Often I have wished for more hours in the day. Here are some of the successful actions I have to be more efficient with the hours that you do have.
- Avoid Over Commitment
Thinking big and planning big are an undeniable part of success. However, it is easy to overshoot when making your daily, weekly, or monthly plans and goals. We often tend to overestimate what we can accomplish in the short term, and underestimate the long term. When you sit down to plan, keep in mind what you can realistically accomplish within your timeframe. Setting goals that are unrealistic, or attempting to attack large projects in too short a period of time can leave you feeling discouraged or unproductive. Instead, I like to break down large projects into individual steps. This gives me more “wins” over the course of a long project, and keeps me motivated.If you’re going to go big, then work out big plans to pull it off. Whatever you want to do is possible, but you need to not make it a just a “wish”, make it something you will get done.
- One Project At A Time
I want to be clear that I’m not suggesting you can’t have multiple projects going on at once, simply that when you put aside part of you day to work on a project, only work on that specific task. It sounds simple, but it is easy to get sidetracked by other tasks. For example, I am planning on writing an article after lunch, and then taking a client phone call, followed by diving into a new marketing strategy. When I sit down to write the article in the sequence I laid out my day, which can be dull and tedious, it is tempting to go over my plans for talking to this important client, or be excited about implementing my new idea later in the day. Ultimately, however, it is much more effective to keep myself focused on the task at hand and not let my mind wander into my other tasks until it is time for me to work on them.
- Proactive Self-Scheduling
At the beginning of my week, I look over my schedule and set aside periods of uninterrupted work time. I arrange my meetings and obligations to allow for blocks of time where I can work undisturbed and focused. It may help to develop a schedule template for your day-to-day tasks. Having a certain amount of time set aside to do simple things like checking email and returning phone calls will help you spend less time doing these things impulsively throughout your day. While you can schedule and plan all you want, you have to treat the obligations you make with yourself as though they were with your top client. Take your scheduled work times seriously, and stay focused until they are done.
- Start Right
The attitude you come into your workday with is huge. If you sit down at your workstation or computer, feeling defeated and tired, this will be reflected in your productivity. Simple things like having a full night’s rest, staying hydrated, and having a full stomach go a long way towards maximizing your output. Take care of your basic human needs, and get yourself in the right mental state before diving into a task.
- Eliminate Distractions
On several occasions I have been on a productive streak and been completely derailed by the “ping!” of a new email or phone call. When you have scheduled periods of uninterrupted work time for yourself, stick to them! It seems straightforward, but putting alerts on silent, or shutting off your phone entirely does wonders for keeping you on task. The Internet is full of distractions, and it is easy to procrastinate and just look at everything posted on social media, etc.. I convince myself that the aspects of the Internet that aren’t directly connected with what I am working on are shut off until I’m done. This takes some mental gymnastics, but figure out what works to keep yourself on task.
- Maximize Efficiency
Being efficient is doing highest quality of work in the least amount of time. The challenge is in understanding precisely how long it will take you to complete a task properly. Shaving excess time by eliminating distractions and staying focused will free up more time to get more things done. When I am working on tasks in sections, I like to leave myself a clear trail to get back into where I was while I was working last. Whether it is a note or simply leaving off a point in the project that makes sense, I save time getting myself back up to speed on the task I am revisiting.
- Give yourself a break
I am a firm believer that overworking yourself is counterproductive. I get less accomplished when I am run down and tired from working non-stop. I understand that when things are busy, it’s hard find any time to stop, but running on empty will decrease the quality and amount of work you are capable of. Combating this is as simple as getting a full night’s sleep to approach the next day well rested. If you can, it also helps to take a day of the week to fully unplug from working. You’ll get to spend time doing other things, although I do LOVE what I do for work, but I still get to balance it all out.
- Stay in Present Time
I touched on this earlier, but it is worth reiterating. When you are working on something, any time you spend mentally elsewhere is time wasted. Stay focused on what you are working on while you are working on it. If your focus is on your task for the entirety of the time you devote to it, you waste no time distracted and will have a more quality finished product.