Faced with flurries of task, messages, and concerns, each of us need to contend with heaps of work. We can wilt or we can get over the hump. Either way things need to get done! Here are some habit-changing schemes to increase your productivity…
1. Have an intensive work space. There is a time for work and a place for work. Make sure you define your space where no one will disturb you.
2. Organize your work space. Some prefer a minimalist approach while others draw a system in their work space. A tidy work space allows you to focus on what needs done.
3. Eliminate distractions. Figure out what takes your focus away from your work (email, IM’s, cellphones) and turn them off.
4. Plan the next day before you sleep. Night time is the right time to visualize what you should be doing tomorrow.
5. Break large projects into small tasks. Understand what it takes to accomplish a large task and outline them in manageable sets.
6. Focus on having a good start. What you do when you wake up sets the tempo for the day. By being in the right “place” physically and emotionally, you can focus on your tasks for the day.
7. Have a “To-Do list” system. Some independent workers adhere to David Allen’s GTD (http://www.davidco.com), while some work better with just a pen and paper.
8. Define your break period. Sometimes we forget when we need to stop, which drags our productivity and leaves us tired for the next tasks. Moderating your breaks is very important.
9. Understand your work pattern. Do you work well in the morning? Do you peak after sunset? Know what time of the day you are most productive and work a schedule around that.
10. Delegate. Strip out tasks that you can pass to your colleagues and focus on what you do best.
12. Manage your contacts. Organizing your contact list saves you time when you need a specific name and number from your list. GMail (http://gmail.com) has an excellent contact management feature.
13. Set a personal deadline. Aside from the deadline made by your boss/client, create your own personal deadline and take it as a challenge.
14. Track your time. Your schedule in theory may not be what you spend in practice. Track your time with online tools like David Seah’s ETT (http://davidseah.com/tools/ett/alpha/), or Rescue time (http://www.rescuetime.com/).
15. Work with a purpose. In the long run, facing your computer takes a toll if tasks become routine. Find the bigger picture in these tasks and use that as motivation.
16. Minimize. We only have so much that we can handle. Take your tasks one at a time, focus on the present, and block out succeeding tasks.
17. Organize incoming information and tasks. It is beneficial to absorb each detail of your project so that you won’t leave anything behind. Capture what needs done, and prioritize the information at hand.
18. Offline Tools work best. Lots of web apps abound, but the classic pen and paper or moleskine (http://www.moleskine.com) might be a better choice for you.
19. Strike quick, strike effectively. Each step of your task must lead to an action or help you move forward with your project. Small steps lead to bigger leaps.
20. Develop a work rhythm. Get things done at your own pace. Find an optimal work speed where you know you can give your best quality while not dilly-dallying over the deadline.
21. Work with your computer. Most people cannot get things done because of their “special relationship” with their computer. If you want to get things done, just install the minimal tools that will get you moving.
22. Develop a spontaneous yet structured work pattern. You cannot always free up your time with distractions, but you cannot have too rigid of a schedule either. Find the right balance by thinking ahead.
23. Be aware of your laziness. Each of us has laziness within. Discover why you take these down times and block them out. Laziness is also good if you plan your breaks carefully.
24. Review your day. What have you done right? What went amiss?
25. Just Start. Take the first step and do not look back once you start.
26. Remember: Tools are tools. To do lists, PDA’s, and notebooks help get things done. They should not take the bulk of your schedule as you organize stuff.
27. Use an alarm clock. A clock that rings will always keep you on your heels. Set up an alarm on key parts of your schedule.
28. Simplify. Work towards the best way to get your job done without cutting corners. Keeping things simple is a good start.
29. Attack the big tasks first. Prioritize what needs to be done during the day and accomplish the big tasks first. This will give you a sense of accomplishment earlier in the day.
30. Nifty calendars plan and organize your medium-term plans. Google Calendar (http://www.google.com/calendar) is a heralded tool, but offline workers still like their iCal or Microsoft Outlook.
