Have you ever felt like there just isn’t enough time in the day to accomplish everything you set out to do? If you’re a working professional, the answer to that question is most likely a resounding “yes.” Maybe you got distracted at some point, slowing down your progress. Or maybe an unexpected meeting or call came up, derailing your plans for the day. Whatever it is, there is really no excuse for being unproductive in the business world. Everyone has an unproductive day now and then and time management is a challenge for many people, but a skilled leader knows how to recover from setbacks and not be defined by them. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your busy work day:
- Start the day off right
A productive day begins with a productive morning, so be sure to make the most of the early hours. As nice as it feels to sleep in, you are only setting yourself up for failure if you don’t give yourself enough time to avoid feeling rushed. Set your alarm for a reasonable time and use the morning to prep for the day ahead- eat breakfast, drink some coffee, catch up on the news- whatever it takes to jumpstart your mind.
- Make a practical to-do list
Once you get into work, lay out a list of what you plan to accomplish that day. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Themuse suggests a 1-3-5 to-do list to avoid becoming overwhelmed and frustrated when you don’t get through everything on the list. Plan to accomplish one large task, three medium-sized tasks, and five smaller tasks every day.
- Get organized
Organization is a major key to productivity. Set aside a time to organize all of the sites, tools, files, and documents that encompass your job so that you don’t waste valuable time looking for them later. Many companies use a content management system such as Outlook, SAP, Oracle, Salesforce, and Google Drive to help employees stay organized, so be sure to take advantage of the tools at your disposal.
- Be efficient with meetings
Many workers schedule meetings for a full hour when the agenda could easily be accomplished in half that time. Entrepreneur suggests reducing meeting times by 25 percent. If you cut one hour-long meeting a day down to 45 minutes, you gain back approximately 25 hours of work time a month, coming out to 300 hours a year!
- Use productivity tools
In the age of digital technology, there are so many tools such as apps and online trackers available to help maximize productivity. Trackers like Toggl and Rescue Time allow you to time yourself on tasks throughout the day and figure out where you are allocating your time. More than just stopwatches, they allow you to identify where you’re wasting time and develop a plan to address the problem. Don’t be afraid to try these tools out, even if you’re confident you don’t need any assistance managing your time.
- Turn off distractions
Distraction is the number one productivity killer. Therefore, when you need to focus, you should do everything you can to limit distractions. Turn off unnecessary notifications from social media or a group chat. If music helps you focus, plug in your headphones. If you find that you can’t get through the day without checking your phone or logging onto social media, allow yourself a scheduled “distraction time” for those things. Luckily, a plethora of tools exist to help people curb distractions. Try the app SelfControl to block your access to social media during the day, or a service like Pocket or Instapaper to save the interesting articles you stumble on during the day for later.
- Communicate directly
In the time you spend putting together an email for your boss or coworker, you could have walked down the hall and returned to your desk with an answer already. Some situations call for formal emails, but for those that do not, it’s always better to be pick up the phone or communicate face-to-face.
- Have a backup plan
In a perfect world, everything you had planned to accomplish in the day would go according to plan, without a hitch. However, we don’t live in a perfect world. The person you had scheduled a call with is unavailable. The internet goes down. Or a meeting is canceled. Always have backup tasks you can turn to to stay on task and make the best use of your time.
- Make efficient use of weekends
If you find yourself bringing work home every night and on weekends, you probably aren’t making the best use of your time. No job, no matter how demanding, should cut into your personal time to that extent. You should, however, make efficient use of your weekends by taking some time to prepare for the week ahead. Take a few hours on Sunday evening, if you can, for simple tasks like clearing out your email and planning out your week.
- Make time for yourself
Don’t forget about work-life balance. If you’re go-go-go all the time with no breaks in-between, you’ll quickly burn out and impair your future productivity. It’s important to schedule regular breaks throughout the day, such as a 10 minute walk around the block to get some fresh air and clear your mind. If you’re prone to work right though and forget about breaks, you can always set an online timer to remind yourself to get up from your desk.
Don’t be too hard on yourself when you have a less-than-productive day. Instead, turn it around and ask yourself what you could have done better by following these tips!