You’re busy, we get it. You need to do more with less time. We all do. It’s why we have lists and calendars and projects, but we’ll be honest: there’s no secret formula for being superhumanly productive. All the tools in the world won’t help you if you can’t learn how to work smarter instead of harder (and faster). So here are some concrete steps that will help you manage your days more effectively—without feeling like you’re sacrificing any of your precious downtime or weekend plans.
Research shows that people who engage in multitasking often make more errors and take longer to complete tasks than those who focus on only one thing at a time. Multitasking also reduces productivity by 15% because it takes time to switch between activities, and no matter how hard we try, switching gears eats up valuable mental resources.
In short: if you want to get things done faster and better than ever before (and from hereon), ditch the multitasking! Focus all of your attention on one task until it’s done before moving onto another one – then repeat!
Next, eat your frog first thing in the morning. The phrase “eat your frog” was coined by Brian Tracy, and it’s an important aspect of daily routine.
There could be days when you have big projects or tasks that are top-of-mind, but they’re not necessarily what you need to do first thing in the morning—they’re usually things like emails or other admin stuff that can wait until later in the day. But then there’s always one task that needs doing immediately, but is also likely to be something you procrastinate on because it’s not fun or exciting (aka “frogs”).
We can’t stress this enough: if you want to achieve your goals, you need to write them down. If your goal is “lose weight” or “write a novel,” make sure that it is specific and measurable. For example, instead of saying “I want to lose weight this year,” say something like “I want to lose 10 pounds by June 1st”, as we discussed in our first blog.
You should also consider writing down other important things related to the goal—things that might help keep you on track. For example, if one of your goals is “eat healthier (and lose weight),” consider writing down what foods are healthy versus unhealthy and their caloric values so that when temptation calls, you can reference this list instead of looking up online calorie counts from scratch every time.
When you’re looking to get more done, one of the best ways to do it is by batching like tasks together. For example, when you’re going through your inbox, scan all of your emails and move them into their respective folders at once. This way you don’t have to open each individual email and decide where it goes—you can just click and drag them in bulk.
When it comes down to it, working smarter isn’t about taking on more than one thing at a time—it’s about breaking down large goals into small pieces so that they seem less intimidating and easier to tackle.
A calendar is one of the most important tools in your arsenal. It can organize everything you need to do, from meetings with clients to doctor’s appointments. But if you aren’t using the right one, it can also be a source of stress and frustration—the equivalent of having a sticky note taped to your forehead saying “don’t forget!” or getting an email from someone who doesn’t follow up on their promises.
You might think that you are busy, but you’re probably not. The “busy” trap is a dangerous one. It’s easy to fall into this trap when you’re overwhelmed by your tasks and responsibilities, or distracted by outside factors (like social media). The key to avoiding this trap is to pause and ask yourself if everything on your plate has true importance, or if it’s just taking up space in your day and distracting you from the important things that need doing. If something isn’t important enough for action, it doesn’t belong on your list of things-to-do!
Your job is to manage your inbox, not be managed by it. Here are a few tips for staying on top of things:
Don’t check email first thing in the morning. Check your calendar instead. This way, you’ll know what tasks need your immediate attention (and which ones don’t).
At the end of each workday, close out any open emails and send yourself an email with tomorrow’s tasks attached so that you can go into the next day with a clear mind.
If you find yourself struggling with a task, but the answer doesn’t come easily to you, that’s a good opportunity to pass it along. If there are certain jobs that require intense concentration and absorb all of your attention, consider asking someone else for help.
Taking breaks is crucial to getting your work done, but taking a break at the wrong time can be detrimental to your productivity. You should never take a break while you are in the middle of something important, or when you know that it will take a long time to get back on track after the break. If you do this, then it’s likely that whatever progress you make will be forgotten by the time you return from your break (or perhaps even worse: lost forever).
Instead, save breaks for when they are truly needed—such as when you have been working for several hours straight without a break and need to recharge your mind and body before continuing on with what may be very difficult tasks ahead.
We hope that this guide has helped you to kickstart a smarter, more productive year. We know there’s a lot of information here, so don’t worry if it all feels overwhelming at first. You don’t need to implement every suggestion right away; in fact, some may not apply at all! The important thing is to keep trying new ways of working and learning from your mistakes until you settle on a system that works for you and keeps your stress levels down as much as possible. If you ever feel overwhelmed with work again—or even just want some inspiration for how to make changes—remember our number 1 tip for regaining control over your schedule: delegate and let us help you.
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