For many of us, as we open our eyes in the morning, a whole list of To Do’s pop into mind as naturally as sunlight hits our face. The longer the list, the harder it is to persuade oneself to get out of bed, it seems. Listed below are eight tips on how to manage time and enhance one’s productivity.
Productivity Tip #1: Write it down. Writing your tasks down not only keeps you organized, it frees your mind from the energy-draining job of trying to remember. Author David Allen, in his book “Getting Things Done”, points out how uncompleted commitments use up psychic energy, each one making you just a tad bit more tired, more distracted, and therefore less productive. He emphasizes that the first step to managing your life and time is getting every commitment, large and small, out of your head and into a trusted system like pen to paper.
Productivity Tip #2: Get a head start. The best way to hit the ground running every morning is to start the night before. Before leaving your workspace, or before going to bed, take a few minutes to go over the next day’s tasks. What appointments can’t be missed? What do you need to have with you for those appointments? You can even do your list (Tip #1) at this time and decide what you will do first.
Productivity Tip #3: Accomplish your most dreaded task first. It happens that we have that one task on our To Do list that we would rather put off for as long as we can or not do at all. Whatever it is, it hangs over your head, distracting you with guilt because it keeps getting pushed to the next hour or next day and so on. It’s time to put an end to that cycle. Do it first thing. Writer Michael Hyatt talks about “slaying your dragons” before breakfast — there’s nothing more satisfying and motivating than crossing that monster off your list early in the day. Just do something about that daunting task. Perhaps you can’t finish it in one day, but you can get started. Then let the satisfaction of striking that “dragon” off your list carry you through the rest of your busy day.
Productivity Tip #4: Tune off distractions. Emails, phone calls, people appearing at your door… even the technology that is supposed to make our lives easier and better also can make it virtually impossible to maintain the focus we need to work efficiently and effectively. When you’ve got an important task that requires attention and full focus, create the space to give it your best. Shut down your phone (or turn it on silent). Mute your email notifications. Fight all urge to check in and update your social media status. Close your office door. Just for that hour (or thirty minutes, or go nuts, half a day), turn off all outside communications and give yourself the luxury of undisturbed time to really focus on the task at hand.
Productivity Tip #5: Take breaks. There’s a limit to how long anybody can devote deep focus to a task. No matter how busy you may be, after a certain amount of time, fatigue (mental and/or physical) sets in and begins to impair your effectiveness. Schedule breaks periodically even during the busiest days. Take ten minutes to stand up, stretch, get a drink of water, or walk around the block. You’ll return to your work refreshed and ready to get more things done.
Productivity Tip #6: Eat a healthy breakfast. Healthy people are more productive. No matter how busy you are, eat a decent breakfast. Breakfast will fuel you for the long day’s tasks.
Productivity Tip #7: Exercise. Can’t stress it enough: healthy people are more productive. Exercise makes and keeps you healthy, so be sure to get some exercise every day. You do not need to sign up for gym membership; take a walk around the block, do some isometrics at your desk, go for a 15-minute run. Just do something to get your heart pumping and your blood racing. The rush of endorphins after physical exertion will relieve your stress as well as improve your ability to think more clearly.
Productivity Tip #8: Know when to say No. Is your calendar cluttered with commitments that don’t accomplish anything for entities that no longer matter as much? Has your day been hijacked by somebody else’s priorities? Review your To Do list closely. Can any of those tasks simply be crossed off to create some reasonable margin in your day? When someone calls or appears at your door with a request for your participation in some activity, take a moment and consider whether it fits into your own priorities. If the answer is no, then just say no. Try it: “Thank you, but no.”