Has it turned into an immortal monster?
Does it give you nightmares?
If yes, then, oh dear, you have to beat that monster to-do-list to death or the opposite might happen (God forbids).
We all cut our day into sixty-minute slices and watch them slip away one by one and then wonder where did our day go. That has been happening to me probably since I was in my mother’s womb.
And still, it happens to me sometimes.
I have tried everything that any sane person would do to slash off the tasks. You name it and I’ve done it:
- Staying up all night
- Following the 4-hour-sleep rule
- Missing out on workout sessions
- All day work and no play
And the list goes on.
Did it make me any productive?
I was miserable!
Never ending fatigue.
Yet, the anxiety of still not being able to slash off those tiny bullets on my list still remained.
So how do we make the most out of our energy reserve?
How to be productive and make the most of your 24 hours?
We only have so many hours and we only have so much energy. Every single day before doing every single thing ask yourself one question,
“Am I being productive or am I being just a busy fool?”
As they say,
So how do we become productive at anything we do? Literally. Anything.
1. The one thing
Gary Keller in his book The One Thing writes,
“All successful people work on their One Thing. The ONE Thing sits at the heart of success and is the starting point for achieving extraordinary results.”
To get the most out of your day follow the 80/20 principle.
The 80/20 Rule
The rule says that 20% of your effort will produce 80% of your result. Start with a large list and then identify the top 20% of the things that will yield you the 80% of the results. And then keep narrowing your list until you get to the single most important thing.
The ONE Thing.
The idea behind The One Thing principle is to think big but start small.
In his book, Gary suggests to:
- Go small: Don’t cram up your list of to-dos. Drive your day with what matters to you the most.
- Go extreme: Once you’ve identified what are the most important things that actually matter, keep asking yourself what matters the most. Keep narrowing down your list until you get down to that one thing. The core activity goes at the top of your to-do list (turned into a success list).
- Say no: Say ‘not now’ to anything else you could do until your most important work is done.
- Don’t get trapped in the ‘check off’ game: Do not try to be a do-it-all person.
The game of “check off” never produces a winner. Success is found in doing what matters the most
Doing the most important thing is always the most important thing.
2. Prioritize your list
Effective prioritization will help you stay focused on getting the most urgent and right things done the foremost preventing you from wasting time. Segment your tasks according to the four criteria:
The tasks lying in the first two quadrants are the critical ones. Do them first.
3. Do the task that gives you nightmares as the first thing as your work day begins
Doing it will not only help clear your mind but also ensure you that you have done it the right way as you have spent the right amount of time doing it at the peak of your energy levels.
4. Set reminders and synchronize your to-do list
You can organize your daily goals by using some smartphone apps that sync between devices such as Evernote, Any.do and set reminders on Google Calendar. For digital entrepreneurs, CoSchedule is by far the best tool to organize and plan your day’s work. They also have an app now.
5. Write down your tasks on a sticky note and paste it where you can see it all the time
“Out of sight, out of mind.” Heard that, right? Well, it’s absolutely true. If you haven’t written it down, it will never get done. And yes, the old school writing technique still works.
6. Give your mind some downtime, reward it with short frequent breaks
Ten minutes break after every fifty minutes works for me.
Take a short tea break, listen to your favorite music, go out in the sunlight or check your messages during your break time. Whatever you want. It will freshen you up and notify your mind that it has had some pleasure boosts and now it’s work time.
Keep tweaking and see what works for you and gradually work yourself up.
7. NO multi-tasking
There is no such thing as multi-tasking. Bots and computers are engineered for that, not human beings.
Multi-tasking is categorized into two types:
- Dual tasking: When we do two things simultaneously. For example, raising our hand and moving our leg. Or eating and watching TV. Listening and watching. But it is possible for very simple tasks only. When it comes to work we cannot perform two tasks at a time.
- Sequential tasking: When we switch between tasks. We do this almost all the time while we’re working. For example, switching between devices, checking social media updates or texting during work.
These are the typical examples of what we refer to as multi-tasking.
For making the most of your time you must avoid any such sequential tasking that hinders your performance and consequently results in your time wastage.
8. Time chunking
Pick up a single task, set a timer for let’s say 30 minutes and commit to staying focused on that task for that period of time. When the timer is up, give yourself some rewards by taking a short three-minute break.
Every four cycles take a longer break.
Be mindful of the type of breaks you are having during time chunking.
Get a cup of tea or coffee, chat with a friend or go out for a walk instead of scrolling through your social media feed. During the break time get up from your desk. This gives your brain an organic break.
