With a busy, ever-changing schedule, deadlines to meet, and a life to live, being productive is the key to making it happen and feeling overwhelmed. A little effort to organize yourself goes a surprisingly long way. Here are just a few easy ways to be more productive.
1. Plan your week.
“You don’t need to come up with a detailed, hour-by-hour schedule, but spending a few minutes at the weekend planning what you hope to accomplish during the week ahead can be a great way to set yourself up for success come Monday morning,” says journalist and productivity expert Emily Price. “Divide the responsibilities you have for the week into specific days. This practice will give you a good idea of what your work week looks like, and it will help you to know whether or not you have time to take on additional projects.”
2. Prep, prep, prep.
“Before you go to bed each night, set yourself up for success in the morning by prepping things you’ll need when you wake up,” says Price. “This can be as simple as laying out your outfit for the next day and putting your work bag by the door, or as involved as planning exactly what time you aim to do each part of your routine. When you wake up feeling a bit sleepy in the morning, you’ll thank yourself for making things a little easier.”
3. Create six daily big-picture goals.
“These can include both personal and professional goals,” Price says. “For instance, one of your goals might be to finish a big work project, while another might be to start planning your upcoming family holiday. The idea here is for you to give yourself a big-picture vision of what you hope to accomplish so you can better steer your diary schedule and yourself towards those goals.”
4. Break your to-do list down into small action steps.
“For instance, instead of putting something like ‘work on the Rogers project’ on your to-do list, break the task down into smaller, more specific steps like ‘email the Rogers client’ and ‘research stats for the Rogers project’,” says Price. “By breaking down the larger item you’re thinking through the details of what needs to get done. You’ll also feel a lot more accomplished when you’ve knocked off ten items from your to-do list before lunch rather than none because you’re still working on that same large task.”
5. Always include a step towards a larger goal on your to-do list.
“This way you’re doing something small in the moment, but you’re also setting the stage to complete a much larger project in the future,” says Price. “For instance, if you have the larger goal of being fluent in German before your business trip to Berlin in five months, then block off time each day to work on it. Not all goals can be attained overnight.”
6. Don’t be a multitasker.
“A study by Stanford researchers found that people who multitasked were more distracted and had a hard time remembering what they were doing than those who didn’t multitask,” says Price. “Instead of doing two or more things simultaneously, do one task and then move on to the next. By giving each task your complete focus, you’ll do a better job and get everything done faster.”
7. Follow the two-minute rule.
“In general, if tasks come along that can be done in two minutes or less, you should do them immediately,” says Price. “The act of adding an item to your to-do list and coming back to it later will take up the better part of two minutes anyway. Completing tasks immediately will keep your to-do list short and your day moving along.”