We all have lazy days where we don’t really get anything done nor do we even much feel like it. Of course it is fine to have an occasional day of relaxation to help get your mind off the stresses of your life and recharge your batteries but when it becomes a daily occurrence and your productivity becomes non existent it is time to get back in gear. Perhaps you aren’t stuck in a rut but you would still like to increase your productivity so you can get more done and have more lazy days. Being consistently productive is one of my weaker areas and still needs improvement but I have come a long way from where I used to be by sticking to some simple principles.
1. Identify the Tasks to Accomplish
The very first thing you should do before you begin working on something is to take the time and identify what it is you are exactly trying to accomplish. I can sit down and say I want to write an article and then sit there not getting anything done. The problem is my goal is too vague, what topic am I writing about? What kind of research needs to go into it? How much time should I set aside to finish it? Define what you are doing or you will spend your time in idle distraction.
Once you have figured out what you are doing decide how you’re going to get it done. Are there anyways that you can improve your efficiency? Can something be cut totally from the list? Is there a smarter way to get to the end? Knowing what needs to be done will allow for better fluidity and because you have a clear goal you can adapt to any problems that arise with ease. Keep a detailed planner of what you need to do that day and work your way down the list.
2. What is the Highest Priority?
Most days I’ll write down more tasks than I can reasonably expect to get done which is fine because not all of them have that day as a deadline. If I have an assignment that is due in a week I will write it down earlier to serve as a reminder and as something to get done early if I happen to work quickly. The tasks that I do get done are always the highest priority ones first, the ones that have a definite due date on that day or tasks that create the most value for the time I spend. Value needs to always be taken into account when deciding what to tackle first. You may need to buy a new pair of shoes but is your time better spent searching online for an hour or taking that hour to really get a good way’s into an assignment that will provide income? Buying the shoes may be easier to do and it may take less time but jump into the difficult task first because it will be more beneficial to you.
3. Check Your Preconceptions
What do you think you’re going to get out of completing a task beforehand? Is your answer an accurate result to expect or are you deluding yourself into thinking it’s more valuable than it actually is? For example, at the beginning of the year I wrote a bunch of World Cup team previews thinking that they would be more popular than they actually ended up being. I wasted so many hours in research and then the writing of these articles that I just became bogged down in my own self-belief of their value. If I would have been honest with myself and questioned whether or not I could make these series of articles a success or not, I would have gone about things much differently. I shouldn’t have gotten caught up in completing such a useless task when there were so many other options that would provide me with higher value. Don’t blindly follow your preconceptions about something or you could be wasting your precious time doing something that doesn’t actually work for you.
4. Work From Your Strengths
Since I am in school, I really have to manage my time wisely otherwise nothing gets done and everything starts falling apart. To correct my course when I am feeling overwhelmed I try to work from my strengths. I may be faced with a choice between writing a new article or completing some math homework. Neither of these may be urgent in the time they need to get done and both have similar values in that they must both get done so I will have to make a decision on which on to start first. One of my biggest weaknesses has always been in math. It is really hard for me to consistently learn how to do a type of problem and because of this it requires greater time spent on it than other things. Writing is something that I am much more comfortable with and can just type out all of my ideas without much time being spent on the first draft and is thus my first task in this situation. By working on what I am best at first I get something done quickly and get the ego boost that comes with getting something done. However, it still applies that if the math assignment were more urgent I would of course do that first.
5. Group Your Tasks
Some tasks are small enough to be grouped together with other tasks to get things done more quickly. Think about it like running errands, you can hit the grocery store, pick up the kids, and get the dry cleaning all in one trip and save yourself the trouble of driving back and forth. Certain things like emails, phone calls, and shopping can be grouped together to increase your productivity or maybe more detailed assignments that are interrelated. Take stock of your daily list and see what you can combine and knock out in one fell swoop.
6. Cut the Distractions and Work Harder
Technology is wonderful and it is the reason I can communicate with people all around the world at tremendous speeds. It can also be very distracting and eat up your whole day without you noticing. If you want to increase your productivity set aside some time during the day when you are alone and without your phone, television, radio, and of course not surfing the web aimlessly. Texting your friend usually only takes a few seconds if you’re a quick at typing but having a conversation adds up to even more time plus the distraction of thinking about something besides the task at hand. It will take your mind elsewhere and then it often becomes bye bye focus making it exceedingly difficult to jump back into it with the same energy. Furthermore, it can help to clean up your workspace and remove all the clutter that will either distract you or make for an unpleasant environment to work in.