We’re living in a distracted, over-connected world, and it’s killing our productivity, but not for the reasons you might think. To get a handle on the overload of information coming our way, many of us have turned to time-management techniques. However, while this advice may be well intentioned, it actually can be more of a hindrance than a help.
To regain more hours in your day, try these proven time-management tips that debunk the run-of-the mill tips you may be using.
1. Ditch the to-do list
One of the most prolific pieces of advice for becoming more productive is making a to-do list. I’ve even offered up that piece of advice a few times. Although to-do lists can prove helpful in organizing tasks that need to be completed, use them with caution. Sometimes, they can leave you feeling defeated at the end of the day as you focus on all the stuff you were not able to accomplish.
If you’re a list maker, start a secondary list called a “done” list. This will help you visualize where your time went during the day and help you feel more accomplished.
Another way to combat the feeling of defeat is to schedule your tasks like you’d schedule your appointments. Block out chunks of time to work on each task so you can see where you need to be spending your energy. This approach will help you to focus your attention and will keep you on task to complete the necessary work at hand. Even if you don’t finish a task, you’ll know how you spent your time, helping you to feel more accomplished at the end of the day.
2. More isn’t always better
Many times we create work for ourselves by booking more tasks with the goal of accomplishing them in a shorter period of time. This approach may sound silly on the surface, but it’s more common than you might think. Instead of maintaining a laser focus on the end goal, we add items to our already overflowing plates in an effort to feel like we’re doing more. It doesn’t work.
Instead of adding more, cut back on any tasks that aren’t furthering your efforts. Look for things to stop doing, instead of adding more things to do. Hone in on your expertise and focus on the tasks that let you work in your most creative space. The more you work do where you feel productive, the better the output will be and the faster you’ll produce quality work.
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3. It’s okay to bounce around
Time-management books will try to tell you that you need to focus on one thing at a time. Although distractions can steal away from your productivity, they’re not always a bad thing.
In many cases, taking a step back from an especially difficult task will help you stay more focused. That mini brain break can replenish your energy reserves and revitalize your creative thinking. When you eventually come back to the task, you’ll be more focused, empowering you to achieve more in less time.
4. You can start with the easy tasks
Common time-management advice deems you should start with the hardest tasks on your to-do list first. While this approach might work well in many cases, it’s not going to always help you accomplish the most during your workday. Sometimes, starting with an easier task to get your head in the game is more effective than diving straight into a difficult job.
If you wake up feeling drained of energy, or if you’re returning to the office after a vacation, give yourself some time to refocus on work. Or, recognize which days of the week tend to leave you feeling a little less focused and schedule your week around them. For example, if Fridays tend to leave you feeling eager for the weekend, save your tedious tasks for that day and power through harder work on other days.
5. It’s really your choice
Every day contains the same amount of hours. However, the way you choose to spend your 24 hours is up to you. Many time-management experts will say you don’t have enough hours in the day to accomplish everything you want to do. While that may be true, you’re in full control over what you actually do with those 24 hours.
If you want to build your network, create space for that in your schedule; if you want to try a new creative hobby, make room for that in your life. By closing out of social media and email, you’ll also instantly regain hours in your day. The way you spend your time is entirely up to you.
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