Can you make every day an effective one?
It’s a fact of life in today’s ‘always on’ digital world that, while technology makes life easier in many ways, it also eats into our time – which is the most precious resource and one we never have enough of!
Social media alerts, email overload, calendar invites, meetings, phone calls, unplanned issues or demands at work. Sound familiar? All these have an impact on how productive and efficient we can be during the working day. While training can introduce you to a range of methods to create better time management and improve productivity, the good news is by making changes to some of those long-ingrained habits that impact on your time, you can be more effective every day.
Making some small changes can ensure that any training you undertake to enhance and improve the way in which you deliver your work, (and manage life in general!), can have a really big impact. Here’s our top five tips to consider:
1. Start your day earlier
Those of you that are not morning people will probably immediately switch off here but getting up just a bit earlier has many advantages so keep reading! It gives us more time to prepare for the day ahead and in general our minds are designed to be fresher after a good night’s sleep. If you’re not an early riser, you can always adapt this idea to take advantage of your energy peaks – that might be that you’re more productive early evening. Just make sure you switch off from using any devices at least an hour before sleep!
Another option is to take advantage of your commuting time if first thing in the morning is just too much! Don’t think of travel time as wasted time, instead use it to plan your day If you’re driving to work, focus on what needs completing during the day and then create a to-do list as soon as you get to work. If you have time on the train/bus, then you can get a head start and create the to-do list during your commute. Either way, when you get to work, you are ready to get productive almost, if not, immediately.
2. Create (and complete) a to-do list every day
Use that extra time in the morning to make a To-Do list with the most important task at the top. This gives you real focus and if an activity is not on the list – does it need to be done today? Easy in theory but it is key here to stay focused. While most days there will be some things you may need to react to, and you do need to show flexibility when this happens, just make sure that reaction is necessary at the time. Check off your to-do list as you complete the tasks with the goal of completing the list by the end of the day. Use your to-do list every day for at least 4 consecutive weeks and it will be part of your morning routine in the long term.
3. Focus on one task at a time
Many of us think that we’re accomplished multi-taskers but the chances are you’re wasting more time jumping from one task to another. Focus your day so that you can dedicate slots of time to getting that to-do list completed. Categorise your tasks according to the time you need to complete them (consider time and energy here). List up to 3 main tasks that must be completed by the end of the day and define them as “Goals”. Assign time blocks for these in your calendar, booking out enough time to complete them. If you have lots of short important/urgent tasks to get done them group them together and list them in order of priority – but still book time out to do them.
“I don’t have time” is the most common excuse for not completing a task. Don’t confuse this excuse with the need to say “no”. Staying focused on what you set out to do is essential for improving productivity.
By having this focus, you can plan to do the intense work during the hours of the day your energy levels are at their highest. That way you can schedule your more menial to-do items for that time in the day when you know you’re not as productive – late morning/before lunch or that mid-afternoon slump many of us suffer from.
Often it is all too easy to get enthusiastic about any new goal that comes along but then lose steam and leave things half finished. Learn to be aware when you may be acting on impulse and avoid taking on tasks in a burst of enthusiasm. Finish what you start and persevere until you complete it.
4. Stay clear of distractions
There are few things more distracting when it comes to efficiency and productivity than interruptions. Many unnecessary ones are actually those we create – lets go back to the ‘always on’ mentioned earlier. Telephone calls, text messages, reminders, email notifications are the most effective productivity killers. Best practice is to switch your phone to silent mode (face down) or airplane mode to filter only the most valuable calls. Email notifications from outlook or web browser should be disabled and specific time blocks allocated for proactively dealing with these.
If you need to take some time out to concentrate – put your desk phone to voicemail or forward it so that calls can be avoided while you focus. If you have your own office – shut the door to get important tasks done with nobody popping in for a chat. If you work in an open plan space – book a meeting room or move to a quiet area and, obvious one here, let people know you need to focus so you can be left in peace for a while!
5. Be realistic
One of the key things to remember is there are only so many hours in the day, you can only fit a certain number of activities within that time and you need to be realistic here. Manage people’s expectations on when you can deliver, manage your own too as much of the work stress we create is often around the targets we set ourselves. Make them challenging of course but most importantly, make them achievable. You will be less under pressure and in turn much more productive because of it.
Remember, that time is a resource that should be managed proactively so use it wisely. Follow our tips and get into the habit of having a defined daily routine that helps make your day-to-day life easier and prevents you from wasting time. You’ll know where to start because you will have structured your work day. The only way to get rid of those bad habits that create more work and less productivity is by forming new ones!