There are definitely times when I lack the motivation, drive, or structure to get my work done productively. Most of the time I struggle with getting things done because I haven't put a productive strategy in place. When I know what I have to do and when I have to do it, I try and schedule time aside to complete each task. However, I also schedule time to have fun and take breaks. I've found that I work best when I remove unnecessary stimuli and distractions, and sit by myself and simply get down to work.
Check out these tips that may help you increase your productivity and get things done faster.
1. Free Yourself From Distractions
One of the best ways to get things done and increase productivity is to free yourself from distractions. Anything can be a distraction, and different people have different distractions. For example, I am really distracted by new people visiting the office. Whenever someone new comes in to check things out, I introduce myself, but then have to seclude myself if I actually want to get anything done - it's my way of overcoming distraction.
- Create an Ignore List: Do you check your phone constantly? Is hip chat bothering you? Are your co-workers extremely funny and talkative? Make a list of all the things that distract you and put them on a post-it note in a central location, and then remove all of those distractions from your world until you the task at hand.
- Throw on Headphones: Even if you're not listening to anything (maybe put on some White Noise), headphones can be a good buffer between you and your co-workers, they'll know you're in the middle of something and won't disturb you.
- Go into a Room: Sometimes secluding yourself from the world around you is the best way to get things done. I really like sitting by myself, and find that I can be more productive when I can hanker down alone.
- Eliminate Distractions: Put everything that distracts you into a bag and leave it there until you complete a task. This can be your phone, your iPad, or anything else. Close all unnecessary windows and tabs on your computer and just get in the zone.
- Take Time to Be Distracted: One way to prevent being distracted during your work day is to set time aside for everything that distracts you. If you really love surfing the web or playing a certain game on your iPhone, set aside 10 minutes before work simply to surf the web or play around. You'll get it out of your system and be able to focus more clearly the rest of the day.
- Take Responsibility: Admit that something is distracting to you, and figure out why it's on your mind. That way, you'll be able to better overcome the distraction once you've faced it head on.
- Change Notifications on Your Phone: Set your phone to "work" mode, where it doesn't notify you every time your dragon has hatched in the new game you downloaded or any time a friend instant messages you. Make sure your phone only tells you when you have an important meeting or call.
- Clean Up Your Workspace: Sometimes having too many things on your desk or table can be distracting. Make sure you remove anything that could get in the way of your productivity.
- Turn off the Internet: If you don't absolutely need the WWW to finish your task, turn it off. Twitter, Facebook, and HipChat won't help you get something done unless they are part of the task itself. If you don't need it, shut it off.
- Positively Handle Interruptions: If someone or something interrupts you, deal with the situation as you need to, but don't let it distract you. Tell the person who interrupted you that you're in the middle of something, or if it's an urgent matter ask them to give you two minutes so you can record where you left off in your current task.
It is extremely difficult to overcome distractions when they become heavily integrated into your daily activity. I have a hard time disconnecting from my phone and Pandora, but I need to do it sometimes if I really want to be effective and get things done.
2. Practice Timeboxing
Sometimes its good to set aside a definite amount of time to accomplish a goal or task, and that's where timeboxing comes into play. Timeboxing is a method that forces you to limit the amount of time you allocate for different tasks and activities. Once you've spent that amount of time on a task, it's time to move on to the next project. In order to Timebox effectively, you must:
- Decide on a certain set of tasks
- Allocate Time for Each Task
- Utilize a Timer to Follow Your Goal
- Move on to the Next Task as Soon as the Time is Up
- Reward Yourself with Allocated Breaks or a Treat
What's great about timeboxing is that it's completely customizable and flexible. You can set aside as much or as little time as you want for different tasks. Something I frequently do is set aside time to complete part of a certain task each day so it's completed by a deadline. Sometimes working on one project for 12 hours straight can be overwhelming, so I try to break it up over a period of a few days. That way, I don't have to get bored working on the same task non-stop. In addition, each day I can bring a fresh perspective to the project, and often times, I have more interesting and innovative ideas when I've taken a step back from a task.
Try Tools Like Concentrate to effectively use the timeboxing method.
3. Prevent Information Overload
Sometimes when you're trying to complete a task, you are held back by too much information. Maybe the information relates to the task, but isn't directly involved in the task at hand, or maybe the information has something to do with the future of the task. If that's the case, try writing down the information and come back to it later when it's relevant. When trying to accomplish a task it's important to keep on blinders to extraneous information and only focus on information pertinent to getting the job done. Keep a notebook or stack of post-it notes by your desk and write down anything you don't need on your mind at that moment so that you can come back to it later.
