If you are reading this article, chances are you are looking for ways to be more productive at work. Perhaps you are struggling with time management. Well, we’ve all been there: tons of mind-numbing tasks which are as massive as Mt. Everest loom before you. You know you’ve got to begin climbing before the hanging sword of deadline hits you hard. While some of your colleagues roam around, take breaks and enjoy conversation, you stick to your desk and continue doing your task like a robot. “I don’t have a spare minute, I have to finish it fast”— you think in your head. But then you see those colleagues winding up their task and leaving the office. You start wondering—do they have some kind of superpower. Finally, you end up missing the deadline and sit beyond 9 to 5 working hours to finish it off.
This happens to almost everyone occasionally, but when it becomes a routine occurrence, it’s time to upgrade your time management skills. With tasks snowballing and deadlines approaching, it’s no easy feat to keep pace with the running time. However, the good news is: there are few easy hacks that can help you manage your time efficiently and foster peak productivity. So, are you ready to learn? Let’s dive right in.
Assign a Time Frame to Each Task
When you are bombarded with tasks, the first thing you need to do is to set a particular time limit for each task. For instance, if you want to write a few articles, then assign time limits for each one and note it down. You can even assign certain time limit to finish each section of an article— 30 minutes for introduction, 20 minutes for first paragraph and 20 minutes for second and so on. Finally, few minutes can be used for proofreading. This way you will stop procrastinating and stay focused. Make sure to put buffer between tasks so that you can still finish the task on time without eating the time reserved for something else.
Once you are done with assigning time to each task, it’s time to prioritize. Some prefer to start with the easiest tasks while some people believe in eating the frog first. So, what’s the right way? Well, it differs from person to person. You can try both the approach and figure out what works for you. However, if you want to prioritize your task on the basis of urgency, you can follow the Eisenhower Decision Matrix that classifies tasks in the following 4 categories.
Important and Urgent: The tasks which are very important and which need to be done immediately fall into this category. For instance, sending an important mail or reviewing an important document. Such tasks must be done right away. So, first of all, focus on completing the tasks of this category.
Important but Not Urgent: The second category comprises the tasks that are critical but less urgent. For instance, you need to update your website or upgrade some designing tools.
Urgent but Not Important: Once you are done with the first two categories, move on to the third one. The task which seeks your immediate attention but less important than others comes under the third category. For instance, a co-worker unexpectedly asks a favour or a request to step into a meeting.
Not Urgent and Not Important: All the low-priority tasks belong to this category and you should handle it later.
Categorize all the tasks using the above approach and as you complete each one, check it off your list. This will offer you a sense of accomplishment and inspire you to move down the list. And this way you will be able to accomplish all the essential tasks in time.
Procrastination is your greatest enemy when something needs to be get done right away. While working on a task, you think let me have a conversation or use social media for 5 minutes then I’ll get started. But the 5 minutes never end and then you find yourself scrambling to meet the deadline. According to Parkinson’s Law, tasks expand to the time allotted. When you have all day to write an article, it will take all day. If you have whole day to test code, it is going to take the whole day. You got the idea, right? We have the tendency to procrastinate and leave everything to the last minute when we have more than required time. So, to avoid the last-minute hustle, you can try to improve your speed every day. For instance, if today you took 5 hours to complete a task, try to complete it in 4 hours the next day.
Take Short Breaks Frequently
Taking small breaks in between the tasks helps you refresh and rejuvenate your mind. So, when you get back to the task, you look at it through a fresh lens and it takes your productivity to another level. When you feel that your attention has started wandering and things are not flowing the way you would like, stop what you are doing, get up and walk around. To reset your mind, focus on something completely different for a while. It can be a power nap, meditation, taking a walk or chat with a colleague. But make sure not to exceed the time.
Stop Thinking About Your To-Do List Every Second
When you have a seemingly overwhelming number of tasks to accomplish, you can’t help but keep thinking about your to-do list every second. But the truth is, just thinking about the tasks is not going to get the job done. Instead, it will only fill you with fear and tiredness. So, stop thinking about it when you are not working on it and relax your mind.
Do One Task at a Time
If you think that juggling too many tasks at once will increase your productivity, here is news for you. Research reveals that only 2% of people can multitask effectively while for the remaining 98%, it is wastage of time. Unless you are among that 2 %, you are wasting your time and lessening your overall productivity by multitasking. Rather than dividing your attention to multiple things, it’s better to focus entirely on one thing and do your best.
Get Enough Sleep
A mistake that we often make when we are against a deadline is to sacrifice our sleep or rest to gain more time for work. However, the truth is doing this will only incur damage to our health. On the other hand, a well-rested and well-fed healthy body keeps your focus sharper and thus your attention span longer and the quality of your work also becomes better. So, set a routine that includes nutrition, exercise and proper rest. This way you can eliminate the distractions of being hungry or tired or stressed later in the day.
Work Smarter, Not Harder
You work hard, extremely hard yet wonder why your output is not really proportionate to the number of hours you put in. Meanwhile, you see some of your colleagues are not putting in as much work as you do but still reaping the same result or performing better than you. Is it because they are gifted? Probably not! The secret is Smart work. Working smartly helps them get more out of less.
Also, sometimes it’s good to be lazy. As Bill Gates once said, “I choose a lazy person to do a hard job because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.” Yes, instead of suffocating your mind with a lot of hard work, why not find a smarter way to accomplish it in less time with less effort? For instance, when you have to send multiple emails, isn’t it better to use an effective automation tool instead of typing every email manually? So, if you want to become more efficient, spend some time finding out a smarter way to do your task at work instead of just following the same approach every day.
Ask For Help
Sometimes we expend too much time looking for a solution that we just can’t find ourselves. In such a situation, it is better to ask for help rather than being stuck the whole day in a 5-minute task. Remember, the more you ask questions, the quicker you’ll learn to accomplish the task on your own the next time.
Managing time efficiently and being productive at work is way easier than you think it is. Just plan things, look for a smarter way and know when it’s time to take a break. Learn the above ultimate time management hacks and start implementing them and you will notice a huge difference in your efficiency. Good luck with your pursuit of the utmost productivity!