It doesn’t matter where you work or what you do, we are all looking for ways to work more efficiently. Living on excessive amounts of caffeine and trying to complete mile long to-do lists everyday does not amount to quality work.
In this digital age we have all become obsessed with getting our brand out there. Avoiding the distraction of social media and staying connected has become harder to accomplish than our actual work.
But, we must not forget that the enjoyment of work comes when you have had a productive day. So here are a few simple tips to help you use your time more efficiently and find the euphoric feeling once again.
Deal With The Most Important Tasks Firsts
This may sound like an obvious starting point, but procrastination can be like a little devil sitting on your shoulder telling you to do everything other than the task that is your highest priority.
Devil: “Hey, how many likes did you latest post get?”
You: “O I’ll just check quickly.”
Before you know it you’ve spent two hours photo-shopping your #10yearchallenge photo for Instagram.
Any to-do list has some tasks that are more important than others. If you focus on simply checking off to-do list items, you’ll end up with a mix of important and less important tasks completed.
So best off to begin your day with one of your most important tasks. The hardest part is starting, and once you do, it won’t seem like such a mammoth exercise.
Spend Time At The End Of The Day Planning For The Next Day
Speaking of lists, you should spend the last 20 minutes of your working day clearing your desk, checking your diary and writing your to-do list for the following day. Make sure you put your tasks in order of priority.
Not only is this a great way to decompress and check your progress, but it also means your to-do list is already done and you don’t have to spend time on it in morning. You can use this productive time to get going on your most important task.
Keep a Distraction List
Continuing the list theme, a distraction list is a very useful tool to help you keep focused on the task in hand.
Between email, social media and tonnes of little to-dos it can be very easy to turn your attention to something else when you are trying to be productive.
To help you stay on track set up a list in Google Docs, or use a physical piece of paper, and whenever a distracting thought or task pops up, write it down, and then get back to work.
For example if you are knee deep in an Excel spreadsheet and suddenly think, ‘O I need to pay that bill,’ or ‘I need to reply to Mark about the kids party,’ add it to your distraction list and then return to it later in the day. These are tasks that need your attention, but just not at this very minute.
Research has shown that productivity and efficiency diminishes the longer you work without a break. Nobody, not even highly productive people, can focus for eight hours straight.
Our bodies need a break from time to time so that they can keep working at maximum capacity.
To benefit the most from your breaks build them in to your working day. Yes, distractions could be consider as a break, but in reality, they are just distractions and you are truly not giving yourself a chance to recharge.
Grab a coffee, go for a walk, take your lunch. Do whatever works for you. Your mind and body have limits, so there is no sense in pushing it after these limits have been reached.
Focus On One Task At A Time
Stop right now trying to do ten things at once.
It is impossible to do any of them right. With so many distractions in the world around us we are all guilty of trying to multitask, but in reality multitasking doesn’t really work. Why? Because you are rapidly switching your focus between a number of tasks, giving none of them the full attention they deserve.
Ok, so there are times when multitasking is ok, like when you are cleaning the house and listening to the radio. The reason is that these two tasks—cleaning and listening—don’t use the same mental resources.
However, have you ever tried writing an email while trying to follow a podcast? How many times do you end up rewriting the email? The reason being, both tasks are competing for your language resources.
Some simple ways to avoid multitasking;
- Close your email tab
- Close any other documents other than the ones you need for the task in hand
- Mute message notifications
- Turn off the TV or radio
The next time you have the urge to multitask, stop. Take a break, and then go back to focus on the one thing that needs to get done right now.
Buffer Time Between Tasks
Buffer time is a little bit of down time between the tasks on your to-do list. It’s certainly not being lazy, in fact it is quite the opposite, as you are allowing your brain some time to shut down from the last task and mentally prepare for the next one. Tasks never get off to a good start when you rush from one to the other, so make sure you allow yourself some breathing space.
Take a walk to a colleague instead of sending them an email, walk to the water cooler a little further away or do a simple short mediation at your desk. After a couple of minutes you will be ready to jump into your next task as you will have taken the time to clear you brain of old thoughts.
However if taking a couple of minutes break between each tasks fills you with horror, use the time to complete some low energy tasks. Organising, filing and scanning are all examples of low energy tasks.
Learn to say no
Irish people have an innate inability to say no. We are afraid to let people down, or worry what they might think of us if we aren’t able to do something they have requested.
But think about it, nobody is winning in this situation if you already have a maximum workload on your plate. By saying yes you are creating a stressful situation for yourself by a) not having the time to complete the task and b) having to steal time from other tasks or worse still, your personal time.
If you don’t give important tasks their due time then you are not going to complete it to the best of your ability.
The reality is people who are highly efficient are really good at not doing things. So don’t fill your with loads of low-value work, keep your energy, creativity and time to focus on high-value work.