There are literally thousands of distractions that surround us every day. From social media websites, phone calls, emails, meetings, family dramas…the list goes on and on. Couple this with the extraordinary capability of human beings to procrastinate over every task, large and small, and you have a recipe for disaster when it comes to being productive and achieving our daily goals.
From CEOs to average office workers, no one is immune to this problem. Someone wise once said “everyone has the same amount of hours in one day”. So how do we make the most of every hour we have to get stuff done and ticked off the list? Below is a list of some handy tips to get you on your way.
1. Make a list
Just one. List everything you have to do that day and then pick your top three most pressing things. Delete everything else on the list and work solely on completing your top three most important tasks. Once those are done and dusted, you can move on to other, less important things. This way, you won’t be tempted to divert from something important to tick off something menial.
While you’re list-making, take note: if a task takes under two minutes to complete, do it right then and there, don’t even bother adding it to the list. If you have to send a quick email, do it in the moment. Don’t save it for later. Lists are for large, important tasks only.
2. Deal with internet distractions
We all get tempted to check our Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/favourite blogs but this has to stop if you want to get anything meaningful achieved. There are dozens of websites out there now that can restrict access to these sites during the hours you nominate. Try Rescuetime.com or StayFocusd.com as a start. They will track and chart your Internet usage in real time (for a fee) or delayed time (for free) and email you weekly summaries outlining how productive you have been. The results are enough to scare the Facebook out of anyone.
3. Sort out your emails
Unless you absolutely have to be on call 24/7, nominate certain hours of the day when you will check, and reply to, your emails. You may even wish to program an automatic response that allows senders of emails to know that, for example, you only check your emails at 11.00am and 3.00pm. When you do eventually check them at your allotted time, reply straight away. Only handling an email once means you can move on and sort issues as they arise and not waste time flagging it then having to return to it a second or third time in order to respond.
Similarly, pick a time to switch off completely. Be it when you leave the office, or before you sit down to dinner, disconnect yourself from the world of electronic communication and spend those hours doing something constructive instead. Cook dinner with your partner or read that book you’ve always wanted to. Unless it’s an emergency or you are waiting on something urgent, it can wait until the next day to be dealt with (at your allotted time of course).
4. Divide up your day
Finding time for everything you need to do can feel overwhelming however it helps when you break down your to-dos into smaller chunks. Set aside an hour a day for exercise, then factor in your top three priorities on your list (see Number 1 above), carve out time for your social life and family commitments then allot the remaining hours as you see fit, allowing time for contingencies such as meetings running over time and getting stuck in traffic.
5. Spend one day planning for the week ahead
Be it Sunday night or another day of your choosing, plan out your meals, workouts, social catch-ups and down time for the week. Do one big grocery shop and prepare meals in advance if you can. (You could make the vegetable lasagne from a few posts ago and take it for lunch to work every day, for example).
Plan out everything in your diary then complete as planned. Less time spent thinking and procrastinating over these simple tasks frees up valuable time for actually doing them.
6. Take a break
Buzzing around from one task to the next is exhausting. Taking a break helps you reset and realign, as well as clearing your head and relaxing your body so you are ready and armed for the next thing. Take a walk at lunch, no matter how busy you are. Pick up the phone and call a friend or simply pop across the street for a quick take-away coffee. The change in environment, pace and scenery is worth its weight in gold when you come back refreshed and ready to tackle more.
Once you’re done with your daily tasks, take some time to step back and review. Which systems work for you and which don’t? Alter your processes as you see fit and you will be following through and kicking goals in no time.