We’ve all been there. Lying awake at night mentally scrolling through a to-do list. Getting into a work rhythm only to be interrupted by a conference call. Feeling buried by emails. It can be overwhelming, even impossible, to get any work done. The good news? With these five small changes, you can take charge of your day and do more of what you need to do.
1. Create a “get started” routine.
If you find yourself postponing the inevitable morning dive into your workload, you may want to establish a routine that tells your mind it’s time to work. Perhaps pour a cup of coffee, sit at the computer and check the news until your cup is drained; that’s your signal to get started. Or take 15 minutes for a little light stretching before turning on your laptop. Set your Spotify or Pandora to a certain playlist or musical selection to help you slip into work mode. Find what works for you and commit to it on a daily basis.
2. Cut your to-do list.
It may seem counterintuitive, but slashing your to-do list to five items or fewer is a great way to achieve a productivity boost. Why? Knowing that you have a manageable number of tasks to accomplish in eight hours makes it easier to jump right in. It also keeps you focused instead of experiencing the “where to begin” confusion that often comes with a long list of to-dos. Another benefit to shortening your to-do list is that you can better prioritize your tasks.
3. Write your to-do list the night before.
One easy way to reduce work anxiety, and to stave off a sleepless night worrying, is to transfer thoughts from your mind to paper. At the end of work, take inventory of which projects you have completed, which are in progress and which you still need to start. Then build your plan of attack for the next day, creating a short, five-tasks-or-fewer list. Leave it in a prominent place at your workspace so that when you get started the next day, your tasks are clear.
4. Schedule meetings for 50 minutes.
A day packed with back-to-back hourlong meetings seems to be the norm for many of us. Such a schedule can make accomplishing even the smallest of tasks difficult. Instead of scheduling meetings for one hour, schedule them for 50 minutes. That 10-minute buffer between appointments will allow you to stay on top of your messages, keep you from running late and let you tackle smaller to-dos. (It will also gift you a few minutes for a latte run or some brain-boosting break time.)
5. Declutter and organize your work environment or desk.
A clean, well-organized desk allows you to better know where things are, dispatch tasks more efficiently, and make a greater impression on coworkers and clients who see your workspace. Keep lists and label everything. Put loose papers in a common area. Be sure to make use of your drawers. If you can, keep notes and reminders on your digital desktop. Finally, at the end of every day, you’ll want to take a minute to clear the clutter that has accumulated over your day in the office.