Are you in constant battle with your to do list and need to get more done?
Whether you’re a mom, or a business executive, or an entrepreneur, there never seem to be enough hours in the day. But no matter what you do with your day, there are a few tips and tricks that can help you increase your efficiency so you can get your WORK done, and have more time for PLAY!
1. Eat a frog immediately
Calm down. I don’t mean eat an actual frog. I once read this in a book about being organized, and it has stuck with me. The “frog” is that big task that’s haunting you, and that you don’t really want to tackle so it’s still on your to do list. Whatever the thing is that you LEAST want to do today, do it first. That way you’ll be fresh, alert, and you’ll get it done quickly. AND you won’t have to spend the rest of your day dreading it (or risk it appearing on tomorrow’s to do list again!).
2. Don’t check your email until coffee break
Most people start their day by checking their email. Then you have to reply to those emails, many of them will trigger new tasks being added to the list, new problems to solve, issues to worry about and distract you from whatever was supposed to be your focus today. Unless your boss actually requires you to check you email immediately upon arrival, try to get at least an hour and a half of project work in so you can start your day having cleared up a few of those older to do’s before moving on to the new ones. Plus, everyone else in your office will be checking their emails, so you might even get through that first hour and a bit without interruptions.
3. Don’t multi-task
Multi-tasking may seem efficient. It’s not. All the current research is backing this up. Do one thing at a time. If you’re talking on the phone, it’s fine to be taking notes on what you’re talking about, but don’t be writing an email to someone else, or reviewing case files. You’re going to miss things in the call or in the document you’re reading, and you’re much less focused on either task. Do one thing, get it done, and move on to the next. It’ll improve your understanding of what you’re doing, and will also get you brownie points from whoever you’re talking to. Seriously, we can tell when you’re on a phone conference and doing something completely different instead of listening.
4. Batch your tasks
Play the matching game with your to do list, and then work through your tasks in batches with all the same kinds of tasks. This might mean doing everything on today’s list for a single project/client, or it might mean doing all the same kinds of tasks (checking emails, writing letters, reviewing documents, writing blog articles). If possible, do this on a weekly basis when you’re planning your schedule. Mondays you write the week’s blog posts, Tuesdays are for entering all your receipts, Wednesdays are for scheduling all your social media posts…you get the idea. Obviously there will be times when this isn’t possible, but try to do it as much as you can. It saves you a lot of time in switching back and forth between tasks.
5. Use a tool to capture all your to do’s and reminders
Have some kind of system (we use Asana) where you can track all your projects, tasks and details about those projects. Every meeting we have asana open, and are entering the to do’s as they come up, and we can see exactly what is needing to be done on any project at any given time and where our timelines are at. We can also see exactly who is responsible for that task, which is fantastic. Here’s the trick – you have to use it consistently. It might take a while for you to transition over fully to whatever system you’re using, but you need to trust that everything is in there, so you need to go all in.
6. Take breaks
It’s really important to take breaks. Think of it like doing a shut down and restart of your computer. You need to reboot yourself regularly (for your body and your brain). Get up and refill your water, grab a coffee, do some stretches… anything to shake yourself up a bit and get your body a bit of a stretch. Sitting is the new smoking, so be good to yourself and make sure you stand up at least 3-5 minutes each hour.
7. Don’t work overtime
Especially if you do mentally taxing work, productivity and efficiency decline a bit after 6 hours of work a day, and a lot after 8 hours of work in a day. If you do insist on working more hours than that, be careful about the order you’re choosing to do your tasks. Try to do tasks that don’t require as much thought or focus nearer the end of the day.
8. Get enough sleep
No, not AT work (although nap rooms are all kinds of awesome). Getting enough sleep at night means everything you do throughout the day will be more efficient. Your brain will work faster, your memory will remember more things with less effort, and your body will perform better for you. Seriously. Go to bed even half an hour earlier every night for a week and see what kind of difference it makes.
9. Drink a lot of water
This is going to do a few things. It’s going to keep you hydrated (always good), and it’s also going to help you remember to get up regularly. You’ll need to fill your glass or water bottle, and you’ll also need to heed the call of nature. Between those two, that should take care of 4-6 of the “mini-breaks” that you need to work into your day (see #6).
Help! I’m still drowning in tasks.
If you’re still struggling to keep up with all your tasks and responsibilities, maybe you need to step back and take a look at your life. Check out this post on when is the right time for a retreat day. Now might just be the right time for you to take stock of your current situation, and figure out how to take back control of your life.