There is no time like the holidays to make us realize how short on time we are! Between holiday parties, gift hunting, decorating, travelling…it’s easy to start feeling overwhelmed. While I am a firm believer that you should always find time to take a breather, when the responsibilities keep piling on you also have to find ways to get stuff done more efficiently.
I struggled with productivity in the past but in recent years have gotten a pretty good handle on things. Through lots of trial and error, I figured out what works to keep me on task and increase productivity. The techniques below help me stay on task but, most importantly, they help me have peace of mind and be able to face life a little more calmly, a little more confidently, and a little more happily!
Build a routine
Routines are positive in many ways. For one, they help us get things done faster. If you always know that A comes first, B comes second and C comes third, you eliminate the need to think about what it is that you need to do next. Not only does that shave time off of the tasks at hand, but you also use up less mental energy thinking about what you need to do next. Also, if you know that C comes last, doing A and B mentally prepares you for C. The more routines you can create in your day, the quicker you’ll get through all the items you have to do.
Focus on MIT’s
I am one of those people that write everything down. Whether the task is trivial or super important, I will write it down otherwise there is a good chance I will forget it. The problem with writing everything down though is that I often end up with a 30-item to-do list! I have dropped the ball on many a task in the past simply because of this one habit. My tasks were written down but they weren’t all written in one place and I didn’t have a system for prioritizing them. I would just jot things down on whatever page I was on in my notebook, and then just flip back through the pages and cross items off as I did them. This method would work fine if every task was of equal importance and if no task was of urgency but this is rarely the case.
Now, I have carved a separate to-do section in my notebook. When I am in a meeting and I am assigned a task, I add it to the running list of tasks in the To Do section. Then, every morning, I pick 3 MIT (Most Important Tasks) and make them the focus of my day. I have peace of mind knowing that if nothing else gets done, then at least those three tasks will get done. I also pick 3 less important tasks and add them to my day’s list. If I cross off all 6 tasks and there is still day left, I will look at what other small tasks I can add on.
Time blocking – Don’t underestimate what you can do in 10 minutes
I used to have very poor judgement of time. It’s not that I overestimated what I could do in 10 minutes. It’s that I underestimated. I would look at the clock and think “I only have 10 minutes. That’s not enough time to do anything productive!” and then proceed to scroll through my Instagram feed until the time passed.
Then I read about time blocking and it literally changed my life. I first implemented time blocking with cleaning. I would pick a room in the house, set my timer for 15 minutes and do as much cleaning as I could in that room for 15 minutes. I was astonished at how much I could get done! 15 minutes is actually a long time when you devote it to doing one task.
I slowly started implementing time blocking into my work tasks and it has worked wonders. I’ve always been most efficient when working against a deadline. Setting a timer and mentally saying “go” puts me in a more efficient mindset. If I know I have a set amount of time to get something done, I work quicker to get it done.
Waste time purposefully
I don’t know about you but I love wasting time! I can mindlessly scroll through social media or online window shop for hours. That’s why I don’t do it anymore. One day I decided to do a little experiment and set a timer every time I started aimlessly surfing the internet. At the end of the day, when I tallied up my hours, the number was shocking. So shocking that I am actually a little embarrassed to share it with you! Ok, ok…3.5 hours. That’s a lot of time wasted.
What I realized with this little experiment is that if I am going to waste time, there are much more fun ways to do it. In that same amount of time, I could have enjoyed a cup of coffee with a friend (or two…!). I could have talked on the phone with a far-away family member. I could have taken a long bath and read a good book. And I still would have had time left to waste!
Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that you completely eliminate mindless internet surfing. But I would much rather structure that time so that it’s meaningful and actually enjoyable (i.e. in my pj’s with a hot cocoa on the sofa, not on my lunch break at work).
This is my very long winded way of saying that you should choose how you want to waste time and plan when you are going to waste time. Instead of sitting around on your lunch break scrolling through the internet, take some time to pay your bills, or go grocery shopping. Then plan your mindless internet surfing when you are in a more relaxed state and can enjoy checking out for a while.