12 Tips to More Productive Work Days
Vacations are wonderful. They provide down time, new experiences and the chance to do life at a different rhythm. I always come back full of ideas and excited to get back to work. Unfortunately, vacations only happen a few times a year.
Weekends, on the other hand, happen at the end of every week! Weekends are glorious for me. I release myself from the pressure of being productive and spend time with ones I love doing things I enjoy. I am able to ease from one activity to the next even if there are many things I hope to accomplish. The break from my demanding routine energizes and prepares me for another full work week.
In order to keep up with coaching, writing, and another business, I have to be diligent. The funny thing is: productive work weeks don’t just happen. Nope, they are planned.
Here are some of my favorite tips to help you get the most out if each and every work day:
1. Scope out your week
Either Sunday night, or Monday morning, take a look at what you have going on for the week. How much time do you have available? Where do you have space to tackle projects or tasks that need to get done? Avoid over scheduling. Be realistic about how many appointments or meetings you can schedule. Try to avoid scheduling things back to back to ensure that you are fully present and able to make the most of each engagement.
2. Spend time with God first
Giving your first hour (or so) to God is like tithing your time. It is a way of trusting God with your day enough to invest the first hour of it with Him. The time spent with Him has a way of focusing you and bringing things to your attention that will make a difference in your day and often save you time!
3. Plan second
I want my day to be in alignment with God’s plan for that day. That’s why I make planning a part of my time with Him. It allows me to be intentional about the direction my day will go. When surprises pop up, I am better prepared to adjust my day.
The tendency is to do the easy thing first. Instead, do the one thing that is most challenging to you first. Don’t keep putting that task off. Completing that task will energize you and make it easier to tackle the other things on your list.
Next, identify your top 3 most important tasks. Not necessarily the most urgent tasks, but tasks that will bring you closer to your goals. Make these your top priority.
5. Delegate & Eliminate
What must get done, but can be done by someone else? It will take a extra time up front, but think of it as an investment in the future. Make sure you are doing the things that only you can do. Your time is valuable – use it wisely.
What’s on your list that doesn’t have to be done? Keeping unnecessary tasks on your “to-do” list can overwhelm and rob you of energy.
6. Identify Your Slumps
Some people wake up raring to go and work best in the morning and slump in the afternoon. Others start out slow and rev up to a fever pitch near the end of the day. Either way, plan to tackle the things that require the most focus when your energy and concentration are at their best.
7. Create Time Blocks
We naturally tend to think of blocks of time as time slots – from 1:00-2:00. Instead think of time blocks in blocks of 15, 30, 45 minutes or one hour. If you miss beginning your task at 1:00 you will be tempted to skip that task altogether rather than beginning at 1:15 and working for an hour.
Write down on your “to-do” list how long you plan to devote to that task like this:
Write blog (1 hour)
Bookkeeping (30 min.)
Plan meeting (1 hour)
If several unexpected things come up during the day, you can easily shave five or ten minutes or more off of each time block, while still investing time in them.
Be sure to set a ticking timer to keep you on track while working in your time blocks. The subtle ticking serves as a reminder that you have something to focus on.
Between working on your blocks of time, be sure to take short breaks. Step away from your desk and move around. Complete a task that is more active or take a short walk. The temptation is to keep on powering things out in spite of the decline in the quality of your work. Think of the mini breaks as mini vacations – the chance to get re-energized and to allow your thoughts and ideas to percolate. When you resume working, you will have fresh ideas and thoughts to apply to your tasks.
9. Focus – No Multitasking
Work on one thing at a time. Be 100% present with each task. You may think you have the ability to do more than one thing at a time, but, in reality, your work suffers.
10. Eliminate Distractions
The phone, social media, and e-mails are constantly vying for your attention. When you let them distract you, it halts your flow. Make it a habit to return phone calls later, log out of your social media accounts, and close your e-mail. They will still be there!
Don’t be afraid to hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door to limit people frequently interrupting you. If you are diligent about getting back to people, and give them your full attention when you do, they will feel valued. Designating and communicating certain hours that you will be available makes it easy for others to cooperate with your flow.
11. Be Tidy!
Taking five or ten minutes at the beginning or end of each day will save you oodles of time hunting for misplaced things and your mind will be free to focus without the clutter.
12. Do Something!
The more you plan and learn what works best for you, the more you will get done. There will be days you can’t get it all done. When that happens, remember getting something done is better than getting nothing done. Each baby step forward counts!
How about you? What do you struggle with when it comes to managing your time? What’s helps you be more productive?