We’ve all been there: stressed out at work with deadlines looming, too much to do and too little time to do it. At times, work feels like an epic cage match with you gasping for breath, yet sometimes you’re not even breaking a sweat. Never fear though, here are five tips to help you kick time in the face and make it work for you.
Set Your Phone to “Do Not Disturb”
Contrary to popular belief you are not a slave to your phone, and you do not have to check it every two minutes. To help break your addiction you can choose to turn your phone on “Do Not Disturb” during work hours. Most smart phones allow you to do this manually, but you can also schedule it to occur on particular days and times, like on an iPhone. But what about that really important phone call, you say? Don’t worry, you can change your settings to allow for phone calls from particular individuals, no sweat. With this new tidbit of knowledge there’s no reason to let your phone interrupt you from a good, productive day of work.
Create a Calendar the Day Before
Like most of us you probably have a million things to do each and every day. The question becomes which ones are most important and how much time should you devote to each task. This is where your game plan comes in. Most people call it a schedule, but for all intents and purposes, it’s a game plan. Create a list of priorities and then schedule them with the proper amount of time needed to complete them. This sounds simple, but you would be surprised how many people just jump into the day, not knowing exactly what they’re going to do and how long they’re going to take to do it. You don’t have to stick to the plan rigidly, but by just having a plan you’ve at least established a direction to move towards for the day.
Focus on One Task at a Time
According to productivity expert Julie Morgenstern, in an interview with Forbes magazine, multitasking is bad for your brain and your productivity. Morgenstern says “it takes four times longer to recognize new things so you’re not saving time; multitasking costs you time.” You may view multitasking as a simple juggling act with five different balls up in the air, but for your brain it’s like juggling while riding a unicycle on a trapeze rope over a crocodile pit while trying to cook dinner. Get the point? So, rather than trying to complete five tasks simultaneously throughout the day and doing a mediocre job, try working on one at a time. You’ll be surprised at how much time you end up saving as well as how much better the quality of your work is.
Walk Around Between Tasks
It might seem counter intuitive, but standing up and walking around for two minutes between tasks can actually help you get more done. This short break helps your brain step away from one task and prepare itself to focus on the next. Now, you might be saying, “I don’t have time to do that each time I switch tasks.” But two things happen in your brain when you begin practicing this method. First, you give yourself a set amount of time to work on the task. When your brain knows you can’t stand up until you get to a certain point it’s more motivated to stay on task and get the work done. The second is that you allow your brain to switch tracks and purposes between tasks. Just like a train needs to slow down in order to switch tracks, your brain needs to take a moment before it switches tasks.
You’ve heard the saying that things take as long as you give them. You might not always like it, but more often than not, it’s true. Think back to your school days, if you had a five-page paper to write and three hours to write it, you wrote it in three hours; but if you had five days it took five days. Now, before you go off on the quality of the paper and the grade you received, let me refer you to tip three about scheduling time. We all know that responding to emails and preparing a presentation pitch to a potential client take different amounts of time. Schedule that time in, but also set hard deadlines for yourself. If you set a deadline of one hour for responding to emails it will take you an hour, but if you just focus on responding to emails it might take you two or three hours. Moral of the story: don’t waste your time on less important tasks by spending hours on them. Set deadlines.