How often do you feel like a hamster running on a wheel, working hard but never making forward progress? Your problem is your priorities. Not knowing what needs to be done now, what can wait until later, and what shouldn’t be done at all puts you in an endless cycle of struggling your way out of a hole that keeps getting deeper.
Waking up in the morning with no plan for what to do sends you meandering from one task to another without a clear path. Talk about time and brainpower loss. There’s always going to be more demanding your attention than you can possibly focus on, so you need to know what’s really important and how to organize these tasks in a way that allows you to tackle them without stressing yourself out.
Setting daily priorities gives you the focus necessary to get more done every day. Becoming more productive means recognizing and letting go of the little distractions that take up time that could be spent working toward your goals.
The Myth of Multitasking
One trap that too many people fall into is trying to do multiple things at once. In theory, multitasking should get more done. In practice, however, you only wind up distracted and unable to give any job the attention that it needs. You’re much better off streamlining your schedule and focusing on one thing at a time. This narrowing of focus allows you to put your all into each thing you do to achieve the best possible results.
(Related: The efficiency playbook: Time-saving strategies from 3 top business leaders)
Rejecting Unimportant Tasks
If you take an honest look at how you spend your time every day, you’ll find that much of it gets wasted on things that don’t really need to be done. Take a day to generate an eye-opening picture of this waste by writing down every single thing you do and how long it takes. Ask yourself what things on this list really matter and which can be put off, grouped together to complete quicker, or eliminated entirely. Learn to discern between real and perceived urgency so that you’re not held captive by a false sense of obligation.
Escaping the Email Quagmire
Email is one of the biggest time-wasters of all. You check it when you get up in the morning and are constantly brought back to your inbox by notifications announcing new messages. Before you know it, you’ve spent hours working without accomplishing anything. Take action to put a stop to this process by:
- Unsubscribing from newsletters and updates that you never open
- Shutting off email notifications on your desktop and phone
- Creating folders for “reply now” and “reply later” (or starring/flagging as part of triage)
- Blocking out two or three specific times during the day to check messages, reply to what’s important, and file what isn’t
- Reducing or eliminating social media updates and notifications
(Related: See the fastest way to Inbox Zero » )
Taking Charge of Your Schedule
Applying these principles to increase your productivity starts with a to-do list. Write down everything you think you need to get done for the day or week. Next, narrow that list down to a few essentials and enter them into a task manager like Asana or Wunderlist that allows you set priority levels and due dates, and allows you to hide tasks that aren’t due for a while. Focus only on those handful of urgent items over the course of the day, tackling the most complex jobs in the morning when your mind is fresh. Turn off your phone and disconnect from social media while you work to avoid falling prey to multitasking. In time, you’ll learn to hone your focus and work free from distractions.
Eliminating unnecessary tasks and disruptions turbo charges your productivity so that you can accomplish more every day. When you focus on what’s really important, you start to get ahead instead of always falling behind, and you have more time to yourself to enjoy the fun things in life. It can be challenging to break old habits like multitasking and compulsively checking your phone or email, but it’s a challenge that’s well worth it.
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