Have you ever set out to complete a task, only to have it take way longer that it should have? Maybe you thought “Oh, it’ll only take a few minutes” and then two hours go by and you’re still not done. It’s a very frustrating situation indeed!
If you’re tired of tasks taking forever, I have two words that will help you: contain, and focus. Here’s what I mean:
- Containerize It: Let’s say you have to write a letter (or e-mail, or blog post, or whatever). Instead of sitting down and writing with no end time, set yourself a timer, like for 20 minutes. Having the time limit in place will help you get down to business, instead of beating around the bush and spending an hour on a task that should only take 20 minutes. Be realistic in your expectations, though; for example, don’t try to cram a 20-minute task into five minutes.
- Focus, focus, focus!: With your time “container” set, you’ll be forcing yourself to complete the task with minimal distractions. A big reason that things often take longer than we expect, is that we allow ourselves to do piddly stuff in the midst of completing a larger task. Things like checking e-mail every five minutes, acting on every little whim (do you really need to shop Amazon.com right this very moment?), and switching back-and-forth between different tasks and browser tabs, really eat into our productivity. So set that timer, and turn your phone on silent, close your internet browser, or whatever you need to do to really focus and get some work done. When you’re finished with one major task, you can always allow yourself 10 minutes or so to check e-mail before you move on to the next (focused) task session.
If that’s not a great to way to knock out your to-do list in less time, then I must be just a figment of your imagination! This article was written in one spurt, free of distractions, in way less time than it would have taken me otherwise.
Have you tried the “containerize and focus” method? Share your awesome productivity in the comments below!
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!