Being mindful about how we use our time and use our energy can help us accomplish the things that we want to accomplish and make it feel manageable in the process. Here are some easy tips to follow for a productive 2017!
Set Long Term Goals
It is hard to feel like you are accomplishing anything if you do not have a direction toward which you want to be moving. Whether it is through setting financial goals for your business or through establishing personal or professional growth aspirations, plotting a direction and setting objectives can help you attain a sense of accomplishment versus a feeling of just working.
Start Each Day With an Intention
Setting an intention can be something like deciding how you want to approach the day (e.g. today I am going to be patient and open-minded when dealing with such-and-such a challenge) or deciding what you want to get out of the day (e.g. today I want to be able to enjoy working on such-and-such and not let distractions get in the way). This can help you approach the day with a positive mindset so that you get the most out of it.
Focus on Your High Priority Items
It is hard to accomplish your high priority items if you are always working on whatever happens to land on your desk. Identify the things that are most important, break them down into specific tasks, and schedule those tasks for when you are most focused. Do this before (or at) the beginning of each week, and then spend just a few minutes prioritizing at the beginning of each day. If you are a business owner, checking your financials against your benchmarks should make it to your high priority list periodically.
Working unproductively can be a big time drain. Sometimes when a task just is not going well, the best thing to do is to take a break. Find an uncluttered spot to rest your eyes, get up and stretch, have a glass of water, let your mind rest for a few minutes, then refocus. Schedule short breaks to keep your mind fresh.
Forcing yourself to continue working on something that just is not going well is not necessarily the best way to get it done. Sometimes, refocusing and then switching to another task is the best use of your time. If the task that you are not making headway on is a high-priority item, rearrange your calendar so that you can still get it accomplished on time. If it is not a high priority item, evaluate whether it is something that really needs to be done.
Keep a Short To-Do List
Keeping a to-do list has several benefits. In addition to helping you track of what needs to be done, deciding what things do and do not get put on your to-do list helps you prioritize tasks. If your list is too long, it will be difficult to prioritize and there will be things that just do not get done. Keeping your to-do list short will help prevent you from feeling overwhelmed by all of the things waiting to be done. Keeping a manageable list might require delegating some tasks or saying “no” to some requests for your time.
Schedule Clearing Time
After scheduling your high priority tasks, find blocks of time on your calendar for working on your to-do list. This way you make room for getting things on your list done so that it does not just keep growing. Take an hour at the end of every day, for example, to clear your list – and your desk while you are at it. That way you will not just keep moving the same to-attend-to items from one spot to another, allowing them to pile up.
What tasks do you need to do on a regular basis that can be grouped together efficiently to help your productivity? Create a routine for doing these things together.
Avoid Time Drains
If you want to be productive, it is important to be aware of the ways in which you waste time. For example, do you check email and phone messages constantly throughout the day? Do you spend too much time online shopping or reading articles on the internet when you get bored with what you are working on? What are the things that trigger you to switch to time-draining activities?
Not everything requires the same attention to detail. Reserve a perfectionist mindset for those tasks on which it will pay off. Saving a few minutes (or more!) here and there can really add up over the course of a day.
Clutter reduces productivity by making it difficult for us to quickly locate something that we need – even to the point of making it difficult to find space to work – and also by increasing stress. One of the best ways to prevent this is not to allow clutter to accumulate in the first place. Regularly clearing your to-do list is a good way to keep things from piling up on your desk. Books, piles of notes, fliers, magazines, and random pieces of mail might still seem to accumulate, however. Try to keep these from devolving into clutter. Use them, store them using a method that makes it easy for you to locate what you need, or if they aren’t needed, clear them away.
Schedule End of Work Times
Leaving open-ended times for getting things done is a sure way to let them drag on; and if a task seems endless, it is easy to procrastinate about even starting it. Give yourself realistic times by which you want specific tasks accomplished. If you work flexible hours, or work even part of your day at home, remember to schedule the end of your work day too.
Good sleep is important for health. It is also important for memory, mood, and productivity. Try to identify those things that help or hurt your ability to get a good night’s sleep; and cultivate those that help. If your business allows it, take a break for a power nap when you are too tired to work.
Wishing you a happy and productive 2017!
Laurie Pieper, Ph.D.