9. Break a large task into smaller, easier to complete chunks
Breaking down your pile of work into pieces of successive tasks allows you to feel less burdened and your work will seem to you as less insurmountable.
10. Use tools for eliminating distractions
There is a variety of factors that can distract us such as notifications from social media sites, text messages, emails and unexpected phone calls. Here are some simple yet effective tips to eliminate distractions:
Disabling notifications on your smartphone
This will enable you to concentrate more on your work and complete your task at hand within targeted time.
Switch off wi-fi connections on your mobile phone
Switching off your mobile phone’s wi-fi connection for a certain period might help you as well as it will temporarily disconnect you from any social media tools and apps.
The above option sounds blah?
Well, then you have a variety of tools that enable you to block access to certain sites that distract you. SelfControl, FocalFilter and Leechblock are some of the cool tools that are available to block access to certain websites, incoming and outgoing mail servers for a certain period of time to help you stay focused.
Wear plugins or headphones to cut you off from the outside noise.
You can also listen to a noise machine that can produce certain colors of sound. For example, typically white noise is the standard noise used for maintaining focus on your work. But I haven’t done this one. So can’t say if it works.
11. Use a countdown timer
Working in front of a computer or laptop and staring at the screen is hypnotic.
You need to give your brain a little nudge to stop after short intervals. For that purpose, you have got to use a stopwatch or a countdown timer. I personally use this online stopwatch.
12. Keep your physical workspace clean, bright and more conducive to work
Your workspace is anywhere you work, be it an office or the desk placed in the corner of your room. Keeping it clean is a must to avoid visual distraction and maintaining focus on the task at hand. This will allow you to get more done in lesser time.
It is very important that you get rid of any visual clutter by keeping minimal things that you absolutely need on your desk. Put those extra decoration pieces, or photo frames, that empty mug of tea away from your desk.
Also having the right type of work furniture is a must. A chair that does not allow you to sit in the right posture can result in a severe backache hampering your productivity.
13. Declutter your digital space
Having a clean digital workspace is similar to working in a tidy office.
Get rid of the visual clutter that you are exposed to on your desktop. Organize your files into folders and keep only the files, applications and shortcuts on your desktop that you absolutely need. Hiding extensions, plugins, and the toolbar from your browser will serve the same purpose.
Snap your windows to a specific size and position to fit the size of your desktop and keep your display window distraction-free by closing all extra tabs. This enables you to lower distraction, increase focus and utilize your time much more effectively.
14. Switch your mobile phone to the MUTE mode
Today we are connected more than ever before, which is a great benefit. But it comes with unexpected distractions such as text messages, random phone calls, social media updates, email notifications, etc.
Setting my cell phone on the silent mode didn’t work for me as the vibration would still distract me and unconsciously I would leave my work at hand for a few minutes and check the updates. It just hampered my workflow.
However, when I started turning on the ‘mute’ mode, it proved to be very effective. I would only check important notifications during my short 5 minute breaks.
15. Get rid of outside distractions
If you work from home, then choose a time slot in which the distractions are minimal. For example, if you are a stay-at-home parent, you need to pick the hours when your kids are either asleep or go to school.
16. Observe self-discipline
Set a daily routine. Choose the time slot as your working hours that suits you the most. I’ve paid a heavy price for not being disciplined. So you better be before you suffer.
17. Time batching
Group the tasks.
Do the same type of tasks one at a time.
For example, do the writing part of your blog post at one time. Once you’re done with writing, then start finding images and creating infographics. Do the editing after you’re done with everything.
18. Tracking and monetizing your peak energy times
Be watchful of the time brackets when your productivity is at peak, your energy level is the most and distractions are the least. Schedule the most important tasks during that time bracket.
19. Get rid of distractions
Switching off mobile phones or wi-fi while working or at least putting it on silent mode would give you a productivity boost.
20. Write your things to do for the next day the night before
21. Plan a week in advance
It will take a ton of a burden off your shoulders. If you’re a blogger then O girl it’s a life saver! You won’t face what we all face – the famous writer’s block.
22. Exercise daily
The workout is worship.
Oh okay… five days a week. But for at least thirty minutes. You can work yourself up, of course! Goes without saying.
23. Have a morning ritual
Listen to something positive each day for thirty to sixty minutes as the first thing in the morning and/or during workout sessions. It will determine the spirit of the day.
24. Do not check your mobile device right after waking up
That’s right! Streaming through your social media updates, checking your notifications, messages and emails as the first thing in the morning stresses your mind and lowers your efficiency.
25. Track your progress
See what works best for you and then make that your ritual.
Over to you
How do you manage your time to stay the most productive? I would love to learn more about your productivity tips in the comments below.