If you’re like me, you have a lot to do in a day. You’ve got meetings to attend, emails to answer, phone calls to make, and various other tasks to complete–and those are just the things you’re expecting.
Over the last five years of working at Algonquin Studios, my responsibilities have increased and my days at the office have become more and more hectic. For me, that can be a big deal. I like to be organized. I get satisfaction from completing tasks. I like to give my client first-rate service. I like to be productive.
Regardless, the craziness of a day at the office often threatens to blow all of that to pieces. Sometimes, you receive more emails that you can realistically answer in one day. Sometimes, your day is filled with unexpected interruptions. Sometimes, you may have so much to do that it’s simply overwhelming.
Over the years, I’ve learned to combat the urge to plunge into the mayhem head first. I’ve learned how to stay organized and calm through the storm of insanity that gathers in my inbox. Most importantly, I’ve learned how to be productive when distractions mount.
Here are some of the things I do to keep perspective and be productive:
Make To-Do Lists
I like making lists. I use them to keep track of the various tasks that I need to complete in a day or in the next week. Every morning, I make a new list with the tasks that I need to do that day. Sometimes, a few of those tasks are carried over from the day before and that’s okay. I don’t always get through my list, but just making it gives me a plan for the day.
Block Out Your Calendar
One of the easiest ways to get behind on work is to allow yourself to get overbooked. Each week, I look at the tasks that I need to complete and block out time on my calendar to work on those tasks. Each morning, I review my calendar and update it as needed to correspond with my to-do list.
Does it really matter if I send this email or make that follow-up call right at 1:00? Most of the time it doesn’t, but blocking out my calendar keeps me (and my co-workers) from scheduling more appointments than I actually have time for.
Complete One Task at a Time
Multitasking often seems like the perfect solution for achieving the mounting responsibilities of your day, but research shows that it doesn’t really work for most people. The NPR.org article, “Think You’re Multitasking? Think Again” puts it well:
“People can’t multitask very well, and when people say they can, they’re deluding themselves,” said neuroscientist Earl Miller. And, he said, “The brain is very good at deluding itself.”
Focus on one task and work it to completion before you start the next one. You’ll be more productive because you’ll be able to give your full attention to one thing and you’ll get the satisfaction of completing that task. It may mean ignoring your email or your phone for periods of time, but, in many cases, it’s worth it.
Take Occasional Breaks
I find that if I plow through the day without taking the occasional break, I’m burned out by mid-afternoon. Take a few minutes to recharge and between tasks. Get up and stretch or get a drink.
Along the same lines, use your lunch break to re-energize. Move away from your desk and allow your mind to focus on something else for a little while. Personally, I like to read during my lunch break.
These are some of the things that help me make the most out of my day and hopefully these tips can help you stay focused and increase your productivity, as well. If not, then hopefully they’ll get you thinking about what things work best for you. Let me know if you have tips or tricks that you use to get the most out of your day.