It’s a great feeling to work through your to-do list, getting everything done in a timely manner. Being productive isn’t just about getting things done. It’s about getting worthwhile things done efficiently.
However, more often than not, something pops up and interrupts your work, slows you down, and prevents you from feeling productive. It has taken me a long time of trial and error to design my tools and systems that keep me focused and on track with my daily activities. I’ve also had to learn when something is worth interrupting my time and when it’s not.
Here are tips to helping you maximize your time and effort for best results:
1) Use or develop a planner system that works for you. You can buy one at the office store or order specialty ones online. I found though that none really worked the way I do, so I created my own. It shows the entire week because I prefer to see the week over seeing a single day. It also lists all the activities I need to do each day, such as post jobs and an article at WAHS, articles due to clients, and projects I’m working on.
2) Schedule a planning period each week. Many successful people use Sunday night to organize the coming week. I usually do my planning and organizing on Friday afternoons. During this time I look at my goals for the coming week and put tasks on my planner that need to get done. It’s much easier to be productive when you know what you’re working on the minute you sit down. You can only know it if you plan it.
3) Create a schedule and routine for your day. When are you getting up to get to work? What do you work on first. For example, I always work on WAHS tasks first and then move on to client work. Always.
4) Set boundaries around potential interruptions. Don’t check email or social media willy nilly. Set a time to check and deal with email so it’s a part of the day and not something that interrupts your work flow. Do the same with social media. In fact, you might want to use a browser add-on such as LeechBlock (Firefox) or Nanny (Chrome), which will block you from accessing sites for periods of time while you’re supposed to be working. Also, turn the ringer off on your phone or learn to not answer it unless you know it’s from someone important (as in an emergency).
5) Build in breaks. Every hour or two, stop, stretch, get coffee or take a short walk. Movement helps get the blood and creative juices flowing.
6) Delegate the busy work. Consider hiring a virtual assistant to take care of work that needs to be done, but not necessarily by you. Virtual assistants can answer email, do customer service, update websites, schedule social media and more.
Productivity requires a plan and focus. Schedules, routines and to-do lists help with the planning, while setting boundaries helps prevent interruptions that get in the way of focus. Using the six tips above, you should be able to get more done in less time, leaving you more time for personal pursuits.
Leslie Truex is an ideaphoric writer, speaker, entrepreneur, social worker and mom trying to do it all from the comfort of her home. Since 1998, she's been helping others create careers they love by providing work-at-home information and resources through Work-At-Home Success.
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