Almost everyone wishes they could get more work done with less time spent working. It might seem a little far-fetched, but small changes can make a big difference. Apply these time-tested productivity tips from productivity masters to get more out of each day.
1. Don’t check your email first thing in the morning. Email can be a huge time suck as you end up replying to this message, deleting that one, forwarding this one to the friend who needs it, and so on and so forth. Instead, check your email after you’ve already gotten into the workflow for the day, so that you have less of a risk of getting distracted and sidetracked.
2. Try using the Pomodoro method. The Pomodoro method involves working in 25 minute chunks with a 5 minute break, using a ticking timer to remind you that you’re supposed to be working. If you need to, try playing with the working and break times – the 25/5 split is most popular, but some people find that a slightly different split works best for them.
3. Define “finished” before you start on a project. It sounds silly, but it can save you a lot of time. When you have an endpoint to work towards, you know that you won’t end up wasting time tweaking and trying to perfect as you get closer to the end of the project. This way, you’ll know when it’s done.
4. Create & stick to a to do list of your most important things to get done. Whenever you find yourself working but feeling like you’re not making a lot of progress, refer back to your list and see if you actually are working towards completing one of your most important tasks for the day. If not, refocus and start working towards that.
5. Knock out the toughest task first. When you get the toughest task of the day done early, the momentum will carry you forward and make all of the other tasks seem like a piece of cake. You’ll breeze through them all and have the day’s work done before you know it.
6. Have a list of mini-tasks on hand at all times. That way, when you have a few minutes to spare but don’t know what to work on, you can refer to the mini-task list and knock out one of those items. They should all be doable in 5 to 15 minutes. If you work with a group, you can even create a group mini-task list using web collaboration tools to help increase group productivity.
7. Blackout communications and remove all potential distractions. Know that you have a tendency to get sidetracked by Facebook and lose an hour on it? Then use a site-blocking browser plugin or add-on to prevent yourself from logging on. Turn off or silence your phone, exit out of Skype and remove any distractions that will end up wasting your time.
8. Remove all potential interruptions. Tell your coworkers (or if you work at home, your children or anyone else who might be around) that you’ll be working for the next several hours and not to interrupt you unless it’s an emergency. And make sure to set a clear definition of “emergency”, as well, so that you don’t get interrupted for an issue that isn’t actually an emergency.
9. Don’t multitask. Multitasking interrupts the flow state, which is one of the most productive states a person can be in. You lose time and brain energy as you switch between tasks. Focus on one task for at least 25 to 30 minutes at a time, and preferably until you finish it.
10. Start small, start simple. Use a web calendar to keep track of bigger goals, but make sure that you always have a detail or actionable step to work on so you don’t get overwhelmed.