Managing your time at work can be difficult, you start the day with a to-do list and somehow it is even longer by the time you finish.
Try incorporating these 6 tips to increase your productivity levels and work smarter.
1. Stop multi-tasking, start single tasking
Multi-tasking in the modern age is seen as the best (and only) way to get things done. However, contrary to common opinion, having a lengthy to-do list and multiple deadlines to meet in one day, amongst phone calls, presentations and – if we’re lucky – having a lunch break is just not sustainable, nor is it productive.
According to neuroscience professor, Earl K. Miller, multi-tasking is not humanly possible. He says that if you simply focus on one task at a time (rather than five small tasks with 30 tabs open), you will end up completing it faster and thus, being more productive.
Productivity experts call this 'single-tasking’ and it's an approach that has been proven to reduce stress, increase productivity, and improve focus and decision-making, as well as keeping your brain healthy. Single tasking is the ultimate productivity tool; forcing yourself to focus on the task at hand and excluding everything else.
2. Take breaks
It is a common misconception that working through lunch or working longer hours means we are getting more done, but, the exact opposite is true because we get burned out. Taking regular breaks helps concentration and boosts your mood – weather it’s a five-minute walk around the block away from your desk or taking 15 minutes to enjoy your mid-afternoon coffee.
It is vital to give your brain some downtime. Taking a break will help make room for your next inspired idea because a halt in constant thinking slows the mind's rhythms to allow more innovative moments come to light.
3. Set micro-goals
Seeing a handful of big projects on our calendar can be overwhelming, as all we can see ahead is seemingly never-ending hours of work and challenging deadlines. If you break these things up into smaller tasks, you will feel more in control and as a result will be much more productive.
Rather than write "complete project," on your to-do list, break it down into each of the tasks it will involve and tackle them one by one (see: single tasking). This will keep you on track day-to-day and make the big projects seem less daunting, as it allows you to tick the smaller tasks off your to-do list as you go.
This can also be applied to your life outside of work. It won’t benefit you to get out of bed in the morning and think, "Today I have to file my taxes, get my car washed, call the plumber, tackle a laundry mountain and catch up on bills."
Instead, get out of bed saying, "Hit the shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, feed the cat/dog/child)." Do those four things — then pat yourself on the back for accomplishing them. Then go on to the next four.
4. Get the biggest tasks out of the way when you’re most alert
Figuring out when and how you work best is key to being at your most productive and getting things accomplished on time.
Not everyone works best in the same ways – if you are a morning person, then it is best to tackle the big tasks first thing when you are most alert and focused, rather than putting it off and then being too burned out by the time you get to it to give it the attention it needs. If you are at your peak mid-afternoon, then use that as your slot to get your big deadlines over with.
Make a to-do list, then identify your top two priorities for the day and make sure they are accomplished above all else. Giving the most important tasks your brain's prime time will make you feel more productive.
5. Keep your vision in mind.
Your vision for your own life and career influences every decision you make at work and in life. Some CEOs think their employees don't need to know the company's vision, instead giving them daily, weekly and monthly targets to hit, and think “as long as they reach their targets, we will achieve our vision, too.”
However, they are only fooling themselves. Everybody needs to understand the vision, and to see how their work fits into the bigger picture. Every manager needs a vision for their department and a vision for their own career, just as every employee needs a vision.
Know what your job gives you beyond a pay check and stay tuned in to whether your job is giving you as much back as you are putting into it. Know what kind of job you want next after this one, whether it is a job in your current organization or somewhere else.
6. Every day, ask "Is there a better way to do this?"
Every time you feel a twinge of frustration with a process at work, make note of it. There are always opportunities for improvements in the way processes are carried out in the workplace, but often they are tuned out by the majority.
Don't be afraid to make small changes to your daily routine at work, and to stay open to process innovations and changes that come into your awareness from any source at all.
Rather than smashing through twenty to do-list items on auto-pilot, stop and ask "Do all of these tasks still make sense?" Take a step back and look at your to-do list from above.
Not every day will be perfectly productive, but don’t beat yourself up about it. Instead, refocus your energy and implement these tips. Once you find a balance that works for you, you will be amazed at how much more you can get done in a day.