3 Ways to Be More Productive At Work In 2018
Executing on Plans January 31, 2018 JD Mckenzie
Your phone beeps every second, you’ve got a task list and no time to finish it all, and now you’re being asked to do even more. While this sounds like a nightmare, it is the life most of us live for 8 or more hours every day. So, how do you turn this around and start enjoying life again?
Enough is enough. You deserve more than a never-ending to-do list and all the stress that comes with it. You work harder than anyone else but your task list seems to keep growing! So, is it possible to make things better and reap the rewards of your hard work? The answer of course is, is yes! To help you get more done and be more productive we’ve listed 3 simple things you can do that will help you get more done at work, stay more focused, and make sure you’re not overextending yourself.
We don’t want to be the last one to know things. We seem to have this need to know what is happening right when it is happening. This compulsion, aka fear of missing out, or FOMO, is killing your productivity. On your phone right now, you’ve probably got a weather app with various cities you’ve been to, apps for breaking news, apps that give you updates on your sports team and of course text messages and social media updates from family and friends. With each of these distractions buzzing around, and since it can take 25 minutes to get back to work, it’s not surprising a lot of us struggle to get work done.
So, if you’re the type of person who looks at notification and simply must go through and find out what it is, you might need more than just willpower to overcome “FOMO.” We know that it takes time to get into “the zone” so if we can remove these distractions and eliminate any triggers for this compulsion, we can have more quality work for more extended periods of time helping you get more done. Overcoming FOMO depends on what the source of these distractions might be, but fortunately for us, there are a lot of great tools at your disposal to help!
If you need to answer every email right away or reply to every chat message from a coworker, it might be as simple as quitting the apps for a little while so you can and getting down to work. Once you’ve finished your tasks, open the apps and spend 20-30 minutes replying to your messages. If you’re worried about missing something urgent or important, remember, what you’re doing is also important and they will find a way to get a hold of you if they must. If your trigger is that when you see notifications pop up on your Mac and iPhone, turn them off! during important work hours! You can disable notifications completely or temporary on the Mac and iPhone so you can give yourself some silence and less distraction. The great thing is we can choose which apps give us notifications so, if you’re OK with getting notifications from Daylite (Hey, its work related after all) but want to block out all the Superbowl news, you have that control.
For distractions like your favourite social media sites or news sites, you can conquer them with apps that let you choose times when you can access them. SelfControl, Focus, and Cold Turkey Blocker are easy to use apps that can truly help the reduce the amount of time you spend distracted and keep your attention on what is essential.
Start Time Blocking
You have a task-list, so you know what you should be doing. You might even have due dates set for them, so you know when they need to be done by, but do you know when you’re going to work on them? While you might think that keeping a dynamic schedule, and not ‘over planning’ helps you face things as they come, when you’re not controlling the time you do tasks and setting limits on how long they will take, you’re reducing how much work you get done in every day. This is because, for the most of us if we don’t set specific times for when we will do the job, we will push back when we need to do it, try to do too much at the same time and even sometimes just drag our heels. This is the concept of Parkinson’s Law, where work expands to fill the time available for its completion.
Instead of having a list of tasks you need to finish before the end of the day, Time Blocking give us the ability to see how long tasks should take and grounds us to those times. This way, we aren’t filling our day with tasks that we will try to complete all at once since we haven’t dedicated time to complete them. Of course, this will mean a less effective use of our time, and only a handful of tasks completed. By focusing on a single one task at a time, and working systematically throughout the day, we can be more productive at work. Another benefit of Time Blocking is that we can predict our workload better and commit to exactly what we can to do. Seeing how many hours each day you have to work, and having an internal pressure to stick to your task list will give you exactly the feedback you need to stay on task and avoid wasting time.
Take a look at your Worklist and see what you’ve dedicated to finishing today. If you haven’t filled your Worklist yet, and tend to work as things come to you, check out How to Do More By Doing Less, which will help you prioritize all the tasks you do. It is critical to Time Blocking that you decide on what you are going to be doing each day. Otherwise, we will end up jumping from task to task justifying that “this is more important” or “this will only take a second.” The lack of focus and discipline is precisely why we end up missing deadlines and pushing things back. Now, go to your calendar and create appointments a Time Block for each task. Focus on just the one task that you’ve set to during that Time Block and when that Time Block is done, move to the next. If the Task is completed, check it off! If not, you will need to add a new Time Block for this task.
Right now you might be telling yourself, “interesting idea but I can’t do this. I have too many things I need to react to,” and in response I will say, needing to react to tasks is a great reason for everyone to use Time Blocking.
Your Worklist can, and likely should have daily, repeating tasks that you need to manage each day. Things like “answer phone calls” and “check Email” can easily be managed with Time Blocks because you set time aside for your reactionary tasks. The trick here is to communicate when you’ll be doing these things to your customers and colleagues. In your voicemail say that you will be answering calls during your reactionary Time Block, and include this in your signature. When a coworker interrupts, let them know when you’ll be free to chat about whatever questions they have. If its urgent or time sensitive, they’ll let you know whether what they are doing can wait until your free Time Block.
Saying “yes” to too many tasks, meetings, and new ideas will quickly leave you overwhelmed, so why do aren’t we saying no more often? For starters, no one wants to be seen as “not a team player”, “lazy” or “unwilling to help”. There is real pressure we put on ourselves and from co-workers to say “Yes” whenever possible. For most people, it can seem like saying “Yes” is the more comfortable thing to do, but this tendency is taking us away from what is essential, adding to our stress levels, and ultimately preventing us from getting work done.
If you can start saying no to interruptions, and only focus on what is most important to you right now, you’ll be surprised how much work you can get done. By doing what you can handle at a given time, you won’t need to jump from task to task trying to complete everything all at once. We all do it but multitasking which can reduce your productivity by a whopping 40%, so eliminating this behaviour is key to a being more productive at work. With more time, better focus and less pressure, you can deliver higher quality work and meet the deadlines you’ve been given.
Since you don’t want to be the person who didn’t act during a crisis because you needed to finish some remedial tasks, the first thing you need to do when saying no is to make sure you review the request. Every task you get needs to be weighted on its importance and urgency. Consider if you can reasonably move around your priorities to accommodate this new task. Ask if this is more important than other tasks that you’ve scheduled, how much of your time is required and what would the overall impact be. Many tasks seem urgent and important to do right now, but if you take a few minutes to breathe, you may find alternatives. By asking yourself simple questions like, “Can this wait until I have more free time?”, “Can I help with a smaller commitment?” and even “Is there someone else who can do this right now?” you can avoid saying “Yes” to too much and still move the ball forward.
When you say no, just as your mother used to say, “It’s not what you said but how you say it.”Finding the right balance between rude, and timid is hard but can make a world of difference. When saying no to a co-worker, don’t beat around the bush. Be concise, and explain why you came to this answer. Don’t alter your reasoning in a way to make them happy or to seem friendly, they will see right through it. Instead, you will earn respect you for your honesty, and that you gave this real consideration. If you’re saying not your boss, make sure to thank them for thinking about you and that when you’re freer, you’d be happy to do help more. Saying no to customers can be more tricky, so it is important that you listen to their concerns intently. When it is time speak, reassure them that the plan you’ve set out will address their concerns and offer to explain how you came to your decision in more detail.
Everyone wants to know how to get more done at work. You want that feeling you get when you complete everything off your task list, have less stress and accomplish something this week. When you’re more productive at work, finishing not just more work but the right work you can spend more time doing the things you want like spending time with family, your hobby, and yes, even grow your business. So, avoid the distractions, set up time blocks and start saying no more, so you can be more productive at work.
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