Sharon is a young systems analyst whose workday is ten hours. Before she gets to work every morning, she makes a long to-do list to keep track of time and stay organised.
As usual, the items on Sharon’s list are too many and she fears that she won’t be able to get everything done before the end of the day.
So, she multitasks.
She juggles multiple tasks and spreads herself too thin, staying busy all the time, and it isn’t long before the tasks start crashing into one another.
Sharon soon loses focus and ends up achieving nothing at the end of the day.
Many of us are like poor Sharon. We spend most of our time making long to-do lists and trying to come up with the best routine for our day, then spare very little time for some action.
We waste our time trying to make everything perfect before we start, and when we finally start, we won’t stop complaining about how there isn’t enough time to complete our tasks.
Busy people, that’s who we are. You know, the ones who are always busy looking busy and often end up with insignificant results at the end of the day.
Productive people, on the other hand, are the action-oriented and result-driven ones. Yeah, they also have to-do lists but you would never see their to-do lists containing unimportant tasks like “Take out the trash” or “ Call Fred”.
Why? Because they probably have already done that! Productive people don’t do things they can do now, later. They are conscious of their time, so such simple tasks are done as soon as possible, they never make it to the to-do list.
Being productive is the first and easiest way to complete your daily tasks. That is the gospel truth. And, being productive isn’t hard at all if you really are committed to the task.
I have spent the last three months working my ass out every day for six days a week. At first, it was so hard struggling to be productive, but later on, I changed my strategy and things became, well, so much easier.
I became productive, but only because I started doing what I have learnt productive people do. I’ll share some tips with you that will help you become productive and make it much easier to complete your daily tasks.
I suppose some of these tips are things you already know but probably don’t take seriously.
1. Prioritise your tasks!
When you’re creating your next to-do list, list your tasks according to how important and urgent they are. The most important task should have the first spot, followed by an equally important but less urgent task.
Continue listing your tasks this way till you get to the last task for that day. And, when you’re done creating your to-do list, run your eyes through it to be sure that the first few tasks are truly deserving of your time, energy and attention. If, in the process of going over your list, you find an unnecessary task, just cross it out.
Prioritising your tasks not only makes you organised, it also motivates you whenever you feel like procrastinating. Plus it helps you focus on the most important tasks first, setting aside the unimportant ones for later.
2. Do. Not. Multitask.
We are all familiar with the maxim “slow and steady wins the race.” While we might argue that this isn’t true in most cases, it is rather true in this case.
If you wish to complete all your tasks before time runs out, you better take things slowly. Resist the urge to multitask. Instead, take things one at a time.
It is usually when we are worried that there isn’t enough time to complete all our tasks that we’re tempted to take on multiple tasks at once.
(We multitask because we believe it’s the smartest way to save time when it actually isn’t.)
When you’re tempted to multitask, brethren, resist the urge. It’s not worth the stress.
Multitasking divides your attention until your tasks start crashing into one another and like Sharon, you lose focus completely. And you know, losing focus is the last thing you want to happen.
Lack of focus is more dangerous than you think. It impairs your decision making and effectiveness, thus yielding the worst results you can possibly get. Worse is the case when you make terrible mistakes and are forced to start all over again. Yeah, that’s baaaaad.
3. Have a schedule and stick to it.
If you have a schedule, you won’t even feel the need to multitask. And truly, following a schedule isn’t really compulsory, but it is rather necessary.
Even if you’re not going to draw a timetable of your tasks and the times you wish to complete them, at least have a mental note of the times you wish to complete your tasks AND STICK TO THE PLAN!
I’ve found that it’s easier to achieve your goals and complete your tasks when you assign a deadline to them. Completing your tasks becomes even easier when, next to your tasks on your to-do list, you assign a deadline to them and commit to completing them before their deadline.
4. Learn to say “NO!”
We all have our limits. We can only handle so much before we break down and lose the zeal to achieve our goals.
To ensure that you never wear yourself out in the course of completing your daily tasks, you must learn to say “no” to extra tasks. As I’ve said earlier, dedicate your time, energy and attention ONLY to the most important tasks at hand.
If ever you feel like you’re overtasking yourself, take a break to review your tasks again, cutting out the unnecessary ones and saying a firm “no” to any extra tasks. Don’t take on more than you can handle, okay?
5. Chunk your goals.
Is it hard to achieve that long-term goal? Then why don’t you chunk it into smaller, short-term goals? It is a smarter approach, don’t you think?
Say one important task on your to-do list is “write an article on ‘Genetically modified foods’ before Saturday”; even with the deadline you’ve assigned to this task, finishing the article before Saturday might be difficult. Heck, I won’t be surprised if, by Friday, you haven’t even decided which title you want to use, let alone got started on your introductory paragraph.
However, completing this task will be easier if you broke it down into smaller tasks, like:
- MONDAY, research on topic + look up case studies and references for backup.
- TUESDAY, write the introductory paragraph and transition paragraph for my article.
- WEDNESDAY, write and develop my first and second points.
- THURSDAY, third point + concluding paragraph.
- FRIDAY, editing and final touches.
All done! Phew!
Notice how easier it is to finish writing the article when you break it down into smaller goals? The same can be done with other long-term goals or difficult tasks that’s giving you problems. If it’s proving too difficult to achieve, chunk it into bits! You’re welcome!
6. Eliminate distractions.
Do you know what productivity’s greatest enemy is? Procrastination, that’s what! But do you know something that is more threatening to your productivity than procrastination?
It’s a good distraction, in case you didn’t know.
What happens when you’re distracted from your tasks? Your focus is diverted and your time and attention are being wasted on something that doesn’t deserve it. Funny enough, your tasks themselves could be your biggest distractions.
When you multitask, the other tasks you’re working on are distractions. When you decide to work on extra tasks when you’re yet to complete your prioritised tasks, those extra tasks are distractions. When you decide to take a break you know you don’t deserve, that’s procrastination and distraction knocking at your door.
Distractions give birth to procrastination. There’s always a reason you want to procrastinate. Usually, it’s because you’re lazy, but you lie to yourself that you’re too tired and your workload is too overwhelming to finish immediately. Sometimes, though, you might want to procrastinate because of something that gives you pleasure, like an episode of Green Arrow or spending some quality time with boo.
Regardless, realise that the reasons you feel like procrastinating are only distractions. Realise this and decide to give your fullest attention to your tasks until you’ve completed all of them.
Like I always say, the ride to living a successful and productive life is a bumpy one, but having a sense of direction makes the journey much easier to bear.
While I can’t promise that my tips will help you complete all your tasks – as I have no idea how difficult and complicated your tasks are – I assure you that they will give you the sense of direction to get the best results. Which is why, today, I challenge you to make the most of your time every day and try your very best to live life productively.
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Stay productive always!
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