If one of your new year’s resolutions is to get more $h!t done, you already realise you might spending a bit too much time scrolling through newsfeeds or putting off tasks until the very last minute. In fact, you’re probably procrastinating right now by reading this article.
But there are only 24 hours in a day, and if you want to make this the year of getting your start-up off the ground or taking a side hustle to the next level, then it’s time to maximise those hours. After all, Beyoncé has the same number of hours as the rest of us. Need some guidance? Here are six ways to stop dreading your to-do list and start ticking things off.
Do the hard stuff doing your peak hours.
Just like not everyone is a morning person or a night owl, we all have hours where we’re more productive than others. The key here is to do the most challenging tasks during your peak hours, and save the less demanding work —routine stuff that doesn’t require much brainpower — during your non-peak hours. Aligning your day’s activities with the hours when your mind is sharpest or on autopilot means less wasted time.
If you’re unsure what your peak hours are, start by tracking when you feel the most focused, energized, and motivated during the workday. It should likely take only 2-3 days until you start noticing a pattern and the ebbs and flows of productivity.
Figure out the next day’s tasks the evening before.
If you find that you spend the first half hour of the workday trying to figure out what you’ll be tackling that day, there’s an easy fix: organise your to-do list the day before.
Allot 15 minutes before signing off for the day to reviewing what’s been accomplished and what needs to happen the next day. Be honest with yourself, too. Don’t put 10 tasks on a list when you know that, realistically, only four of those will be completed. That way, when you sit down at your desk, you’ll take the guesswork out of knowing where to begin for the day.
Create individual tasks for bigger projects.
And while we’re on the topic of to-do lists, it might be time to rethink the way you’re setting yours up. “Write budget report” isn’t only daunting, but it doesn’t reflect what you actually need to do or how much time should be allotted.
Instead, divvying up bigger assignments into bite-sized chunks allows you to ascertain early on how much time you’ll actually need and make real progress. For example, “get expenses from Karen” and “write executive summary” are a lot easier to execute on than something more nebulous.
Say no more often.
In an effort to please, many of us wind up agreeing to more than we can comfortably handle. Make 2018 the year you practice saying “no.” Ask whether your attendance is really necessary at that meeting, or if you can weigh in via email later. If you genuinely don’t want to be involved in something, politely decline.
Of course, you don’t want to become the person who turns down every invitation. But before agreeing to something, ask whether you can think about it first — something many of us don’t do often enough! — and then thoughtfully consider if your time will be well-spent. If so, great! Go ahead and do it. If not, say thanks but no thanks.
Hate it? Outsource it.
Are you wasting precious time on things you absolutely hate doing? Outsource it. Seriously. Get an accountant if you’re numbers adverse. If home tasks are sucking up your time, there’s an app for that. Time is money, so why spend it suffering through something that another person can do faster and better?
Take a timeout.
When you’re on “go” mode all the time, eventually you’ll burnout —and when that happens, productivity will be the last thing on your mind. So whether it’s getting outside for a lunchtime walk or booking a weekend holiday, don’t forget to take time away from your professional life to relax and recharge. It’ll give you a chance to give your brain a break and return to work refreshed and ready to tackle whatever 2018 throws at you.
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