I confess to being obsessed with productivity and organisation at the moment. As my children are getting older, I find it takes more and more organisation to keep on top of our household routines. Plus I need to be super organised for work as well, as I choose not to stay late to get things done: all work must be completed within a normal working day.
So I consider myself a bit of an expert at the techniques required to get more done, even if I often feel like I’m rubbish at implementing them day-to-day. Let me share my five top tips to get more done in a day.
1. Know What You Are Avoiding
Brian Tracy has popularised the phrase ‘eat that frog’ based on what Mark Twain once said: if you eat a live frog every morning, you can go through the day knowing that is most likely the worst thing that will happen to you all day. Tracy interprets the frog as the big ugly task that you are putting off.
But do you know what it is you are avoiding? Sometimes I’m so good at ignoring difficult work that I can almost kid myself it doesn’t need to be done. What is it that you’re putting off?
Try it now: Go through your To Do list and identify the big ugly tasks that are your sticking points for procrastination. Circle them in a red pen, or mark them with a star. If you use online task management tools, find a way that works for you to highlight them as important.
2. Eat the Frog
You know what you are avoiding. Now get on with it.
I procrastinated extensively when I needed to update Social Media for Project Managers for the second edition because I couldn’t face sitting down in front of 60,000 words and going through them. It seemed like a huge, unmanageable task. I blocked out a complete Friday to work on it, and I wrote three chapters. High five to me!
Once you’ve started eating the frog you have to see it through. A half-eaten frog is not appealing, and it’s very easy to slip back into procrastination when you leave too much time between bouts of work.
Try it now: Yes, right now. When you have finished reading this article, pick up your To Do list, identify the task you have been avoiding and make a start. You will feel better and have a renewed sense of achievement and purpose. I promise!
3. Break the Work Down
You’ve dealt with the big ugly tasks of the day. Now you should have renewed focus, because that isn’t weighing over you.
Break the rest of the time down into small chunks. I find two hours works before I need to get up for a stretch and a drink. I can get a lot done in two hours, provided I keep focused and know when my time is going to be up. Working against the clock can be addictive!
Try it now: Plan your time for tomorrow. Block out a two-hour chunk and think about what you are going to accomplish in that time.
Bonus Tip: Tell someone what you are going to do. Share your goal with your VA, or post it in your Facebook group. You’ll be more inclined to see your goals through if someone can informally hold you to account.
4. Vary Your Activity
Fridays are generally writing days for me. The rest of the week I will do other tasks required to move my projects forward. I’ll split my time into admin time, meetings or focused work time. Admin time is things like doing emails, expenses, filing, reporting. It all needs to be done but it is bitty work.
Batch the time you spend on smaller tasks. I do this with phone calls: I’ll sit down and make a bunch all in one go. I find it helps to vary activity throughout the week but group similar tasks – it avoids the brain freeze you get when switching between work and trying to multi-task (which you know doesn’t work, right?).
Try it now: Look through your diary. When are you going to return all those calls? Can you bundle them together? Reschedule your work plans so you have similar tasks happening about the same time. You can also group tasks on your To Do list to make it easier to find work that needs the same skill set, such as updating spreadsheets.
Delegation – this has saved me on many occasions. Partly because I’ve started doing tasks and then realised I’m not the right person to do them, and one of my team has better skills than me, and partly because when you are completely snowed under with work, delegating where you can means you stay sane.
Good delegation isn’t about offloading the tasks that you don’t particularly want to do. Dumping your workload on someone else isn’t helpful for either of you. What I’m talking about is finding ways to balance your workload and make the best use of someone else’s skills.
Of course, for delegation to work you need to have trusted people whom you can delegate to.
Try it now: Who could you delegate work to if you had to? Are you really delegating everything you can to your VA? Assess the skills in your team to make sure that you know where you would turn if you had a workload crisis to deal with or a critical deadline. If you don’t have anyone, then the first thing to do is to look at building capacity in your existing team.
These tips help me stay organised, stay focused and achieve more in a day – most of the time. Be kind to yourself when you have one of those days where it feels like you’ve worked really hard but have nothing to show for it. Tomorrow is another day: pick up where you left off and carry on. With hindsight, you’ll probably realise you made more progress than you realised even if it didn’t seem that way at the time.
The list graphic above was made with Vizzlo, which I rely on at work and for blogging.
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