As the weather warms in the northern hemisphere, it can become more challenging to stay on target. It becomes easier to think about what we’re going to do when the workday is over and harder to focus on the task at hand. So how do we cope?
For me, it’s all about my to-do lists. That’s right, plural lists! I have lists of lists of lists. Knowing what needs to be done, how many whats are on my plate, and when they are due is my first step to achieving goals. Next, I decide how many hours I plan to work on a given day. With my lists and work schedule in hand, I then determine what needs to be done right now and what can wait. From there, it’s into busy bee mode! But what do others do?
To help us all have the best, most productive summer yet, we polled the work hive mind for tips on staying organized and productive.
1) Break large tasks into smaller ones
A common process we heard was to break larger tasks into smaller, more manageable pieces and then prioritize them.
“I keep it simple (and effective): write everything down, break large tasks into smaller ones, label them, assign a color, and re-order by priority. 12+ years, never missed any deadline, never felt the pressure.” -Stefan Marjanov
“In terms of organization, one approach that always seems to work is breaking the workload into smaller tasks. Make sure these tasks are broken down until we have tasks spread over hours, and we know exactly how much time each task would take. The next step should be prioritizing the tasks. Prioritizing can be based on multiple factors, like the urgency/deadline of the task, the difficulty level, personal interest, etc.” - Urfan Khan
2) Complete batches of like-kind activities
Consider completing similar tasks at the same time to avoid having to return to the same programs or websites over and over.
“I find batching (doing like-kind activities back to back) to be very helpful. This can reduce the overhead of task switching and can often help you execute the like-kind tasks very efficiently. Responding to emails is a great one. I tend to do it three times a day. That means I can turn off email notifications when I am focused on other work." - Ryan den Otter
3) Work on large tasks first
One approach we heard was to do any “heavy lifting” when you start your day but leave yourself with the flexibility to change your plan.
“Get up early and follow your calendar (or agenda). Next, do the "heavy lifting"(big jobs) in the morning. Prioritize and designate a time for breaks-lunch, snack time, coffee, etc. and get going! Lastly, wind down and get enough rest to keep up your energy levels. Sometimes deadlines make it hard to follow my set schedule so I get started on big jobs and break them down into doable portions. Some tasks we have can be small and quick and some require hours of consistent focus. As you get to understand your workload, you can break a 3-hour job into two 90-minute tasks or 3 separate hour-long increments.” - Ozzie Wilson
“...‘eat the frog’ right in the morning. So do the most unpleasant and difficult task first in the morning.” - Freelance Life Magazine
4) Keep yourself motivated by checking items off your to-do list
It feels good to get things done! Having a physical action mark the completion of a task can bring feelings of accomplishment while also being motivating.
“That doesn’t work for everyone but works for me: have a to-do list [on] paper side by side with your computer, and cross items off the list by hand. It always feels so good to do that.” - Camilla Brandao
5) Make a plan
You may have already noticed a pattern above, but one concept that echoed through many of the responses we received was to make a plan for your day. We also saw a strong (and important!) emphasis on planning for breaks and rest too, not just for the work tasks to be completed.
“Make a plan for each day and schedule time to rest.” - Mohammad fatfat
“Set goals, monthly, weekly and daily. Set a timeline and try to stick to it.” - Freelance Life Magazine
“Make [a] job list in morning… Try to finish work in [a set] time period… Make [a] plan in [the] evening for next day.” - Control F5
Bring on summer!
We hope these tips will help keep you focused and energized through the warm months. Do you have your own approach to staying organized and productive? What are your best organization and productivity tips? Share in the comments!
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