4. Take Care of Your Mind and Body
You're not going to be productive and get things done if you're running on little sleep and 10 cups of coffee. Make sure to get a few hours of uninterrupted and restful sleep each night, so you don't have to run on caffeine the next day. In addition, make sure that you eat enough throughout the day. If you're running on empty, your brain doesn't have enough energy to be productive, and you won't get anything done. Always carry a snack with you so you don't get run down.
5. Utilize Digital Tools
There are a multitude of digital tools that can help you get things done on a daily basis. Some tools are great for writing things down, while others are great for keeping you focused.
- Keep Track of Everything with Tools like Evernote
- Create a Digital Checklist with Apps like Clear
- Track Your Goals with Joe's Goals, 43Things, Stickk
- Write without Distractions using WriteMonkey
One of the shop owners on Creative Market, Devon Carlson, is the designer behind Pink Pueblo. Devon is an amazing designer and I recently talked to her about the tools she uses to get things done. She uses Electronic Post-It Notes on her computer to keep track of everything."They hang on the side of your desktop and are easy to add tasks and ideas to. And there is no way to misplace the note," she explained. I can't wait to start using Stickies on my computer, it's a really great idea!
6. Use Tactile Tools
Sometimes there isn't anything better than writing things down and physically checking them off a list. I have to admit I love making lists and drawing a line through them once they are completed.
- Write Down a To-Do List Every Morning - Check off things as you complete them through the Day.
- Create a Wall of Post-Its Under Different Categories with Tasks Assigned as 'To-Do,' 'In Progress,' and 'Completed.'
- Utilize a White Board: Here you can constantly change your tasks as they come and keep everyone in the office aware of what you have on your plate.
7. Assign a Value to Different Tasks
Try and understand each item that you have to accomplish in order to best prioritize them. Is one task more important than another simply because it has a due date?
- How important is this task to me?
- How important is this task to someone else?
- Does this task have a deadline?
- Why am I doing this?
- Does this absolutely need to get done?
Knowing exactly how you feel about a task will help you better accomplish that task, or put it on hold until you're ready to complete it.
8. Follow the S.M.A.R.T. Method
S.M.A.R.T. stands for (S) specific (M) measurable (A) attainable (R) realistic and (T) timely. According to the S.M.A.R.T. method, the easiest way of being productive is to look at each task through these 5 different lenses:
- Specific: any task that you have to accomplish should be specific as opposed to general. Make sure you know the answer to the six W's. Who does this effect and who is involved? What do I need to do? Where do I need to do it? When does this have to be accomplished? Which things need to get done first? and Why do I have to accomplish this goal? Answering these six questions will help you make you task less general, and more specific so you know exactly what has to be done.
- Measurable: It is easier to accomplish a task when you can quantify your progress, you'll know where you stand every step of the way. Is there a way to measure the progress toward accomplishing your task? How can you stay on track to accomplish your task?
- Attainable: Do you have everything you need to be able to accomplish this goal? Make sure that you have all of the tools and resources necessary to attain what you are trying to accomplish. If you are lacking something necessary to accomplish the task, how can you get a hold of it?
- Realistic: Event if you have all the tools and resources you need, is the goal actually attainable and worth trying to accomplish?
- Timely: Any task should have a time frame so that you can accomplish it, be done with it, and then move on to the next thing. When do you want to accomplish this goal or task? When do you have to accomplish this goal or task?
9. Celebrate Your Accomplishments
Every time you accomplish something celebrate and give yourself a pat on the back. You've worked really hard to accomplish a certain task, so you need to reward yourself. Did you get a promotion, lose those 10 pounds, or finish a project? If so, throw a party, buy yourself something nice, or just take the day off and go to the spa. Give yourself a little positive reinforcement.....it's a good thing.
10. Ask for Help
Don't be afraid to ask for help when your tasks are coming piling up and you can't seem to figure out what is the first step to take. Talking to someone else can add a fresh perspective, and help you figure out which task to accomplish first and which task to eliminate from your work pile.
In addition, sometimes other people can help you lighten your work load by offering up advice, completing certain parts of a task, or even finishing the entire task themselves.
The Final Word: Getting things done can often be difficult because of road blocks we create ourselves, and because of actual limitations. I believe that the most important element is getting things done is to eliminate everything that prevents you from accomplishing your tasks. As they say, the best defense is a good offense, and eliminating distractions is doing just that. Everyone has different distractions, and finding out what prevents you form accomplishing your tasks is key to making headway with your work. Identify the interference, remove the interference, and get down to business.
Make an appointment with yourself every week, or even every day if necessary and figure out what is working for you and what isn't working. Taking this time out of your busy schedule can help you evaluate your way of doing work, and help you become a more productive person in the future.