Life gets busy. We have tasks added to our plates all the time, and it’s difficult to get everything done. If you’ve ever wished there were more hours in the day, look at this list of our top 15 productivity tips. Putting some of these simple practices into play will help you get more done and stay on top of your to-do list.
1. Prepare for Tomorrow Today
One of the best ways to increase your productivity is to plan for the day ahead the night before. As you’re leaving work, make a list of things you need to accomplish the following day. Write anything you didn’t finish today on the list for tomorrow. Preparing for tomorrow today gives you a bit of a head start in the morning.
2. Write Out Your Goals and Priorities for the Week
At the beginning of each week, it’s important to outline the things you’d like to complete by the week’s end. Writing out the productivity goals for the week will help you to stay on task and get them done. Keep this list on your desk all week and pull tasks from it each day so that everything gets accomplished by Friday.
3. Get Up Earlier
American founding father Benjamin Franklin once said, “He that rises late must trot all day.” While Franklin lived in the 1700s, his statement is as true now as it was then. When you hit the snooze button 11 times and don’t roll out of bed until 9:30 a.m., it can feel like you’re behind and trying to catch up for the rest of the day.
Throughout history, and still even today, many well-known, successful and productive people have made it a habit to wake up before the sun. The aforementioned Franklin woke each day at 5 a.m. Current United States President Donald Trump also rubs the sleep out of his eyes at 5 a.m. The chairman emeritus of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, was known to be in the office by 6 a.m. Apple CEO Tim Cook reportedly wakes up each morning at 3:45 to get a jump on the day. Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, is in her office before 6 a.m. each day. Bill Gross, the founder of the investment management firm PIMCO, wakes at 4:30 a.m. I could go on and on with an extensive list of other highly successful professionals who wake up in the predawn hours to make good use of the time they’re allotted each day.
The fact is, most of us aren’t getting loads of work done late at night. Why not get to sleep before midnight, rest well and rise early to take full advantage of the hours that many say are the most productive and creative parts of their days.
4. Block Out Distractions
Distractions can easily derail your productivity goals. Shut off apps, phones, social media and podcasts ― anything that may take your attention away from the tasks you aim to complete. It’s draining to try and work while your mind is paying partial attention to something else. Marketing strategist Michael Maven wrote about how we’re often distracted at work. Maven said, “Many people live in a ‘mixed mode’ ― they’re not fully focused on work, but they’re not completely switched off, either. It slows them down, burns them out and drains them of all their energy.”
Be intentional about blocking out everything but your work. If that means shutting your office door, do it. If you have to put a sign on your door that says, “Do not disturb,” then hang the sign. Forward your calls and make it known that you are busy, and you don’t want to chat.
5. Prioritize Your To-do List
After you have made a list of all the things you plan to accomplish for the day, take time to prioritize it. I like to use the ABC prioritization method. It’s loosely based on something I learned in a time management seminar by Franklin Covey. I put an ‘A’ next to the items that must get done today no matter what. The letter ‘B’ goes next to things that I would like to get done today. Then, I put a ‘C’ next to things on the list that it would be nice to get done today but can also be moved to tomorrow’s to-do list.
6. Add Things You Really Want to Do to Your List
I have an associate who is probably one of the most productive people in my contacts list. She works full-time and also homeschools her two children. However, she also makes time to take yoga classes every day. She doesn’t get paid to go to yoga. She doesn’t get to cross anything off of her task list while she’s in class. It’s just something she wants to do for herself. So, she gets up extra early, before the rest of her family, and gets it done.
I used to work for the National Institute of Fitness and Sport. I remember the president of the company, who was a very hard-working productive guy, took a full-hour break a few times a week to take a golf lesson during the workday. It was something he looked forward to doing that he added to his list each week.
Adding things that you want to do to your list helps you to enjoy your day more. When you’ve got a creative outlet or activity that you’re anticipating, you’ll be more productive throughout the entire day.
