Do you often start your day with a plan to get as much done as possible, but find your workday spiraling out of control? You soon find yourself distracted, focusing on the lower-priority tasks and, eventually, procrastinating. It is time you regain control of your time – however, a one-size-fits-all solution will not make you more productive; instead, here’s an outline of productivity techniques depending on your working style and personality.
If You’re the Multitasker
Do you think you can get more done handling multiple tasks at a go? For example, trying to call your co-worker as you type out an email to your web design consultant and check on your Facebook page. While it feels like you are being productive, you are probably not getting much out of these tasks in terms of efficiency.
Everyone has a limited size of cognitive bandwidth – this is the number of memories and thoughts you can hold in your mind at any time. Your brain might delude itself into thinking that it has the capacity to handle more than it really can; but in reality, it’s working extra hard as you switch back and forward between tasks. Your ability to handle things efficiently depends on how well you can focus on a single task for five minutes or an hour.
To help you monotask, consider removing temptations like the urge to check on unrelated social media as you work. Consider working on just one screen at a time by putting away your smartphone and turning the second monitor off. In case you find your focus wavering, move or work in intervals and use tools like timesheets.
When distractions finally take over, forgive yourself. Fortunately, when you work on focusing on a single task at a time and ignore distractions, you’re exercising your prefrontal cortex, the more involved part of your brain. Ultimately, it will become easier to focus.
For the Procrastinator
One of the best tools to help you combat procrastination is getting an accountability partner. This could be a manager or a work colleague who is charged with the responsibility of regularly checking on your project’s progress. The person you nominate should take his or her role seriously, whenever you do not achieve a goal, expects disappointment and appreciation when you do.
Some procrastinator partners may even agree on a set of punishments and rewards that will go along with deadlines. However, this will depend on what motivates you the most. The reward may be a free lunch, while punishment may be an email to your department announcing a deadline has not been met.
To help you stay on track, use to-do lists that will keep you accountable since you have to stay on the path to getting the most important work done first. Before stepping into the office each day, make a list of about eight targets that you would like to accomplish the following day. On a separate list, have personal errands that need to be done on that day – this list should not contain more than three items.
While making your work to-do list, make it as simple, realistic and specific as possible – do not simply tack an item like “finish project” somewhere on the list. Instead, break the project into smaller, discrete components.
Your Desk is as Important as How You Work
There is no single right way of organizing your work desk. However, the physical workspace does have a huge impact on productivity. It can either energize you or sack your energy.
In general, just 25 percent of the desk’s messiness is attributed to organization skills, 75 percent is due to time management. Every piece of paper has a task attached to it, and this task will require your time. An out-of-control pile of paper on your desk may be an indicator that you require delegation.
In general, always have your desk clear except for the project you are currently working on, as well as equipment you may need. Also, create an “in zone” for things that just come in and an “out zone” for stuff you are finished working on and require distribution. The best way to change how you organize your workspace is spending at least 10 minutes every day organizing your desk for the day.
This was a guest article, written by Wendy Dessler from Outreachmama.