When it comes to productivity, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of having a lot of check marks on your to-do list at the end of the day.
It has been a busy season for me, so I thought it would be fun to share a few ways I make the most of my time to get things done:
- Don’t check email on your phone.
Allow me to set the scene for you. You’re at a restaurant eating lunch, and your phone buzzes to tell you there’s a new email. You open the email ASAP, but realize you have to wait to respond because you need to look something up at your desk. You put your phone down and try to pay attention to the conversation, but you’re really thinking about work now.This happens four more times before you return to the office, and by the time you open emails at your desk they’re all unread, and you can’t remember which you’ve already responded to, and it takes you just as long to sort through them as it would have had you just waited. AND you miss one that you thought you already responded to.AHHHHH. The craziness has to stop. Enjoy your time away from your desk. Check your emails when you come back. You’ll likely respond to 90 percent* of your emails just as quickly and less things will fall through the cracks. It’s 100* percent more effective, and you’re giving your brain time to rest.*actual statistics. not made up at all.
- Create an index of all your in-progress projects.
Do you ever feel like you spend a long time figuring out what to work on next?
I keep a master list of everything I’m working on in Google Docs. The list is color coded so I can easily scroll through to see what projects I still need to begin, what’s in progress, what is being proofed and what was recently finished.I keep the list as simple as possible. For each project, I list the due date and a short note about what was done last (some examples of my notes are “called Bill – Aug. 5,” “left voice mail – April 10,” “wrote copy,” etc).
I use a planner for my daily to-do list and deadlines, but this master list serves as an index so I can everything I have going on at once — even if it’s not in my planner, because it’s not something I’m actively working on during a particular week.
In addition to making sure no project gets forgotten about, this master list is great for prioritizing and figuring out what to work on when I find myself with an unexpected chunk of un-planned time.
- Set (at least a couple) goals for the next day before you leave work.Before I leave work, I like to plan at least the first couple things I would like to do the next morning. I usually have a clearer picture of what needs to be done when I’m still in the groove of work. Then, when I’m still drinking my coffee the next morning, I have a few tasks to work on to get me back into the work mindset.
- Have somewhere to write down non-work tasks.
I try to compartmentalize work and personal life as much as possible, but sometimes when I’m writing an email at work it reminds me of something I need to do later at home. Instead of dwelling on it or trying to remember it all day, I just write it down so I can come back to it later.
This could be as simple as having a notepad in your desk drawer. I went a step further, and I actually have a separate home planner that I keep in my work tote bag during the week. I have it nearby when I need it, but I can physically close it and put it away when I don’t.