In my current job, time often feels like gold dust. You can’t really save time – it’s not like you can put it in your pocket to spend a bit later on, it constantly passes by. The only thing you can do is organise your life to make the most out of the few hours you have in your working day.
I’d be lying if I said I was brilliant at planning my days to be productive and that I always get every single thing done on my to-do list, but I’ve been figuring out some ways to make improvements. I’ve come up with a few new ways I manage my time and workload to insure I’m efficient, free from distractions and procrastination.
1. Eat that frog.
I love this phrase. Not only is it highly amusing, but it’s actually accurate. The original quote comes from Mark Twain and goes like this:
“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”
The idea behind this, is that if you have a task you need to do that you dread, you’re very likely to put it off and let it bother and distract you until it’s done. Whether it’s an awkward conversation with a colleague, a phone call with somebody you are avoiding or talking to your boss about something that might be a little sensitive – it will play on your mind. This is your frog.
You should eat your frog first, then you’re free from it’s distraction and able to get on with your day. Also, everything else you need to do afterwards will seem a lot easier and you’ll be able to focus on it.
If you have more than one ‘frog’, you should eat the ugliest first – so the worser of the two tasks.
Putting it into this perspective really helped me get over that fear of doing certain tasks. Now, I do the worst things worst, knowing afterwards my shoulders will feel a little lighter because of it!
2. Finish a task before starting another.
I often find myself doing something, then I’m either:
- interrupted by somebody and given something else to do.
- distracted by another thing on my to-do list that haunts me.
- suddenly remember that thing I must do and get the overwhelming urge to do it RIGHT NOW.
- haunted by my frog.
I’m learning I can’t multitask very well. I’m a woman, honest. But if I’m trying to do several things at once, all of my attention is never truly on one task and the quality of the work I’m producing suffers and I find myself getting flustered. I always tell myself ‘one thing at a time, Corinne’.
I’d much rather home with 8/10 things complete on my to-do list, than 10 things almost done but need looking at again tomorrow. I’m becoming a fan of dealing with things so I can put it to bed.
3. Make a list and know what’s important.
This is another thing that helps me. I find when I can’t sleep at night because I’m worried about my workload, or when I’m not able to give my full attention to a task because something is niggling at the back of my mind. You know, that thing that you must do next, the thing that’s really important and you can’t forget. So your brain keeps reminding that YOU CAN’T FORGET TO DO IT.
You aren’t being as efficient as you can be, because you’re distracted.
Make a list at the end of the next day of the tasks that you need to get done the following day. Then go home and enjoy your evening. If something pops up that’s on your mind, quickly write it down to review the next day.
When you go to work the next day, you can review your list of things to do.
This is where you prioritise your most important things. Eat your frog if you have one, then get on with the tasks you must complete that day.
If you can delegate some things to somebody else, then do it.
4. Stop with the e-mails.
E-mails are so distractive. Most of the things aren’t even important and just need deleting. Make a promise to yourself to only check your e-mail 2 or 3 times a day. If anything is urgent, people will call instead.
If you find yourself trapped in a back and forth e-mail conversation – just pick up the phone and have the conversation over within 5 minutes so you can put the subject to bed.
5. Get it right the first time.
People with little time will try to cut corners – they’ll try to skip something or not do something properly. I bet you can think of a time when you’ve had to go back and do something again, wasting more time and probably frustrating your manager/colleagues/yourself because you didn’t get it right the first time.
It’s fine to take an hour out of your day to plan how you are going to do something. It might seem like a waste of time, but I find it really calms and clears my mind when I’ve had that time to plan something. Make sure you’re clear on your task, you’ve read any relevant information, anyone else involved is clear on their role and that you don’t cut any corners.
6. Be realistic about time.
Most people are bad at planning how long it will take to do something and set themselves unrealistic goals. Ensure you’re giving yourself enough time to complete a task to avoid rushing it or trying to cram too much into one day. If you’re unsure how long something will take, be sure to give yourself a bit of extra time just incase.
7. Expect Curve Balls.
Make sure you’re ready for any curve balls that might occur in your work place. There are many things that might prevent me from staying on task in my job role – tip is to deal with it like an adult, as quickly as possible and then get back on track.
There’s nothing you can do about some of those things that crop up, I find it hard to prevent curve balls from ruining my day and my mood – spending time thinking about it, getting increasingly frustrated about it and having a good old moan. There’s no point in getting yourself wound up about something you cannot change.
What are your productivity tips?