Source: Ashley Stahl | Forbes
Do you ever finish your workday feeling like you weren’t able to accomplish everything on your list? You start with a plan, a list, a goal… but by the end of the day, you find your to-do list is even longer. I get it. Being productive at work can be difficult. Managing your time in ways that are conducive to your productivity is key… but it can sometimes be hard to know where to start.
As a career coach, I’ve helped both young executives working 12-15 hour days and millennial entrepreneurs with the entire day at their disposal. Despite the differences in their days, both parties struggle with how to effectively structure their time. No matter who you are, you need to be on point with how you manage those 24 hours each day.
Try incorporating these tips to increase that productive flow and work smarter!
1. Stop multitasking
It can be tempting to want to take care of a few tasks at once, especially if they seem small or easy. But it simply doesn’t work. According to neuroscience professor Earl K. Miller, “multitasking is not humanly possible.” We’re fooling ourselves when we say we can easily juggle phone calls, presentations, and eating lunch. Focus on one task at a time, and you’ll actually end up completing it faster.
2. Take breaks
We might think working longer hours means we’re getting more done, but we never work as well when we’re burned out. Studies show taking regular breaks helps concentration and boosts your mood. Take a five-minute walk around the office, or spend 15 minutes grabbing that mid-afternoon coffee.
3. Set small goals
Sometimes, looking at our goals can be overwhelming. Seeing a handful of big projects on our calendar can be stressful… but if you break it up into smaller tasks, you’ll feel more in control and will be much more productive. Rather than write down "finish project," break that into all the tasks it will take. This will keep you on track in your day-to-day and make the bigger projects seem less daunting.
4. Take care of the biggest tasks when you’re most alert
We all sometimes push aside big goals because we’re not confident we’ll accomplish them… And by the time we get to them, we’re too burned out from our day to give it the attention it needs. That’s how projects end up bleeding into additional days, and making it feel like productivity has disappeared.
Understanding when and how you work best is key to getting those big projects done on time. There’s no set schedule that works for everyone… if you’re a morning person, tackle the big tasks first thing in your day.
5. Implement the “two-minute rule”
Make the most of your time at work by filling those tiny windows with actual tasks. According to entrepreneur Steve Olenski, finding and immediately completing tasks that take two minutes or less actually saves you time. So, if it takes less than two minutes, do it now.
The other aspect of the two-minute rule is that any goal or habit can be started in under two minutes. This doesn’t mean you’ll be able to complete every task in 120 seconds, but starting new goals is the first step to accomplishing them!
Not every day will be perfectly productive; don’t beat yourself up over it. Instead, refocus your energy and implement these tips. Once you find the sweet spot that works for you, you’ll be amazed at how much more you can get done both in and out of the office.
Now excuse me while I go take my 15-minute break. You should take one too.