Twenty-Two days into January and it seems many of us are still going full speed ahead; congratulations if you are one of them! Perhaps you are going through the motions of finishing off those assignments before exam season. Maybe you are finishing off projects and closing work deals, as we move into the final financial quarter. Or like me, you may even be playing catch up after a bout of sickness and trying to utilize most of the working day, even if that means working overtime (not that fun). Nevertheless, today I felt like I completed a week’s worth of work in one day and it flew past, but we know this is not always the case. Some days I find myself spending hours of mindless scrolling on Facebook, and find myself googling completely irrelevant facts, like where the Obama’s went on holiday last Summer (it’s Bali by the way).
However today I am pleased to say, that I have managed to stay away from that procrastination train and I am going to share with you my best tips on how to be productive, all in an efficient and structured list (of course!)
1. Make a to-do list of all the errands you have to do in your personal life. Physically writing this down will help you to organize your two worlds and focus better on your work. I.E., the areas you most likely have avoided prioritizing.
2. Next make a list of what you actually have to do at work over the next two weeks. I always try to cram everything in a day or two, only realizing that my optimistic planning was quite unrealistic. Once you have written out your list, leave some time spare in preparation for any urgent tasks that come in, which will have to be completed ASAP.
3. From both of your lists begin to prioritize them in order of importance, number 1 being the most urgent. Tick these tasks off as you go, which you will find is very satisfying. If you have tasks you consider to be of equal importance, I always try to do the one that will take less time first.
4. Have a drink always to had. Fill up a big bottle of water and have a hot drink next to you too. This will stop you getting distracted and wandering into the kitchen for snacks or around the office for a chat, when really you should be getting on!
5. Combat the problem of noise. Can’t work when it’s too loud? Plug in your earphones (I like to have just one in my ear, so I am not coming across as too rude). This will help fade out all the distraction around you and get stuck into a task.
6. On the flip side, perhaps you can’t work when it’s too quiet? Put the radio on, or listen to a podcast as you work, whatever it is you need. Just remember that not everyone copes well with noise, especially during that busy January period!
7. Do you have a task that will take about five to ten minutes? If so, do it first. Read your emails, send that letter, whatever the task is, I find that completing small pieces of work first, helps motivate me to be productive and warms me up to tackle the bigger stuff next.
8. Take a decent lunch break. You will not be productive if you work yourself too hard. Make sure you get fresh air and stretch your legs during your lunch break or at least every hour and a half of sitting down. I have only recently started doing this, despite being told this repeatedly during my studies. Fresh air and some exercise really does help clear your head. I try to step away from desk and go for a walk at lunch time every day if possible, and take frequent breaks to stretch my legs, even if it is just to get another drink etc.
9. Give yourself a set time when you’re going to start or complete the task. Whether it’s a work project, beginning revision for exams or cleaning the bathroom. Say to yourself today at 6:30 pm I am going to the gym, or on Saturday morning as soon as I have eaten breakfast at 10:00am, I’m going to hoover my car. By setting a time to complete a task you assign importance to it, rather than shrugging it off to complete, “at some point”. This also avoids unnecessary stress down the line.
10. Track your progress and think of any reward and positive outcomes. Maybe after a long day of revising or working overtime, treat yourself with that episode of Game Of Thrones you have been saving. To be productive and fight procrastination, remind yourself of the benefits and how much lighter you will feel when you stop putting off that specific task, (for me it is data entry!).
I personally applied this principle particularly during revision periods. When I was at Uni I used to say to myself, “If I wake up early and start revision by 10am and finish by 6pm, I can take the whole evening off for myself”. This really helped motivate me and allowed me to factor in some social time. I found that most of my friends who were unproductive with their time, did not do this. They would sleep in late, and have “evening revision sessions at the library”, which meant going to the library at 5pm, getting hungry by 6, stopping for dinner at 7, back to the library for 9/10 pm, and not really achieve anything. Revision is boring enough, but I’d recommend you treat it like a plaster- pull it off at once and deal with the pain sooner than later.
So there you have it, my top tips for being productive and how I stay motivated. These tips have helped me start and achieve my tasks and goals, both at work and at home. What tips work for you? Let me know!