End every work day feeling like you really got something done.
When you come to the end of the day, do you usually feel you’ve crossed off the critical items on your to-do list, or have you just spent the day putting out fires? Here are five tips on how to make the most of your work day.
Start work 15 minutes earlier
Give yourself a few minutes when you’re fresh to set yourself up before the hubbub of the day overwhelms you. (For North Americans, this is the right moment to get in touch with European colleagues.) Then you’ll be ready to maximize your day, and you can feel good about taking short breaks, eating properly and staying hydrated for the rest of the day so you can beat the afternoon slump later on.
Make a To-Do List
Actually, you should keep several lists, including a broad one that covers a full season at a time, one that covers the whole work week and the list of things to be accomplished today. Every day, you should pick out three top tasks: not just the ones with the tightest deadline, but the things that matter most in the long run. Do those before anything else.
One way to simplify creating your daily task list is to look at your week’s list and highlight the items that are most important, most pressing or small enough that you can deal with them quickly, along with any fixed appointments. Then number your highlighted choices – giving yourself some variety between large and small, easy and challenging tasks – and start knocking them off one by one, in order.
Be strict about limiting the new tasks you insert into your daily task list!
An adage, often attributed to American humourist Mark Twain, says that if you eat a live toad every morning, nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day. That’s another way of saying it’s a good idea to get your most unpleasant tasks out of the way as soon as possible.
Nothing makes Minesweeper or Facebook seem so appealing as that task you’ve been avoiding, perhaps without even realizing it. So consider the buried emotions that may be attached to some of the items on your list (fear? boredom?). And does a big task need to be broken up into smaller steps before you can tackle it? Once you identify these blockages, you can get back into the flow of productivity.
We’re under constant pressure to stop what we’re doing: to chat with a colleague or check an incoming text; yet every small interruption takes our mind off the task at hand for as long as 15 minutes. These minor stoppages add up fast; how to avoid them?
- Turn off text and email notifications
- Consider checking your email only twice per day
- Give yourself a regular Power Hour, when you hang a sign on your door that notifies colleagues that you need 60 minutes of undisturbed work time.
Recognize Your Own Work Cycles
Athletes know they can’t perform at their peak all day every day; they build high- and low-intensity days into their training schedules. If you have a day when nothing much gets done, try to figure out why. Then forgive yourself and focus on starting fresh tomorrow.
For more productivity tips and tricks, pick up a copy of Adriana Girdler’s Take Back Your Day! A Guide to Productivity at Work and at Home.