We all know that awful feeling of having a million-and-one things to do, and yet feeling like we just can’t knuckle down and do it.
When important deadlines loom, why is it suddenly tempting to tidy our desk, make another cup of tea and check Facebook? With so many distractions in our digital age, how do we stay focused and work productively?
1. Prioritise your To-Do list:
A To-Do list as long as your arm isn’t helpful- it’s just intimidating. Rather than use it, you’ll want to shove it out of sight.
When you write a list, organise it carefully. Put important or urgent tasks at the top; have a list of things to delegate; put non-urgent things at the bottom and be as ruthless as you can about eliminating tasks that won’t make a real difference to your progress. Keep in mind the 80/20 rule says that 80% of the benefit from something comes from just 20% of the input! You might find that Outlook or other similar e-mail apps can be useful at flashing up reminders and helping you to keep an organised calendar of tasks and events.
2. Don’t let your Inbox Distract
Determine certain times of day to check your e-mails and text messages and be disciplined in only ever checking them then! That way, your inbox won’t stand as a constant temptation to distract you from your work. When you get an email, reply straight away, concisely and politely.
3. Don’t Multitask
Sometimes, it’s too tempting to flit between different tasks, but do this 10 times a day and apparently your IQ falls by 10 points. Stay focused on the task at hand; start it and finish before you move onto something else!
4. Break it Down!
Having ‘Create new Website’ on your to-do list isn’t very helpful. Break down major projects into small, manageable tasks. Planning does take time, but ultimately, it’s an important way to increase your efficiency.
5. Be Clever about Communication
So much time is wasted trying to hold a conversation over email, when a quick phone call would serve far better. On the other hand, sometimes details are better communicated and remembered in written form. When you have information to pass on, take a moment to think through the most effective means of getting it across.
6. Be Organised
Losing things is hugely frustrating and a real waste of time. Take care to keep your desk tidy and uncluttered, and keep everything you need at hand, so you can reach for it immediately.
7. Take Regular Breaks
As you concentrate on a task, your efficiency gradually decreases over time. Take 10-minute breaks every hour, during which you stretch and move about, have a drink or a snack, and you’ll end up being much more productive overall.
8. Work with your Body
Do important tasks in the morning when you’re fresh. Make sure that you have a good breakfast, and that you stay hydrated throughout the day. Keep energy levels up by having small, regular snacks of fruit, seeds and nuts. Save repetitive tasks or meetings for the afternoons, when you’re more likely to experience an energy slump.