Despite the best of intentions, getting stuff done can be a major challenge. If you’re like many people, you start the day with the best of intentions. Your path is clear, your mind is focused – heck, maybe you even made a to-do list.
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As the minutes and hours pass, however, you lose your resolve. Maybe you become too tied up in the minutia of the day. Or perhaps the numerous distractions that you face prove just too daunting and you give in – an hour of web-browsing here, an hour of Netflix there. Whatever your particular breed of problem, the failure to complete work can have serious ramifications for you as an employee and as a person.
If you’re sick of fighting the same losing battle again and again, resolve to solve the problem. Doing so is probably not as difficult as you would expect. To get started, simply adopt some of these easy-to-implement life hacks.
1. Take Advantage Of Your Productivity Peak
Everyone has their high and, indeed, low productivity times. For some, the morning is the prime time to get stuff done. For others, the start of the day is good for nothing but drinking coffee and getting your yawns out.
Spend some time thinking about your productivity patterns, and determine which time of day is best for you. Once you’ve pinpointed a range of time, take advantage of this new-found knowledge. Schedule most of your tasks for this key time-frame to take advantage of your natural rhythms.
2. Organize Your Space
If your office looks like it was recently hit by a tornado, you’re likely sabotaging your productivity. Humans are naturally more capable of working well in calm spaces. A desk filled with five half-empty coffee mugs and intimidating piles of paper that threaten to topple at any point is hardly a calming space.
Correct this problem by spending some time tidying up. Even though it may be difficult to dedicate attention to getting things in order when you have so much to do, it’s important to remember that doing so will pay off in the end. If your space continually returns to a state of disorganization, enlist the help of a friend or co-worker to develop a sustainable organizational system that works for you.
3. Write Stuff Down
If you’re not a to-do list maker, you should aim to become one. It’s easy to lose track of all that you have to do if you don’t have a concrete reminder right in front of you. When faced with a list of things to which you must attend, it’s much more difficult to ignore these items.
Keep a running list of things you must do, and cross them off as you do them; trust us, it feels awesome. If you’re the type of person that loves rewards – and, let’s face it, who isn’t – you can make to-do listing even more fun by offering yourself incentives for reaching certain goals. Complete 10 tasks today? You earned yourself an hour of TV viewing and a glass of wine.
4. Prioritize Your Tasks
If your to-do list is overflowing, it’s easy to feel daunted. While you might still need to keep a comprehensive list, so as to not lose track of important tasks, looking at this pages-long list is probably proving demotivating.
Solve the problem by making a sub-list including only the three most important tasks. If you complete these, select another trio to focus on. By breaking it down in this fashion, you will quickly whittle away at that list.
5. Focus On One Thing At A Time
Once you’ve selected the task on which you are going to work, you need to push everything else out of your mind – as hard as that may seem.
If you’re constantly looking back at your to-do list or thinking about what you have upcoming, you will never really dedicate the appropriate level of attention to your current project. Try as hard as you can to block everything else out of your mind and really, really tune in to the task at hand.
6. Dedicate Yourself To Becoming Inbox Zero
Email is great and horrible simultaneously. While it’s wonderful to be able to communicate so quickly and, for the most part, effortlessly, those messages that pop up throughout the day can derail even the most focused of workers.
Combat this problem by adopting an inbox zero lifestyle. To do so, set a time of day during which you will check your email. If it’s not that time of day, don’t look at the email.
Seriously. Don’t even have it pulled up. Those new message alerts will kill you.
When it is email time, go to town, reviewing and addressing all of the emails contained. As you address the emails, archive them. Keep working until your inbox is at zero. It will feel so good – like brownies hot out of the oven good.
7. Do The Stuff You Dread First
Have a tedious report you need to get to your boss? Don’t put it off until the end of the day. Take care of it first thing. Ultimately, you’re going to have to do it. By biting the bullet and taking care of it first thing, you can make the rest of your day decidedly more palatable.
8. Eliminate Distractions
Work is really distracting. Instead of letting those text messages, phone calls and Facebook posts steal away your attention, focus on the task at hand.
To make ignoring these things easier, put your phone in another room when you’re hard at work. Also, don’t log in to social media. Seeing that tempting tab at the top of your browser will only make your work more difficult to attend to.
9. Use The Two-Minute Rule
Chronic procrastinator? It may take more than one prescription to completely cure what ails you, but you can reduce the severity and impact of the problem by applying the two-minute rule.
The rule is simple. If you become alerted to something that can be handled in two minutes or less, do it now instead of delaying it.
For example, if a meeting invitation pops up, don’t wait until later in the day, but check your planner and reply. Now you can cross that item off your list instead of having it haunt your inbox until you finally get around to it.
10. Try The Pomodoro Technique
Is your mind constantly wandering? Make it easier to stay on task by segmenting your focus. Select a task and set a timer for 25 minutes. Work on that task faithfully until the timer goes off.
When it does, allow yourself a five-minute break. After that break, get back to work for 25 more minutes. While this might make your day feel fragmented, if you’re easily distracted, this fragmentation might be exactly what you need.