Best Practices in HR

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Robyn Whalen
  December 16, 2018

What’s the Secret to Productivity? (Hint: You Know the Answer)

How many times have you wondered where the time went?

Or maybe you’ve pondered why it seems some people get way more done than you.

After all, everyone gets the same 24 hours in a day.

The secret?

Time management.

Time may seem like this ever-elusive, intangible object you can never get enough of, but when you look closer at your days, you’ll discover something.

You’ll find you have more time than previously thought.

Being busy isn’t the same as being productive. Looking busy is an illusion to those watching you, and it tricks you into thinking you’ve gotten more done than you have. Productivity means you actually complete tasks (on time), and you move the needle on bigger projects and goals.

Are you ready to learn how to get your to-do list done? Read on.

Time management tools and ideas

1. Evaluate How You Spend Your Time 

Take an honest look at how you spend your time. It may be tough to admit you’re staying busy and not actually getting as much done as you imagined. If you don’t get heaps done in a day, it’s time to investigate what time-consuming tasks and time-wasters are messing up your productivity.

How to do it: Track a day (or week) of your daily schedule. Take detailed notes of every hour of your day from the time you wake up until you fall asleep. Doing so will give you a clear insight into time-wasting activities. It will also help you better plan the amount of time it takes to get routine tasks done.

2. Plan Your Days

If weeks go by and you wonder what you’ve gotten done, it’s time to start better planning your days. It’s best to do this the night before (a week out is even better), but sometimes you can only plan one day at a time. If that’s the case, write it all out. Set priority tasks to get done first. Todoist is a great option to keep work from feeling too overwhelming.

How to do it: Get out a sheet of paper (or your phone) and brain dump everything you need to do. Write down every single task you think needs your attention. Each morning, look over your to-do list for the day. Then circle the three tasks that without a question must be completed by the end of the day. Get those done first.

3. Get Organized

Find a space and place for anything in your office or on your desk. For example, if you work on a computer all day, consider cleaning up your desktop files. Delete ones you haven’t used in a while.

No matter the situation, a little organization makes life easier. It takes a few minutes, and it makes your next to-do infinitely smoother if you organize along the way.  A clean space will help your work more productively. The same goes for your mental space, too. Planning your days ahead of time (see #2) will help you get more done because your tasks are organized.

How to do it: Declutter once a week. Fridays may be the best day for decluttering so you can start your new week feeling ready to go!

4. Use Time Management Tools

A time management tool can help you realize where your time is spent. Some examples include paper or electronic planners, computer programs, apps, and notebooks. Use whatever tool works best for you. Consider buying a physical planner to carry with you. Write daily to-do lists and time block.

How to do it:There are plenty of free and paid apps, online programs, etc. for planning. Some examples: actiTime helps managers assign teamwork, record work hours, and track data. Sighted is a free online invoicing system that also helps professionals send invoices, manage products, along with tracking time and expenses.

5Avoid Procrastination

When deadline pressures loom, it can be easy to push off projects or tasks until the last minute. Consider why you’re really avoiding taking on the task. Does it seem too challenging or time-consuming? Break it down into smaller, more manageable pieces, especially for tasks you dislike. Or, delegate.

How to do it: For deadlines that are weeks away, try and trick yourself to get it done earlier. Deadlines have a way of sneaking up. Set a personal due date a few days before the actual deadline. It will help you to get all related tasks done even earlier and save you the stress of doing things last minute.

6. Don’t Multitask 

The human mind can’t multitask. Think of the last time you tried to do two or more things at the same time. It probably cost you more time, energy, and effort because you had to go back and correct a mistake. Or you couldn’t fully enjoy or concentrate on the most important task at hand. You can actually lose time switching from task to task, which means your productivity plummets.

How to do it: Take on a single task at a time. One study showed people distracted by phone calls and incoming email had a 10-point drop in their IQ.

7. Ask for Help

When all else fails, ask for a helping hand. Delegation is one of the best ways to make sure you don’t burn out. Getting the team to pitch in can help the project, task, etc. turn out even better because there are multiple eyes on it.

How to do it: If you need assistance, ask for it early on. Even if you’re in deep with a project, you can still ask for help. It may just take some extra explaining on your part to catch colleagues up. Create clear expectations for the outcome, and make sure everyone knows when the deadline is.

How do you manage your time? Share your helpful tips in the comments below!

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