Productivity and time management are two of the things that most young professionals seem to struggle with. If you take a long hard look at how each of your work days go by, how much of your time goes towards actual work?
Distractions take up a huge chunk of time, and sometimes even though it feels like you’ve done a lot, the output is almost negligible. And then of course, there are certain hours of each day when you feel less active, and it’s always hard to get things done during that time. So, how can you make the most of your work hours?
(Though these tips may seem elementary and obvious, regularly practicing them can give you huge results)
- To-do lists : I’m not going to just tell you to maintain a to-do list, because most people already do – and if you don’t, you should start immediately – but I’m going to tell you HOW to maintain your to-do list.
Firstly, sort your to-do list by date, as opposed to having a long never-ending list of tasks. I like using a daily planner for this reason. Once you have started listing things by date, ensure you don’t stuff more into a single day than is actually achievable. Optimism is good, but let’s not fool ourselves. Stuffing too much into your daily list can make it all overwhelming and end with you actually achieving less. Shorter lists are more motivating and can help you focus on the tasks at hand and get them done.
You can maintain another list for your monthly goals or for the larger projects and then break them down into smaller tasks in your daily list.
Secondly, TICK THINGS OFF! Because it feels amazing and makes you want to do more.
- Take regular, short breaks : Get off your seat, walk around a bit, get some fresh air and drink some water or juice. ESPECIALLY on busier days. And no, breaks do not mean checking your phone and scrolling on Instagram. Take 5 to 10 minute breaks every few hours to keep your mind from losing its shit.
- Group similar tasks into chunks : For example, when you have to go out for meetings, try to club 2 or 3 meetings back to back so that you don’t have to go out multiple times. Or if you need to visit clients, the bank or anywhere else, try to do it all in one outing. Once you’re out of the office, it makes sense to get as much done as possible so that once you’re back in office, you don’t have to be interrupted again.
The same can apply to work within the office as well. If there are various tasks that require a similar frame of mind, group them together and get them done in one go.
- Organise your day based on your productivity : Each person’s energy cycle is different. Some people are more productive in the morning, and some might find the afternoon to be their best time. Choose to do your most important tasks for the day at the time when you are most energetic. At times when you feel a little dull (for me it is post lunch), take up smaller and simpler tasks that don’t require as much thinking or creativity. That way, you’re still accomplishing things and making progress, which in turn helps you get your energy back.
- Say no : If you’re swamped with work, and your colleague suddenly asks for your help with something major, if it’s something you don’t want to do or feel you don’t have the time or energy for right now, say no. If your boss puts more on your plate than is humanly possible for you to get done, have a chat with them and kindly request that the task be given to someone else, or that you be given more time to complete it. Taking on more than you can handle only makes you more overwhelmed, and either makes you get less done, or decreases the quality of your work. So when it’s possible, practice saying no.
- Avoid E-Mail Clutter : I cannot stress this enough. Around 2 years ago I decided to clean out all my e-mail inboxes, and then never let my unread mails go over 100. It has changed my experience of e-mail completely. It’s easy to let e-mails get on top of you and take up a huge chunk of time. Also seeing 1000+ unread mails a) is overwhelming and b) makes it easy to miss important mails.
(I am only talking about work e-mail here. Personal e-mail management is a topic I will dive into at a later time.)
Each person can have a different system of managing emails but here’s mine :
– I open my e-mail at the start of my work day. – I read mails regarding industry news and updates, or important blogs that I follow first thing.
– Mails regarding shipping notifications, social media alerts, etc are immediately read and deleted.
– If I see any new newsletter that I am not interested in, I immediately unsubscribe.
– I then move on to my most important mails – from customers, suppliers, vendors, etc. – and respond to them carefully.
– Once I open a mail, I make sure it is dealt with – either replied to, ignored or deleted. In case it’s important and I’m not able to deal with it immediately, I mark it as unread and get back to it later in the day.
– I then check my e-mail 3-4 other times during the day and respond to what’s important, leaving other publications/industry news related mails to be read the following morning.
Seeing my e-mail inbox with NO unread mails is one of the most satisfying feelings and I try to keep it that way on most days. Clutter-free e-mail inbox = clutter-free mind 🙂
- Make quicker decisions : Ah, how we all love to overthink things. And let’s be clear, this isn’t me telling you not to think important decisions through thoroughly – please do!! – but once you’ve thought something through and weighed out the pros and cons, make a decision. And stick to it. Too much time gets wasted in second-guessing decisions and all the ifs and buts. Do your research and do it well. Post that, trust that you have made a decision based on facts, and go with it. You can always pivot at a later point if need be. But wasting time speculating before even starting is never helpful. Believe in yourself a little more and this will cease to be a problem.
Figure out routines that work for you and don’t try to fight your natural energy cycles. Organise and prioritise to get your most important tasks done efficiently, and the rest will fall into place. 🙂 Do you have any other tips and tricks about productivity? Please leave a comment.