If there is one thing that people, in general, wish they had more of, its time. Who hasn’t thought (or even said out loud at some point or another), “I sure wish I had a few extra hours in my day…”? We all wish we had the time we wanted or needed to complete various tasks and still have time to relax and just be ourselves.
With all the hats we wear in a single day, stopping to even think about being more productive can be a challenge. Yet, here you are, reading this article. Good for you! What that means is that you have a particular interest in making the most of the time you have. Let’s face it: no one is going to add minutes or hours to our day. We all get the same 24 hours. How we use those hours is what makes the real difference, hence the subject of today’s message.
Let’s have a look at some of the things successful people do to keep on top of their responsibilities and how you can emulate those methods to be more productive in 2020. The goal here is twofold: to look at some common time-wasting habits and activities and figure out a few ways to change or adjust them to our advantage. Ready to start getting more done? Great! Let’s get right into it then…
#1: MAP OUT YOUR DAY (AND BE REALISTIC)
Keeping a to-do list is one of the most basic productivity disciplines there is. The concept is one that has been time-tested and proven effective when used correctly. Far too often, we try to cram more and more onto that list, then start deciding which tasks are most important.
At the end of the day, things left undone on that list can be a big discouragement, but there is a solution: be realistic about what goes on the list in the first place. At the beginning, this will take a lot of willpower and determination. A list of five things doesn’t seem as productive as a list of fifteen but, in many ways, it is.
If, for example, you are always stopping to regroup or re-assess what things on your list need to take priority, that is eating into your productive time. Instead of over-scheduling, see what else – if anything – you can fit in after the fact. Add to your list as time permits.
If you’d feel better keeping a more exhaustive list, keep two instead: one with essential tasks that need to be completed today and another with secondary ones to be finished as time allows. Giving more weight to essential tasks will help you feel more accomplished when they are done. You can also add to that sense of accomplishments by knocking off secondary tasks when you have the time.
#2: FORGET ABOUT MULTITASKING
Let’s get one thing straight about the concept of multitasking: it’s a lie. We just are not wired to do multiple things at once. Separating out tasks and dealing with one thing at a time is way more productive than trying to do everything at once.
Over the next few days or weeks, do an inventory of all the ways you multitask during the course of your day. Factor in home, work, and family responsibilities. Take note of how long it takes to complete each task individually, then evaluate how long it takes you total to do all these tasks put together. Once you have those numbers crunched, steer away from multitasking and try doing all the same things one at a time.
In the end, you are likely to find that it takes about as much time to do everything separately and that might tempt you into thinking that it’s no better than multitasking. However, look at the difference in the quality of the results you get from both methods. Sure, you might spend the same amount of time accomplishing each task, but you will probably also do a much more thorough job when you do each task individually. Giving your brain the chance to focus on one thing at a time has that effect.
#3: FIGURE OUT YOUR MOST PRODUCTIVE TIME(S) OF DAY
We all have moments or hours when we are simply more efficient. Those time frames are different for everybody and are dependent on a variety of factors. Some people are most productive during their first two hours at work or after getting out of bed, and some feel more energized after a good meal. While others work better under pressure and get more done in the last two hours of their workday, and others struggle.
Don’t try to intellectualize this one while you read. Instead, make a conscious effort to observe those patterns over the next week or so. When do you get the most done? What sorts of tasks do you choose to tackle when you are feeling most motivated? Understanding your habits a little better will make it easier to plug tasks into your to-do list at times when they are most likely to get done thoroughly and efficiently. If you are struggling to identify your habits, I recommend trying a habit tracker, to help you identify both your good and bad habits.
#4: REGROUP AND RE-ASSESS
As a final step in this process, it is important to make honest, objective assessments of how things are progressing under a new system. It could take some time and effort to develop a productivity plan that works. It is essential to not only have that plan in place but also have a reliable gauge of its effectiveness.
Throughout the next month, keep a journal outlining what you are accomplishing and how much time it is taking to clear your to-do list. Assess whether or not all the essential responsibilities are being met and how many secondary tasks get done during an average day.
Take particular note of areas that still need improvement and develop a strategy for improving them. It could be as simple as saving specific tasks for later in the day and moving some up earlier. It could also be more complex, requiring a more thorough re-assessment of how you do things and why you aren’t accomplishing more of your goals.
YOUR NEXT MOVE
While it may take time to wrangle in some of the more stubborn time-wasters, but if you commit to it (and hold yourself accountable for doing it), the result will make the effort worthwhile. You have the motivation; all you need now is a plan. We hope the advice we’ve offered here today will prove to be the first steps in creating and executing an effective productivity strategy.