5 Productivity Strategies
If I had just another hour or two in my day, how would I spend the time? A little extra sleep? A few more items checked off an ever-growing to-do list? An hour of quiet with a hot beverage and a good book. A workout. The list goes on, and I’ve “spent” that extra time four or five times — there will always be more to do than time allows.
It’s a new year: Many have made new resolutions of how they’ll spend their time, and some are just hoping to find the energy to keep up on current goals. Finding the time to accomplish what’s required of us in the narrow 24 hour span of each day, let alone completing work requirements in the allotted hours of a work day, is a challenge. As we take on the year ahead, here are a few productivity strategies. I can’t promise you an extra hour a day to spend, but perhaps we can make the hours we do have go a bit further.
1. Prioritize Difficult Tasks during Your Best Time
What time of the day are you most energized and focused? Do you come to work alert and ready to tackle your biggest task? Or do you need to nurse that cup of coffee for twenty minutes while churning through emails or crafting a to-do list before you’re ready to take on a challenge? Do you drag in the afternoon or find yourself with an extra burst of energy? Analyze the ebb and flow of your typical work day, and plan to take on your hardest tasks during your best times. Those challenging to-dos will take less time and come out better if you can use your best quality time to work on them.
2. Resist the Urge to Multitask
Yep, that’s right. Multitasking isn’t all is made out to be. While it’s possible to do one simple and one complex task simultaneously—like fixing a sandwich and having a conversation—attempting two complex activities either at the same time or switching rapidly from one task to another and back again causes you to lose time in transition. Research shows that the brain takes time to adjust between tasks. Trying to knock out two things at once will actually take more time than finishing one task and then turning your full attention to the other.
Instead of multitasking, set specific goals for yourself that will help you focus on one task at a time. For instance, you might work on a single project for 30 minutes without interruption, and then go to your scheduled meeting. Or get steps A through C done on a task and then take a quick coffee break.
3. Minimize Distractions
Learning to focus on a single task instead of multitasking means minimizing distractions. Turn your cell phone to silent. (You can adjust your setting to allow calls from certain numbers to come through so you can be available in case of a family emergency.) Turn off email notifications. (Consider scheduling a few times during the day to check and respond to emails.) If listening to music, choose music without lyrics while doing complex, language related tasks, like writing. Avoid interruptions by telling co-workers that you need a few minutes to wrap up what you’re doing before answering questions or joining in a conversation.
4. Evaluate and Delegate as a Team
Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. Before taking on a new task, evaluate whether or not you’re the team member best suited to do the job. Work in your areas of strength, and ask for help when a task comes up that isn’t your forte.
For instance, if you’re a wiz at data entry, but find writing and proofreading laborious, when tasked with crafting written material, ask for help. In turn, offer your services when extra data entry comes up. While you probably could write up a short piece for the church bulletin or website and someone else could do that extra data entry, your team will be more efficient if each person does what he/she is best at doing.
5. Track Time for Long Term Success
If you’re worried that certain tasks consume more of your time than they should, start collecting data with a time tracking application. Our team uses Toggl (the free version may be all you need) to keep track of time spent on specific tasks. A time tracking app will give you a stop/start timer, a way to record what you’re working on, and generate reports that show how your recorded time was spent.
The act of having to account for how you spend your time may help you make better choices — losing less time to the email hole or office distractions. Also, looking a reports will give you a clearer picture of how you spend your day and which tasks take up too much time and could be delegated elsewhere.
While there’s no trick to creating more time, we hope that with a little extra cognizance and a few productivity strategies, you’ll feel like you’ve got a little time to spare to enjoy the new year!