Staying on task isn’t exactly every business owners’ strong suit. You may have started your workday with the best of intentions, only to find that by the end of it, you didn’t accomplish anything on your list. And while it’s easy to blame outside distractions for the inability to focus, more times than not, a lack of a solid plan is the number one reason we fail to be productive.
The truth is, the secret to maximizing productivity isn’t complicated. It simply requires that you take a few simple steps to get organized and plan your day effectively.
You must get organized
Supply yourself with the necessary tools to make planning easy and efficient. Invest in a daily planner or make use of the one on your smartphone. Utilize helpful apps or write down an old fashioned list of to-dos (High five! This is my preferred method too!). Either way, it’s important to find a process that is right for you.
I would highly discourage relying solely on your memory. While making a mental list of tasks is an option, it’s almost inevitable you’ll forget something when trying to remember meeting times and project deadlines. And you don’t want to risk overlooking something or letting anyone down. .
Prioritize your tasks
When starting your day, it’s important to have a clear direction. Wasting time trying to figure out where to begin jeopardizes the amount of time you could have spent getting things done. My advice? Take the time to plan your day out the night before.
Write down the list of tasks you need to accomplish the next day and put them in order of greatest importance to least, keeping in mind projects that are deadline sensitive. This will give you greater insight on which tasks you should be focusing on and which ones can wait. (Yes, we understand things will come up throughout the day - adjust your task list as needed, without giving up on meeting your goals.)
From there, schedule accordingly and give yourself an honest time estimation on how long each task will take you. Setting time limits increases productivity because it engages the part of your brain that is sensitive to deadlines. According to a video produced by AsapScience, “The Science of Productivity,” this phenomenon is called the Zeigarnik Effect. It states that "When we don’t finish a task we feel discomfort and intrusive thoughts about it, which compels us to finish it." Pretty helpful!
Setting time limits is also a method of accountability. Similar to your financial budget, your time should have a clearly defined purpose. Like every dollar, every five minutes should be designated to a specific task. Knowing how much time you have to spend and where to spend it will help you identify the areas in which you are wasting it or spending too much. Keeping yourself accountable will help you be more consistent in the future.
Set realistic expectations
Unless you’re the superman or wonder woman of task completion, don’t set yourself up to fail by thinking you can “do it all.” While you can certainly try, you’ll quickly learn that there are simply not enough hours in the day to accomplish everything. And that’s OK.
Avoid disappointment by setting realistic goals for yourself. It’s unlikely you’ll finish a 500-word blog post in less than an hour, but an hour and a half to two hours is a bit more likely. It’s also unlikely that you’ll run a marathon, nail your proposal, and finish your research thesis by 5 pm, but choosing to tackle one of the three is more likely.
Being honest with your time is a constant struggle. And the truth is, if we could do it all, we probably would. But remember, Google wasn’t built in a day, and neither were you.
“Keep your eye on your why”
In her video, “How To Be Consistent: 5 Steps To Get Things Done, All The Time,” business guru, Marie Forleo advises viewers to keep their eye on their why. She explains that “In order to really stay connected to what you’re doing over the long haul, you have to have a clear, compelling vision for what you’re trying to achieve and know why you want to do it."
It’s not enough to simply jot down a huge list of tasks and plan to complete them, but what are you working towards? What is your goal? Some projects require a big commitment, and it’s easy to quit if you are not clear on your why.
No one is perfect and not every day will proceed as planned, but taking the initiative to get organized and formulate a realistic schedule will allow you to be more productive during work hours.
What is your biggest roadblock when it comes to productivity? How do you stay organized and on task? Share your tips with us in the comments below!