You want to be a productivity ninja, but it seems like no matter how hard you work, your “to do” list doesn’t get any shorter. So how can you achieve your goals and complete all your projects efficiently – without losing your mind?
1. It’s all about focus
Many people think that focus is all about concentration. Experts say that you need to shut down all your browsers and ensure you’re not multi-tasking. But focus is much more than just giving one task your undivided attention. After all, what happens if you’re focusing on the wrong task.
Steve Jobs once famously said:
“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”
So before you even think about mono-tasking, take a long hard look at what you’ve decided to focus on. Is it really the right goal or task?
2. Eat that frog
“Eat that frog” is a phrase made popular by author Brian Tracy and summarised in his book Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time.
It refers to the concept that you should always tackle the hardest most distasteful task on your list first.
That’s because it’s never as hard as you actually think it is. And when you’ve completed it, the rest of the day is a breeze. It’s a philosophy that I live by – so I highly recommend it.
3. Turn off notifications and emails
There’s nothing more distracting than being pinged every time you have a new email, Instagram notification or Facebook message. Turn off all your notifications so that you can focus at the task at hand.
If you can’t bear to do this – and fear that you’ll react worse than an addict in withdrawal – than just pick ONE mode of communication to stay connected to. And tell everyone in your network to use that, so that you’re not checking all your social media platforms constantly.
4. Set boundaries
If you work from home, make sure your friends and family know when you’re “at work” so that they don’t just drop in for a coffee when they feel like it.
If you work in an office and are interrupted all the time, figure out a “do not disturb” system. In my office, if you’re wearing headphones, that’s a signal that you don’t want to be disturbed unless the building is on fire. I know other people who actually stick a “do not disturb” sign on their cubicle.
The important thing is to tell people that you’re doing this – and ask them to respect it. Your colleagues may think they’re just being friendly when they pop by your desk. Feel free to indicate that you’re on a deadline and schedule an alternative time to catch up.
If you’re overwhelmed, stop, breathe – and cut your “to do” list. The reason we get overwhelmed is because there are so many things we need to do – but not enough time to get them done.
So acknowledge that you’re not super-human. Rather than leave everything on your list and feel disappointed at the end of the day when you haven’t been able to cross everything off, cut the list.
That’s right. Be ruthless. Pick the top three things that need to get done that day, making sure you incorporate the “frog” you need to eat. And ignore the rest. Your mind will clear. And you’ll be able to get more done.
6. You’ve got to move it, move it
Chaining yourself to a desk all day might seem like a good idea if you have to achieve a lot. But make sure you get some fresh air and exercise.
Sometimes, a simple short walk can help you clear the cobwebs in your brain and help you gain clarity. If you ever feel “stuck” – and are unable to find a solution to a problem – stop beating your head against a brick wall. Stop trying to convince yourself that sheer hard work and tenacity will bring you the answer.
Get away from your desk. If you want to work out, do that. Alternatively, just go for a walk. It’s amazing what clarity can emerge when you get take yourself away from the problem.
7. Time-block your diary
When you determine your “frog” and other important projects, don’t just let them sit there as a line item on your “to do” list. Block out time in your diary to get these tasks done.
Treat these “appointments” with the same respect you treat appointments with real people. You’d never not show up unless you had a very valid reason would you? Consider this time sacred.
If you don’t, then half the day can be gone before you realise that there isn’t enough space to get going on these projects. Instead, when you block out the time in your diary, work on that particular project/task as if you’re in a meeting. Don’t allow interruptions and force yourself to complete the job by the end of the allotted time. Which brings us to the next tip …
8. Reward yourself
If you’ve completed a major task or project, go nuts! Reward yourself. That could be anything from a phone call to your bestie or a new dress. Why not? Importantly, figure out what works for you and give yourself incentives.
But make sure that you’re honest about it. Don’t head to your favourite boutique unless you really think you deserve it.
Ultimately, you can sit in a stage of overwhelm and eventually drown. Or you can take control of the demands on your time. Set boundaries, determine the best system for you – and you’ll be a productivity ninja in no time.