In today's digital age, we are continually bombarded with interruptions. Sometimes, there is so much information coming at us at once that we may experience "Analysis Paralysis" - a state of being so overwhelmed that no action is taken. Then at the end of the day, you're lacking a sense of accomplishment. We've compiled some easy hacks to help make your day more productive.
List and Prioritize
The best way to know what needs to be done is to make a list. Every year, every month, every week and every day, lists help to reach goals. There are plenty of online tools to help with your lists. Trello, for instance, is a free organizational tool that uses visuals and the opportunity to add others to help with your lists.
To make each day productive:
- make a list of the items that you need to look at the following day
- prioritize the list according to importance rather than urgency (see quote below)
- schedule the real amount of time each task takes on your calendar
"I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent." ~ President Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1954
What is now known as the Eisenhower Principle notes that important tasks lead us to accomplish our goals while urgent tasks are usually for someone else's goals. An important task could also include taking a break, going for a quick walk or catching up with a loved one. Tackling activities in this order not only leads to a productive day, but more productive and happier life.
Manage Your Time
Emails, texts and social media notifications could all be renamed maximus interruptus. It's so easy to be responsive to the bells and whistles of our handheld devices letting us know that we have a message. Instead of an instant response, decide on a time to check them all at once. Perhaps check notifications, respond to emails and return calls every hour on the hour or once in the morning and once again in the afternoon. If you stop responding immediately, the messengers stop expecting an immediate response. These interruptions stop our focus and distract us from the task at hand. Even better, turn off the sounds that let you know when a message comes in. You'll get to it at your set time and you won't miss anything.
You've already set aside realistic time you need for each task. Now, stick to it. If you need to, set a timer for the allotted time and stay put until the activity is complete. Then you can mark another task off your list.
Just Say No
Since your calendar is filling up with tasks, to-dos and time for yourself, you will know when you're taking on too much. It is okay to say no. You will not be able to give your all if you're feeling overwhelmed and unproductive. In fact, you may end up disappointing someone if you simply don't have the time or brain power to take on another item on your list. If you're unable to say no, you can suggest a later date and add it to your schedule. In many cases, there is probably someone else that can work on the item. Sometimes, when you say "yes" to others, you're saying "no" to yourself. (see quote above)
Most often when we are feeling unproductive, it is because we are allowing interruptions to distract our focus. Once distracted, we become so overwhelmed that we procrastinate. These simple productivity hacks can help your days become more productive and your life a little more balanced.