Make Your To-Do List More Efficient
Planning is the keystone of being more productive; but a hastily written (or worse, undocumented) list of tasks is simply a wish list if you don’t turn it into a cohesive, well-thought-out course of action:
1. Before your workday begins, put together your to-do list and write out everything that needs to be done.
2. Determine which items you can delegate to other people and hand those tasks off.
3. Prioritize your remaining to-dos, so you tackle the most important items first.
4. Instead of pushing through those times when you feel unmotivated or unable to focus, try creating a routine that works around them.
Get Your Email Under Control
If you drop everything to immediately answer incoming messages, you may be undermining your productivity. Take control of your Inbox — instead of allowing it to control you:
1. Decide how often to check your email, whether it’s once an hour, every 15 minutes, or whatever works for your schedule.
2. Only check messages at those pre-determined intervals.
3. Implement the “OHIO” rule: Only Handle It Once. Immediately take care of the issue, or if not possible, forward it to someone else to handle, file it to an appropriate folder, or schedule it for a later time.
Group Like Tasks Together
Constantly switching back and forth between different types of tasks forces your brain to work harder to keep up and activate the region needed. Put neuroscience to work for you! Improve your efficiency by grouping similar tasks together. For instance, make all of your phone calls back-to-back, or read through reports in one sitting, rather than alternating between tasks that use different parts of the brain.
Make Your Schedule Cater to You
Instead of pushing through those times when you feel unmotivated or unable to focus, try creating a routine that works around them. Not a morning person? Start your day with tasks that don’t necessarily require as much brain power, such as filing paperwork. Schedule your most complex projects for times when your focus is at its highest. And once you find a routine that works for you, stick to it. The brain has been found to work even more efficiently at regular patterns.
Stop Working so Much
Accomplish more by working less? Unlike most things that sound too good to be true, this paradox actually works. The human brain is incredibly efficient, but even it can only do so much without a break. After around 90 minutes of focused effort, the brain starts to get fatigued and less able to focus; therefore, marathon sessions of work simply won’t yield proportionate results.
Your best bet for maximizing productivity? Schedule occasional 15-minute breaks throughout your workday. If you can, head outdoors. The light and fresh air will help you re-energize.
Have a Jump Ready
You keep jumper cables in the trunk in case your car won’t start. You can apply the same concept at work, when your brain needs a jump start.
Create a list of simple, lower priority tasks that take five minutes or less apiece to complete. When you’ve reached a breaking point, and you know you don’t have the mental or physical energy required to complete a major task, switch gears. Jump start your brain by tackling something from that list of simpler tasks. You’ll be productive during a time when you normally wouldn’t accomplish anything. Plus, the break may give you the boost you need to refocus on your original activity.
Prioritize Your Health
Working into the night and subsisting on countless cups of coffee is often seen as a badge of honor in the workplace; but it leads to physical and mental burnout. Putting your health first will energize you and make you more productive over the long term. So pack healthy snacks. Bring your sneakers to work and grab occasional quick walks. Get enough sleep. Bottom line, a healthier person is a more productive, creative and accurate person.
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