Every day there is a hundred and one demands on our time, which makes it even more important to be clear on what we need to accomplish in order to feel as though by the end of the day, the week and the year, we have been productive.
And while this seems simple, I am guilty of becoming easily distracted by something that is at the moment fun, but in the long run is only a waste of time that detracts from accomplishing the task will beat myself up about if I don’t finish.
So in order to help keep it simple, but make sure we are all successful in accomplishing what we want to, I’m pulled together 12 ways to help us all become more productive and hopefully have more time for those activities and pastimes that are for pure enjoyment. After all, when we accomplish our to-dos, we can afford some fun.
1. Prioritize long term goals. Make a list of goals you would like to accomplish in a year’s time. Then write them down. Once you know where you want to focus your energy (because unfortunately, we only have so much), make a list of steps that will have to be met along the way to reach your goal. Set deadlines on these significant steps and check back periodically.
2. Each week, make a list of what you are going to accomplish. Franklin Covey suggests making a list of all of the roles you play in your life (professional, mother, writer, doggie mama, friend, homeowner, health-conscious, etc), and underneath each role, write a goal you want to accomplish by the week’s end. It might be as simple as walk the dogs each evening, or something more time constraining such as complete the presentation at work. By breaking down your roles, you are forcing yourself to identify what is important to you and understanding why you are doing what you are doing. If you find yourself doing something that doesn’t promote one of your priorities, take it off the list.
3. Each day, make a list of things to accomplish to help meet your weekly goals. Instead of becoming frustrated because achieving certain goals still requires quite a bit of time and persistence, focus only on one day at a time. At the end of the day, looking at a completed to-do list is most definitely something to feel good about.
4. Purchase a planner or a planning system that you can take with you daily. Whether you prefer hand-writing your to-do list or prefer filing everything electronically, choose something that works for you and your lifestyle.
5. Create an inspiration board/book/wall, etc that is a constant reminder of what you are trying to accomplish. There are days when chasing your dreams and remaining grounded in why you are being so disciplined is easy, but lets face it, not every day is like this. One way to help yourself out is to have reminders around you that bring you back to what is truly most important to you and why you are working so hard.
6. Check your email less often. Whether it is your work email or personal email, set a limit on how and when you are going to check it. So often by taking the time to check email, the distractions that are seemingly everywhere on the web can draw you in and before you know it, an hour has flown by.
7. Consolidate the errands. Instead of doing one errand every afternoon and running all over town, reserve one day a week for taking care of your business. Not only will you save time, but you will save gas if you have to drive.
8. Make the most of your commute. If you are like so many others who drive to and from work, or take the train, bus or subway, bring along something with you to increase your productivity or at least calm you down. Possibly a book on tape, the newspaper or carve out this time to write your daily to-do list (if you’re not the driver).
9. Ask for advice. In order to do your best, often times we run up against a question that we don’t have an answer for. Instead of becoming frustrated without yourself, seek out someone at work you trust and respect, and ask for their advice and guidance. They will be flattered and you appear will to do the best job possible while stretching yourself to continually learn.
10. Take on the challenges. Many times when a difficult scenario is presented or we know that we will have to deal with it at some point, we push it off until we can no longer avoid it. I suggest dealing with the sticky situations as soon as possible as quite frequently, it is in our heads that we build them up to be bigger than they are. Less stress for you and a completed task to check off your to-do list.
11. Pick your battles. In both your personal life and professional life, sometimes voicing your opinion, confronting someone or getting in the middle just isn’t worth your time. While you may become agitated by something someone says at work, ask yourself first, is this worth my energy? Does this take something away from me on a deeper level or devalue me as a person? If you answer no, than let it go. So often, by paying credence to an annoying situation we only fuel the fire more.
12. No busman’s holidays. Enjoy your vacations; revel in them. While the United States sits at the top of the industrialized nations list for the least amount of vacation time given to employees, even more shocking is how many workers choose not to take all of their allotted time. I would argue that everyone needs to be re-energized and vacations are an essential part to the balance we need to have in life. So be sure to step away, clear your mind, so that when you come back you are fresh with new ideas and an abundance of energy.