7. Hire Out Certain Chores
When you have a heavy workload and all sorts of things that need to be done, it makes sense to outsource some of the simple tasks that take up too much of your time. If laundry seems to pile up because you’ve got more pressing matters, hire someone to pick it up, wash it and drop it off at your door. If you need someone to handle your social media activity, find a person who is great at it and pay him or her to take care of it. If there’s any routine task that a trained chimp could handle for you, consider hiring someone to handle it for you and cross it off your list.
8. Worst First, Best Last
I learned this practice from my 10-year-old daughter. She likes to save her easiest or most enjoyable chores to do last. She gets the more difficult tasks out of the way first. Tackling the tougher jobs first will motivate you to push through so that you can get to your easier, more fulfilling work. It’s a good way to stay productive and get more done each day.
9. Just Get on With It
Chinese-American martial artist and actor Bruce Lee said, “If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.” Don’t procrastinate and allow yourself to be distracted. Jump right in and begin your work.
One way to ensure that you don’t procrastinate is to let someone else know what you’re doing. When you tell your boss or co-worker, or even your subordinate that you plan to work on a certain project from noon until 2 p.m., you’re more likely to do it. When you have some accountability, it helps you avoid procrastination and stay true to your word.
10. Set a Time to Check and Respond to Email
When my husband was working in a very busy insurance office, his boss advised him to set a specific time to check and return emails each day. Scheduling time to handle email correspondence, rather than responding to messages throughout the day, helps you to stay on task and get more done.
11. Schedule Uninterrupted Work Time
On your daily schedule, set a time for uninterrupted work. Put aside everything else and work during that part of the day. If you have a project that needs to be done, schedule a block of time from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. to do nothing but work on that project. Treat this time like you would a meeting with your boss. Plan to turn off your phone, put your head down and work.
12. Challenge Yourself With a Timer
The Young Entrepreneur Council recommends adding a little fun into your work by trying to beat the clock. Here’s their advice: “When working through your tasks, estimate how long they will take and then try to beat the clock. It can make even dull tasks into a fun game, and you’ll surprise yourself with how fast you can be.”
13. Implement Technological Help
There are some excellent apps you can utilize to help you stay on task. I use an app on my phone called Flora. When I want to ensure that I’m staying on task and not getting distracted by social media, news notifications or text messages, I log into the app. I set a time frame in the app, normally around 25 minutes. At the beginning of that 25 minutes, a virtual seed is planted. If I pick up my phone and use it, my tree dies. However, if I leave my phone alone and work, the virtual seed grows, and a tree is added to my virtual forest. Even though it’s silly, it does help me to stay focused on the task at hand and not voluntarily distract myself with my phone.
14. Stop Saying ‘Yes’
Henry David Thoreau wrote, “It is not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?” It’s easy to overcommit to others and find ourselves too busy to get our own work done. Be selective about when you say yes. Don’t accept every coffee date or agree to each request for help. Remember that you have your own list of tasks to be completed and stay focused.
15. Give Yourself a Gold Star
When you’ve done well and fulfilled your obligations for the day, reward yourself. Treat yourself to a hot bubble bath or a relaxing cup of tea when you’ve rocked your to-do list or completed a big project. Celebrating your commitment to productivity creates an ongoing attitude of success and a good work ethic.
Now get busy. The 26th president of the U.S., Theodore Roosevelt, said, “Whenever you are asked if you can do a job, tell ‘em, ‘Certainly, I can!” Then, get busy and find out how to do it.”
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Lubin, G. (2015). 24 successful people who wake up (really) early. Retrieved from: https://www.businessinsider.com/successful-people-who-wake-up-early-2015-6
Maven, M. (2015). How to get more done in less time. Retrieved from: https://www.success.com/how-to-get-more-done-in-less-time/
Young entrepreneurs council work life balance. (2015). Retrieved from: https://www.inc.com/ young-entrepreneur-council/20-tips-for-getting-more-done-every-day.html