Is it just me, or have you noticed that when we only have one thing on the To–Do List, we get nothing done, but if we have 15 things on the list we get most of them done?? I think it’s all about momentum. For some of us, having lots to do is about time management: We know we need to get this whole list done in one day, so we start managing our time – in life or work.
For example, if all I have to do on Saturday is clean the car… welllllll….I might end up doing everything EXCEPT clean the car. Because, why not – I’ve got all day! And before you know it, the day is done and I’m still on the couch in my jammies with a great book. But, if I have to clean the car, go to the grocery store and do a Zoom birthday party – for some reason, I can get those things done plus other stuff!
Some people use time management as a motivational tool. Some see a to-do list and get overwhelmed – especially now when there are so MANY overwhelming things we are dealing with.
Yes, life has changed – so now, weeks and months into this new normal, it’s time to take a step back and evaluate. Do you have the discipline of time management? This is definitely a skill and it has to be learned and honed – just like creating a new muscle. It doesn’t happen overnight!
Try using these tips to tackle your day with purpose.
Prioritize. Make lists. What needs to be accomplished today? Start with the most important tasks. Also at the top? Quick jobs. Get more checked off in less time. This will make you feel productive and motivated to keep going through the rest of the day.
Delegate. Use your assistant or hire some part-time help (And yes, this can all be done virtually!). Surround yourself with competent people who can do some of those tasks you can pass off. You don’t need to be locating random computer files, scheduling the Zoom meetings or spending your day making endless phone calls. Take a good look at how you can best use the strengths and skills of those closest to you.
Stop obsessing. If you have a hard time moving on to your next task because nothing is ever good enough, it’s time to say farewell to the perfectionist in you. Do the best you can in a preset amount of time and then move on. Those tasks that really need more attention can be addressed later. But spending too much time on something can lead to a cycle of obsession that is never productive.
Take care of yourself. Exercise, good sleep and healthy eating habits help you think clearer and work smarter. Don’t sacrifice your personal health. I know that can be really hard right now (Oreos on the couch is so much easier!). But, stress is not your friend. It will work against your productivity and your mental health.
Stop. Especially when you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed. Stop. Walk away from your computer. Go outside, if you can. Take a short walk or just sit in the quiet. Re-prioritize your thoughts. Remember your goals and purpose. You are actually far more productive after a break than if you push yourself to keep working through frustrations.
Watch those interruptions. And I’m not talking about the unavoidable ones like phone calls from a client or conversations with your boss. What is it that distracts you easily? Checking Instagram when you are stuck? Eating a snack to avoid the next task? Be aware of what you default to when your mind wanders and put things in place to prevent that. My friend Sarah realized how distracted she would get with Facebook through this pandemic, so she deleted it from her phone. And she disciplined herself to only allow 15 minutes of Facebook time at night after the kids went to bed. Interestingly enough, once she stopped allowing herself the freedom to interrupt her day with it, it began to lose its appeal. Really, it was a habit she needed to break, which is true of most of our personal interruptions.
You hear it all the time: work smarter, not harder. Discipline yourself to find those smarter ways to work! Manage your time and be your most productive self!