Sick of jumping from one minor task to another all day every day? It's time to get organised folks.
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One of the first things you learn when you enter the world of business, is that time is not on your side. You can start any day as fresh as a daisy, but all it takes is a single misstep and your well-laid plans are left in tatters around your ankles as one crisis after another blows up in your face.
Before long it feels like you’re spending your entire life putting out fires, rather than making progress. There is no single, simple solution to fix this, but if you can find ways to enhance your productivity, life should start to run a little more smoothly.
How do you enhance your productivity? Well, these five tips aren’t a bad way to start.
1. Work to your own schedule.
Whether you’re a lark or a night owl, everybody works differently. There will be times when you’ll need to amend your schedule to accommodate a customer, but if you’re one of the many people who find that they’re at their most creative and productive in the wee small hours, don’t commit yourself to a regular 9-5 timetable.
For most people, the morning is when they reach their productivity peak, so it’s also a good idea to get those tedious, undesirable jobs out of the way when you have the energy to face them. If you work to your strengths you’ll get more done, more quickly.
There's a time to work hard - and it's different for everyone
2. The one-touch rule.
One of the biggest time-wasting mistakes that people make is handling information multiple times. Once you’ve opened an email, action it; don’t close it again thinking you’ll go back to it later, or pass it on to someone else to deal with in three days’ time.
Every time you return to a task, you’re wasting time rejigging your memory. In the majority of cases, you know what will need to be done in the first instance, so why go through the charade of procrastination, when you could simply save time?
3. Shut down distractions.
Some distractions are obvious and if you’re falling foul of them, then you probably need to give yourself a talking to – if you’re sitting at your desk flicking through Facebook, for example, you know that you’re wasting time. Unless it plays a specific part in your job, leave your social media accounts at home.
Other distractions can seem like an integral part of the working day, but you honestly don’t need to check your email every five minutes. Nor do you need to answer your phone every single time it rings.
Set aside an hour every morning and half an hour every evening to check through your inbox and make any replies; that way you stay in control of your correspondence, but your email doesn’t distract you from other important work at hand.
Don't let the constant flood of messages divert you from your goals
Alternatively, trying saving your emails for when you’re on the go – your daily commute, or when you’re waiting for the kettle to boil. Also try screening your phone calls. It can seem harsh, but unless you’re aware of an ongoing family crisis, you don’t need to take a call from Aunty Doris during the middle of the day when a deadline is approaching.
4. Make lists.
If you don’t have a ‘to do’ list, you really need to start making one. To do lists not only keep you on track, ensuring that no tasks or deadlines slip by, but they also bring a surprising sense of achievement as you get to cross off completed jobs for the day or week.
Additionally, keep a separate list of things you’re waiting for from other people. The capacity of the human memory is finite, so it can be really tough, if not impossible, to keep track of everything that’s stopping you from completing your tasks – with a list to hand you give your brain a break and allow it to focus on the more important things.
5. Take time out.
It maybe counter-intuitive, but taking regular breaks will boost your productivity. The body naturally works in 40-90 minute cycles, after which the mind starts to wander. In scheduling regular 15 minute breaks – whether to eat, exercise or sleep – you’re giving your mind and body a boost so that you can spend the next 90 minutes in peak performance mode.
This is particularly important if you’re working with computers, where without regular breaks eye strain can occur, leading to headaches, pain and nausea, none of which will do your work output any favours.
Everyone finds their own way of working, but if you listen to others you can learn from their mistakes, pick up some handy hints and maybe help them by sharing the things that you have learnt.