Everyone has had those days; no matter what you do, it's tough to feel productive. When it happens to me, I try not to stress too much but just follow my task list in order of priority and hope I'm not missing anything important! But what happens if one of those days hits you on a day that you absolutely need to be productive? Here are five tips that will help you get going and complete your necessary tasks.
Tip #1: Give Yourself a Deadline.
It’s easy to put something off when you have an open ended timeline or deadline. Instead, set a deadline to complete tasks on your list today. Set a goal to end your workday at a specific time and have everything done before then. A good trick is to add the task to your calendar and give it an allotted amount of time, just like you would a client meeting. Set a 5-minute warning, and if you find you need more time or there will be follow-ups, reschedule it later in the day if you have time available or later in the week if it can wait. This psychological trick will help you to get more done and allow you to have more time to enjoy your life instead of worrying about all you haven’t completed.
Tip #2: Get Your Body Moving.
Exercise is a four-letter word! Ok, maybe not for many of you, but seriously, I find it a chore, and I will admit, it often finds its way to the bottom of my list! Experts say that by exercising first thing each day, you’ll help your brain to get more oxygen and nutrients, and this boost of nutrition will help boost productivity throughout the entire day. But if you spend too much of your day sitting, the effect will fade. So here's my tip, get up every 30 minutes and walk for 5 minutes. Get your body moving. Bonus if you can go outside and soak up some vitamin D at the same time - walk up and down the driveway a few times; if you have stairs, take a few trips up and down the stairs, walk around your office or house - the point is to get at least 5 minutes of movement in (picking up your coffee cup multiple times does not count!) After a day or two of doing this, let me know in the comments how much your productivity picked up!
Tip #3: Avoid Multi-Tasking.
Many people think that being able to multi-task is a good thing. But in the end, it can actually mean that you’re not focusing on anything. Believe it or not, the human brain is not designed to multi-task, and by doing so, you are decreasing productivity, and you may not be getting anything done well. It can take our brains up to 25 minutes to get back into a work rhythm after we’ve been interrupted. When we multi-task, we switch quickly between tasks and never get into a rhythm, which kills our productivity and stresses us out needlessly. Instead, carve out specific times for specific tasks and focus only on them (See Tip #1). The phone and emails are often to blame for taking attention away. Try to set a specific time for returning phone calls and emails. You may want to schedule several times each day to do this, but don’t leave it open-ended.
Tip #4: Set a Timer for Tasks.
If you’re struggling to focus on getting something done, try setting a timer to focus on the task and then allow yourself to have a break. This can help you to break a task into smaller chunks and avoid the paralysis of feeling overwhelmed. For example, I had a pretty big project I was working on. I immediately broke it down into segments and fit it into my calendar, along with my other client tasks. The larger chunks of time, let's say 3 hours, I would set a 45-minute timer. I worked steadily for 45 minutes, then took a 15-minute break. I usually only needed about 10 minutes to stretch, walk around, grab some tea, etc.; the point is, I stayed focused and actually finished this project ahead of schedule! Here's an idea, use the timer trick along with Tip #2 to keep your body moving and your focus going!
Tip #5: Write It Down.
If you’re the type of person who gets sidetracked with brainstorms of new ideas (raises hand), it’s a good idea to write them down. Keep a pen and paper handy (or an electronic document file) so that you can write down your ideas. This allows you to put them down so you won’t forget them and get back to what you need to do. At the end of the day, you can look over your list and decide if you need to do anything with those brilliant ideas instead of taking time away from the rest of your day. My trick? Sticky notes! My desk is full of sticky notes! I'll be working on something, and a new idea pops into my head. I quickly jot it down on a sticky note, post it on my wall, and continue working. I may not always look them over at the end of the day, but I do set aside time once a week to review all my notes and decide which to keep and put into action.