By Ashley Danyew
Everyone wants to be more productive, right? Sometimes, it’s a matter of getting more done, but it’s also about learning to work smarter and more efficiently. No matter what is on your to-do list this week, here are ten tips to help you be more productive.
1. Figure out when you are most creative. Use this time to do your creative work—writing, practicing, planning. Don’t waste this time doing mundane work like filing receipts and reading email.
2. Be an email ninja. Give yourself a set amount of time (as little as 30 minutes or as much as two hours) to work solely on email. No distractions. No phone calls. No snacks. No internet tabs. Just email. You may find you need to update your folder structure so that everything has a place to be filed. I prefer not to leave emails in my inbox as reminders to do something, so I often make a separate to-do list as I go. Every email is just a decision waiting to be made, so go make decisions!
3. Put your phone away. Give yourself a couple of distraction-free, uninterrupted hours to work or practice. Turn your phone on silent or leave it in another room so you’re not tempted to check your email or social media. I promise it will still be there when you’re done. 🙂
4. Set boundaries. Choose when to stop working and sending emails. Set “business hours” for yourself. What do you think when you see an email from a professional time-stamped 10:15 p.m.? You might think, “Wow, they are really on top of stuff.” Or, you might think, “Wow, they seriously have no life.” Think about the impression you give when you email people late at night or on weekends. For some (freelancers, in particular), this sometimes goes with the territory—if you’re not the first to respond, you don’t get the gig. But for other lines of work, people expect boundaries and more “normal” working hours. If you’re able to set some boundaries, do it.
5. Take breaks. Don’t expect yourself to work like a superhero all day, every day. Set yourself up for success by setting hours to hustle and be super productive and then taking short (10-minute) breaks. Use this time to do something that refreshes you and resets your mind a bit: take a quick walk around the block, drink a glass of water, eat a healthy snack, or get up and do some stretches.
6. Write out your to-do list at the end of the day. This is often the time when everything is fresh in your mind, so take a quick minute to write it all out at the end of your work day or before you go to bed. You’ll start the day clear-headed and with focus and direction.
7. Write the items on your to-do list as actions—begin each one with a verb. This helps me start my day with purpose and take action on accomplishing what needs to get done. It also helps me break down larger items on my to-do list. For instance, instead of just writing, “Invoices,” I write, “Confirm lesson schedule for next month,” “Create invoices,” and “Schedule email reminders.” On that note…
8. Break down the items on your to-do list into manageable tasks. No one wants to spend hours working on a project and only cross one item off their to-do list (am I right?!). Also, the larger the task, the more daunting it may seem. Give yourself bite-sized, action-oriented tasks that can be completed in under an hour.
9. Start what you finish. Don’t let yourself get distracted by cnn.com, checking your email every 10 minutes, or—if you work at home—staring into the pantry looking for a snack. Stick with it, follow through, and finish what you set out to accomplish.
10. Write it out. If you’re having trouble focusing or concentrating on one task, chances are your brain has too much mental clutter. Take five minutes and write down everything that’s on your mind—things you need to do, things you don’t want to forget, emails to send, appointments to set up, etc. Write it all down. Once it’s down on paper, I know I won’t forget it, freeing my mind to focus on the task at hand.
Have a productivity tip that works for you? Please leave a comment below!