty of apps that will help you to track your time. After you’ve tracked it for a week or so, you can see where all of your time is going. Are you spending way too much time on Twitter? Could you increase the amount of time you spend on hard, focused work? Tracking your time is a great way to stay on top of what you need to be doing and stop yourself from wasting time.
14. Give yourself deadlines
You’ll be much more likely to get something done if you have a deadline. If something absolutely has to get done by the end of the day, I know I feel much more urgent about it than if I’m just working on something that’s due whenever.
Treat your own deadlines with as much urgency as deadlines from your boss. That way, you will do what needs to be done in the right amount of time.
15. Put your headphones in
Put some instrumental music on and just focus on what needs to get done. This should also prevent your co-workers from bothering you when you need to be productive. Music can also be a great way for people to focus. Many studies have shown that classical music allows your brain to work more efficiently.
These are just some tips on how to be more productive. One important thing to remember is that you need to know yourself and understand what works for you. Everything on this list may not help you, and that’s okay. You might be someone who really gets things done in the afternoon and maybe you can’t just start out the day doing something you dread. You may not need to take a five-minute break every 45 minutes.
What’s essential is that you find out what does help you to stay productive and focused. That way, you’ll be able to manage your time better and get more done.
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