We’ve all had days when we feel like we have so many things to do that we don’t know where to start and end up getting nothing done. Tasks seem to cling to our to-do lists, a stressful reminder of all those unfinished projects. But there is a way to beat the stress and tick things off the list.
While conquering a mountain of paperwork may seem daunting, there are plenty of tricks to help keep productive and focused. Here are our tips to help improve your time management skills.
First things first
One of the best tricks used by the most productive people is to pick out the most important task for the day and work on it first thing in the morning for a couple of hours. If you do this, you’ll feel more productive and be able to make a better assessment of the importance of your remaining tasks.
Make a schedule, not a to-do list
While making a to-do list is a great way to remind yourself of all the things you have to do, it can also increase stress by keeping all those things at the front of your mind. Creating a schedule is a better way to tackle your tasks. Instead of worrying about when you’ll have time to finish that report, you’ll know that you’ve set aside three hours tomorrow afternoon for this, and you can focus on more important things now.
One at a time
It’s important not to get distracted while working on a specific task. Giving the task at hand your complete attention will make you much more efficient. Find a quiet place to work or put on some music, whatever helps you to immerse yourself fully in what you need to get done.
Turn off notifications
Every time your phone buzzes or your email pings, you’re distracted from the task at hand and reminded that there’s something else you need to do. Turning off these notifications is a good first step, and the next one should be to schedule specific times to check and respond to your emails – try morning, noon and evening in the first place. This way, you don’t let them interrupt the tasks you’re doing when it’s not “email time”.
There are some great tools to help you unsubscribe from a number of email lists in one go – reducing the number of messages in your inbox dramatically – as well as some that let you press “snooze” on emails so you can respond to them at specific times. Using these facilities is a great way to become more efficient in dealing with correspondence.
Schedule your procrastination
It may sound like an odd thing to do, but scheduling your procrastination can actually make you more efficient. For instance, if you know that you’re going to spend 15 minutes each morning checking social media, put that in your calendar. That way, you won’t feel guilty while you’re doing so, and you won’t spend more than the set amount of time online.
Don’t forget: breaks are actually a good thing. Resting between tasks gives your mind a chance to reset and re-focus. Taking a five- to ten-minute break after you tick something off your to-do list is a great way to boost your productivity.
Find your routine
If you have a lot of tasks that you need to do regularly, try turning them into a habit. Doing things at the same time every day or every week can help you get into the right mindset. For instance, try having “theme days” each week – Monday for meetings, Friday for finance, Wednesday for clients and so on. Doing the same things on the same days each week means you don’t have to think about what you’re doing when you get into work each morning; if it’s Tuesday it must be admin.