There never seems to be enough time. And yet we all know people who seem super-efficient, accomplishing an enormous number of things while hardly seeming to break a sweat. What’s their secret? And how can you aim to be as productive as they are?
Know Where Your Time Is Going
How often does an afternoon or an entire day slip by in which you look back and wonder what exactly you managed to accomplish? It’s surprising how much time you can lose somewhere between being slothful and productive.
What feels like a few minutes’ net-surfing may be longer than you imagine. You might be meandering more than you realize on certain tasks.
The key here is tracking your time. There are many devices that can help you to do this, but the principle at the bottom of them all is the same: note how much time you spend doing each task. This can be as simple as using a clock and a piece of paper or as high-tech as you like. A number of websites and apps are available that will track productivity.
The data you gather will make you more productive as well as helping you cut out bad habits. For example, once you’ve identified a particular problem area such as too much mindless internet surfing, you can also find free downloads that will limit your access to problem sites.
Productivity experts swear by this one. Maybe you’ve tracked your time and noticed how often you’ll interrupt yourself to check email and answer phone calls. Even though these types of interactions seem urgent, that really isn’t the case.
Instead of trying to constantly monitor these things, set aside one or two times per day to read and reply to email, answer phone messages and do any other tasks that are typically scattered throughout your day that can be batched into one solid block of efficient activity.
Delegate, Abandon, Eliminate
Some things you just have to do yourself, but some jobs can be delegated to others. Other tasks are truly not necessary. Be ruthless as you consider whether any of your tasks can simply be dropped altogether. Finally, the anticipation of unpleasant tasks can cause procrastination. There’s really only one way around that, and it’s to get the worst tasks out of the way as soon as possible. By eliminating these first, you have then cleared your day for more engaging and pleasant work.
Have A Plan of Attack
Once you’ve analyzed how you spend your time, where your time-wasters are and what tasks can be bundled into bursts of productivity, given away or abandoned altogether, it’s time to step back and make a plan. You need daily to-do lists based on the short, medium and long-term goals you need to accomplish.
Writing down your plans helps you to march through them efficiently and cross them out as they are finished. You should take a few minutes at the start of each day to prioritize and plan the shape of your workday based on your list.
This one sounds counterproductive on the heels of taking steps to eliminate time-wasting activity. However, stepping away from your work for a few minutes every hour or two will allow you to tackle the job with renewed energy, and you’ll accomplish more in less time. It needs to be a real break, too, so if you’re staring at a computer screen all day, get up, walk around and do some stretching exercises.
By examining and analyzing how you spend your time, effectively planning your days and building in breaks, you will find your productivity skyrocketing.
- License: Creative Commons image source
This is a guest post. Marcy Duncan is a career coach and guest author at Graduate Degree Program, where she contributed this resource about online colleges for grad students.