Everyone has those moments that leave you wishing there were more hours in the day. While you may not be able to freeze time to get more stuff done, you can do the next best thing: make the most out of the time you have.
Are you putting a major amount of work into minor tasks? Maybe it’s time to reevaluate your priorities. Before you even start your day, know what you need to get done today, this week, this month, and beyond.
Got that list in your head? Good. Now we can prioritize. I like to rank my tasks from most to least fun… and then start with the least fun stuff. It gives me something to look forward to as the day goes on while motivating me to finish my grunt work faster. You can also sort things by more straightforward methods like when they’re due or how long it will take to complete them.
#2 Track your time
If you’re going to prioritize things based on how long they’ll take or when they’re due, you should probably have those facts at hand first. If you don’t, then it’s time to start tracking your time so that you can better manage it.
On a smaller scale, start tracking the time it takes you to complete tasks. This doesn’t just apply to bigger projects; figure out how much time you sink into annoying little things like emails, too. Looking at the bigger picture by keeping a running calendar of where and when things are due can help you prioritize. Content calendars are great for that.
Now that you know where you time is going, where and when are your time sucks happening? Are there certain tasks that take longer than they should? Or are you taking longer to get things done at different times of day? Tracking your time doesn’t just keep you accountable; it helps you figure out where your time is going and how to better prioritize things.
#3 Break it up
When you’re breaking up your day, don’t be afraid to set aside large chunks of time for one task. That’s why knowing when things are due is so important; you can’t set aside a lot of time if you have no time left at all.
If you have smaller tasks or need to break up a longer task with regularly scheduled breaks, the Pomodoro Technique is a great option that has the added benefit of helping breaking the power of distractions over your mind.
For repetitive administrative tasks like emails, don’t stare at your inbox all day. Unless you’re waiting for something time sensitive, set aside two or three times a day to check your email and stick to that. I like to check when I get into the office, before lunch, and before I leave work for the day.
Everybody brags about their multitasking skills, but it can only get you so far. Split attention isn’t real attention to a task. As hard as it may be, do your best to prevent distractions from breaking up your flow. That means limiting your phone calls, keeping away visitors, and staying off Facebook, even for a second.
Think I’m exaggerating? A study by UC Irvine showed that distractions happen every 11 minutes but that it takes 25 minutes to get back on track: I’m not saying you need to be a hermit for eight hours a day, but when you’re breaking up your time for the day, schedule time for those distractions so you don’t waste valuable productive time.
#5 End your day on a high note
This is as easy as making a list of tasks for the next day. Whether it’s a long list or a short one, it allows you to leave your work at work. The alternative is being haunted by it when you go home, stressing about it all night, and being anxious when you get back to work the next day. Making a list also saves you valuable time in the morning. Instead of wasting time wondering what to do for the day, you’ll have a list of tasks ready to go.
While you can’t add more hours to your day, these tips can help you make the most of the time you do have. Are some of these ideas already a part of your routine? Or do you have other productivity tips that we missed? Let us know!