I don’t know a person in the world who doesn’t want to be more productive. We only get 24 hours in a day, and unlike in science fiction, we can’t time travel or press some magic pause button to give ourselves more time. What we can do is improve our time- and task-management skills, and learn to sort through the mental “clutter” that tends to slow us down.
These are the strategies I have found to be most helpful for improving productivity:
- Keep a to-do list and use it for EVERYTHING. When you think of something you want/need to do, add it to your list. This way, your mind isn’t cluttered with all the things you have to remember, which allows you to focus on the task at hand. Keep your list in one central place, whether in a planner, smart phone, note pad, or computer. I keep mine on ToodleDo.com and sync it with the Done! app on my Palm Pre. Some other popular to-do list sites: RemembertheMilk.com and TaDaList.com .
- Do first things first. Don’t start out your day working on a small task that isn’t due until tomorrow if you have a big project that is due at 5pm today. Do the most pressing things first, and then move on to the less urgent things.
- De-clutter your workspace. A clean desk enables clearer thinking; it’s best to put away everything you’re not using at the moment, so you can focus on the current project. As the saying goes, ‘out of sight, out of mind’.
- Use a filing system to keep track of papers. Pulling a record out of a well-kept file drawer or box saves a lot of time over digging through piles of paper trying to find it. Plus, it prevents those papers from cluttering your desk!
- Exercise self-awareness; when you become distracted by a non-urgent thought (for example, you want to research a product you’re thinking about buying), stop and ask yourself “Do I have to do this now? Will the world come crashing down if I don’t?”. Chances are, you can add it to your to-do list for later, and continue working on your current task without interruption. It’s all too easy to find yourself wasting time on a trivial task, when there are much more important items on your agenda.
- Take a five-minute break every hour, even if it’s just getting a drink of water and walking down the hall and back. Staring at your computer with your behind glued to the chair for hours on end usually leads to stiffness and lowered mental function a.k.a. brain fog. I always feel more creative after I’ve taken the time to move around and get the blood flowing to my brain! Someday I will buy a treadmill desk like this one, but for now at least, five-minute breaks are the best option.
I am so much more productive now than I ever was without these processes in place. I hope you will find them as indispensable as I do! If you want to dig even deeper to completely overhaul your time management skills, consider reading “Time Management from the Inside Out” by Julie Morgenstern. I am not affiliated with Ms. Morgenstern in any way, but I have read the book and highly recommend it.
About Barbara Austin
As the graphic designer & founder of Sweet Dreamz Design, Barbara loves working with women entrepreneurs to brand their businesses. She shares a variety of small business advice and anecdotes here on the blog. Check back every week for new tips, inspirations, and how-to articles, or subscribe to get regular updates in your inbox each week!