Some days, the list of things you need to get done can seem overwhelming. Even if you start the day determined to check off those items on your to-do list, meetings, phone calls and a steady stream of email can derail you and take you away from those high-priority tasks.
“Having too many tasks and not enough time often causes people to lose focus and motivation and drift away from pursuing their highest priority work,” explains motivation and performance expert Andy Core in his book Change Your Day, Not Your Life: A Realistic Guide to Sustained Motivation, More Productivity, and the Art of Working Well. “The amount of information that must be managed, the multiple responsibilities that must be juggled, and the high volume of decisions that must be made can and often do add up to an overwhelming tide. However, making a few tweaks in your work day can make a huge difference.”
Core offers tips on becoming a “thriver”—someone who manages the demands on his time to reach the heights of success. Here are 3 more strategies to boost your productivity:
Find some peace. An office can be a noisy, distracting place. Even the most focused mind can be distracted by all that action. “Instead of battling this challenge every day, decide when you’re not going to be available for conversation unless absolutely necessary. Put headphones on, close your door, go to a coffee shop, or work from home. Do what it takes for you to not be distracted.”
Own your junk. Like junk food, “junk hours”—time spent surfing the Internet, chatting with a colleague or attending unnecessary meetings—are easy but unhelpful. “Don’t be ashamed that your junk hours exist, because everybody needs to take breaks and shift gears. Your task now is to exchange your low-value ‘junk’ activities for ones that build greater health and value into your workday.” Perhaps a 20-minute break to indulge in a hobby or a lunchtime visit to the gym will provide the break you need. Substituting high-value junk time for hanging around the water cooler will increase your energy levels rather than drag you down.
Pat yourself on the back. When you do cross something off your to-do list, take a moment to appreciate the accomplishment. “By celebrating, I mean getting up, giving your brain a break, and refocusing your energy to get started on your next task,” says Core. “There are lots of ways to do this: Taking a walk is perhaps the best way, but certainly getting up to stretch, cleaning off your desk, and reading something amusing are all great tactics to motivate you and keep the energy flowing.”
Small changes in the way you approach tasks throughout the day can make a big difference in your productivity level. By getting a running start on your day and decreasing distractions, you can make the most of it.
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