If you figure out how to use your working hours more efficiently, you’ll see the bulk of your work-related stress simply melt away. You will feel more powerful and in control—and you’ll be a thousand times more productive. It’ll also affect the rest of your non-work-related life, by giving you more time to relax, actually spend the money you are hard at work earning—and perhaps even prevent premature hair loss and wrinkles.
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Manage your time. Manage your life. Multitask and multi-focus with ease.
The average person wastes half their day panicking about whether or not they are going to get things done on time. Time is wasted when the focus is lost and thoughts are scattered.
It’s not necessarily about squeezing as many tasks as possible into a single day. It’s about doing things faster and more efficiently, which means doing them calmly and rationally. When you’re flustered and frustrated, it usually takes twice the energy and twice the time to accomplish something.
So, with that in mind, here are 10 tips to keep you on your smarter working toes:
#1 Make a plan—every day
There are some who might advise you to make a plan every night before you go to sleep—a to-do list of all your unfinished tasks. But, this is where work and the rest of life get mixed up, and rather than helping you to fall asleep, it usually has the effect of keeping you awake, worrying and redirecting your dream-state away from something relaxing.
The best time for a to-do list is right when you’ve finished the day’s work. This should be your last task for the day. This when you take account of what you accomplished and everything is fresh in your mind and you get clear on what you need to do tomorrow.
Be realistic about your plan. Take stock in what you managed to get done during the day, try to understand where you got hung up and make a better plan for the next day. Figure out how things can flow logically and build on each other. Everything’s got to make sense for the best use of your time. This should be a task that is constantly changing and improving—aim for perfection over time.
It’s important to have a secondary list that is for a longer period of time—bigger goals and deadlines that can be added to your daily to-do list. Your daily to-do list is the small picture, but all these small pictures have to make up a bigger picture of success.
#2 Delegate some of your work
Most of us think we can do what needs to be done better than anyone else. We don’t like to delegate. We don’t like to take the time to explain how something should be done. But, if you have the right people to whom to delegate, you need to explain only once and it’s forever off your to-do list. For control freaks, this is difficult—but it’s a must if you’re in a situation where you have someone to delegate to. Giving up control of some smaller tasks frees you up to focus on bigger ones. Things should always be moving forward in this way. This is what defines progress.
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#3 Create habits to help you start working
First thing in the morning is the best time to make sure you have good habits geared to getting your day off to a start. You might be feeling a bit lazy—having trouble getting a start on the day. A clear and simple morning routine that you never break is fundamental. It could be as simple as where you have your coffee and what you do while you’re having your coffee, exercise, a shot of lemon juice and a few planks—whatever; but it has to be a ROUTINE. This is your TRIGGER.
#4 Track where you waste your time
If you want to be more productive, you must first figure out where you’re wasting your time. Do you spend time looking for things because you’re disorganized? Do you procrastinate with idle chat or otherwise? Are you indecisive? Do you start things and move on to something else without finishing? Is social media sucking you into a black hole of mindless communication, so you are at work and think you are working, but you’re really not getting anything done? All of these things waste time and need to be addressed.
#5 Understand what It really means to multitask
Lots of people think they’re good at multitasking, but more often than not … they aren’t. You can multi-task effectively insofar as you accomplish multiple tasks within any given day, but if you’re actually doing two things simultaneously, one of them isn’t getting the focus it requires to do it right in most cases. Usually, multi-tasking is confused with getting distracted by something else and flipping back and forth between tasks. The best way to determine effectiveness with multitasking is to test it out. Time yourself in the completion of two important tasks two different days using similar tasks. On Day 1, switch back and forth between the two. Time yourself and judge the quality of the completed task. On Day 2, focus solely on the first until completed, and then move on to the second. Again, time them and judge them for quality.
#6 Avoid the electronic black hole
The internet can be a trap. We’ve all experienced it. We get led down search paths that we didn’t intend to travel. You know the feeling … when you start searching for some specific information on a company and sometime later you find yourself clicking, clicking, clicking until you’ve ended up somewhere completely different and are having trouble finding your way back, or stopping at all. The internet is both a major source of instant information and a major distraction. You have to own it and make sure you’re leading it—not the other way around.
The same is true for your email or other forms of digital communications. Checking email or other notifications while you’re working on something is a key distraction that sucks up your time and diverts focus from the work at hand. A great boost for efficiency is to turn off and completely ignore communications when you’re trying to complete a task. Again, it’s about being in control and not being controlled.
#7 Take breaks, reboot
Taking a break doesn’t necessarily mean wasting your time or losing your focus—it just depends HOW you take a break. The average brain needs a break from total focus after about an hour and a half. Then you need a 15-minute break. Again, this is only when you’re doing 90 minutes of total focus (not checking emails or wandering deeper into the internet black hole). Brains get tired and this leads to distraction, so we actually lose efficiency and productivity when we don’t take breaks. But, breaks need to be relaxing and fresh air and serenity are the most effective ways to reboot.
#8 Learn to say ‘NO’
When you have too many commitments, it’s time to say ‘no’, and to re-prioritize. Not everything is a priority, and this comes back to managing your time effectively. Only take on commitments you are sure you can handle well. A ‘can do’ attitude is essential, but so is a dose of reality and the ability to actually ‘do’ well.
#9 Measure results, not time
Working smarter instead of harder means measuring your results. Just as you make a plan of attack at the end of each workday for the day to come, you should measure your results each time and write them down. You might think you don’t have time for this additional task, but try it and you will discover that this form of measurement of accomplishment makes it real. Once you’ve written it down and can see exactly what you’ve done and how well you’ve done it, you’ll have even more sense of accomplishment—and more motivation for the next day. And if the list doesn’t look impressive … well, revisit steps 1-10 here.
#10 Sleep at least 8 hours
Regardless of how overwhelmed you are with work, sleep is essential. Sleeping less will not give you more time to work. We need at least 7-8 hours of sleep to be functional. If we don’t get enough sleep, we are much less effective. After a good night’s sleep, try to get an early start. The less stressful day starts earlier.
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