We all know what it feels like to start the day knowing we won’t even come close to tackling all the tasks on our to-do list. Sure, you might be able to kick off the morning on the right foot by checking off a task or two. But you know it’s only a matter of time before meetings and other hiccups—employee questions, client calls, fires that need extinguishing—will pull you away from your agenda and make your productivity a wash.
How do we combat this? How can we boost our productivity when we’re barely able to stay afloat? Having too many tasks and not enough time often causes people to lose focus and motivation and drift away from pursuing their highest priority work. The amount of information that must be managed, the multiple responsibilities that must be juggled, and the high volume of decisions that must be made can and often do add up to an overwhelming tide that swamps willpower, the ability to concentrate, and, most of all, the ability to make reliable, high-quality decisions. However, making a few tweaks in your work day can make a huge difference.
Following are 6 strategies I’ve put together to help you tame the time beast and boost your productivity:
1. Stop having so many meetings.
In a survey reported in Industry Week, 2,000 managers claimed that at least 30 percent of their time spent in meetings was a waste of time. Therefore, if you’re meeting once a day for an hour, you’re wasting an hour and a half of work every week. The solution? Unless you’re really needed, don’t go. Meet less often with fewer people. Limit your time and stick to it, and most importantly, have a clear goal for your meeting and strictly stay on topic.
2. Answer your emails only two or three times a day.
Do you find yourself clicking back and forth between your email and work tasks twenty-seven thousand times a day? If so, you’re not alone. You don’t want your email to pile up or for your colleagues to think you’re ignoring their emails, and while that’s understandable, it’s not productive.
This is so important, because too often, we become slaves to our emails. If I were to answer every email instantaneously, I’d literally be answering them all day. This would increase my stress levels and scatter my focus, causing me to get less done throughout the day. Plus, I’d be answering them so quickly, I’d do so without being mindful of what I was writing, causing me to reply in error or unnecessarily. Instead, I have three periods during the day (right before lunch, 3:00 p.m., and right before I leave for the day) where I check my emails, and after the third period, I stop. Meaning that when I get home, I stay present and recharge my batteries.
3. Get big things done before 9:00 a.m. (instead of snoozing, procrastinating, and lurking at the water cooler).
Ever notice how your morning sets the tone for your whole day? As Sir Isaac Newton famously said, “Objects in motion tend to stay in motion.” So, if an object (you) gets a groggy, frustrating start, you’ll probably feel sluggish and behind the eight-ball all day long. However, if you start your day with positive and productive ideas, actions, thoughts, and feelings, you’re likely to gain momentum throughout the day.
4. Work in a quiet place.
Working in an office can often feel like a mad house with your boss yelling for you to come see him, your cubicle mate making conversation, and everyone else having constant conversation, pulling your focus in many directions.
Instead of battling this challenge every day, decide when you’re not going to be available for conversation unless absolutely necessary. Put headphones on, close your door, go to a coffee shop, or work from home. Do what it takes for you to not be distracted.