31. Use Time Blocking. Time blocking or time chunks allow you to focus on a set of tasks without requiring you to have an elaborate schedule. Learn about time blocking here (http://www.focuslearninggroup.com/resources/tips/generaltips/timeblocking.php).
32. Work together. Even if you are working on different tasks, having the right company will help you feed off each other’s energy.
33. Develop a Routine. A routine gives you a better handle during your work day. Realize what things you tend to do daily and organize it.
34. Define the contexts of your actions. Categorize your tasks, whether it is your job, school, family, leisure, home, etc.
35. Take only what you can for the day. You cannot take all tasks in one day. Your time is a renewable resource, but in the end, it is still 24 hours in a day.
36. Wake up early, Start Early. It might not be for everyone, but it is a nice feeling when you accomplish what you have to do before lunch time.
37. Focus on the essentials. Doing what is most important to you and blocking out the “bloat” in life will free up more time and benefit you in the long run.
38. Do not stop when things do not go well. Each task is a hurdle with a set of sub-hurdles as you complete a specific task. It is nothing new though. You just have to reload.
39. Do not neglect other parts of your life. Your career is only one aspect of life. If you ignore more essential things, it will come back to haunt you and distract you from your work.
40. Be an optimist. Tasks should not bog you down – always find a positive side in what you do.
41. Set Goals. Of course, goals are the culprit why we do what we do. There is no shortage of goals – use them as motivation.
42. Have a productivity meeting with your friends. There is a science and art to getting things done. It is always a worthwhile and productive discussion. Share and learn.
43. Take note of your accomplishments. Crossing out an item on your to do list gives a sense of accomplishment. These little victories do not hurt.
44. Bring less baggage. When it is time to buckle down, have every tool that you need in arm’s reach. Minimalist work is focused work.
45. Commit to your TO-DO list. Planning on paper without action is meaningless. Treat your list as a contract.
46. Read Blogs like these. Burn your RSS feeds, and read an article or two daily. They serve as constant reminders that you need to be on top of your game.
47. Discover what makes you work. Our goals are our large motivators, but there might be small motivators that can keep you going.
49. Work with Passion. No amount of productivity tips will replace your love for your work. Find your passion and let the chips fall.
50. Printable CEO. This is a shoutout to David Seah and his Printable CEO tools (http://davidseah.com/pceo/).
51. Finish what you have started first. Multi-taskers might disagree, but having too much loose-end gives more stress since the unfinished task may still be in the back of your mind.
52. Clean Your Inbox. Your email inbox is a microcosm on how you organize yourself. Prevent your inbox from overflowing.
53. Getting things Done is a Habit. Being a doer cannot be done in a snap, work your way and buy into the philosophy slowly.
54. Plan by the day, by the week, by the month. A calendar organized your month, while to do lists organizes your days and week. Have a separate list for a specific day.
55. Do not react to your list. While your to do list is a contract to yourself, make the crucial call and take action when things go wrong in your list. Ultimately, your to do list is just a tool.
56. Use key browser tools. Firefox have various tools to make you more productive like
- Customize Google (https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/743),
- All in one Sidebar (https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/743)
- Delicious bookmarks (https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/3615).
- Go to Eriwen.com (http://eriwen.com/firefox/firefox-add-ons-for-productivity/) for a starter’s list.
57. Clear time to review your work. Aside from the daily reviews, schedule a time chunk once a week (or once a month… it is your choice) to review and evaluate your goals.
58. Make quick decisions as much as possible. Tiny tasks like throwing out the trash, or answering an e-mail should not be postponed. They snowball if left unattended.
59. Reminder: Procrastination is not getting things done. You may sit and procrastinate on your task and beat the deadline, but the wasted time sitting may cost you missed opportunities.
60. Physical Block out when you work. Be proactive in making sure distractions will not get to you. Turn off e-mail notifications, plug the internet cable if necessary, turn the music up and wear your headphones.
61. Computers get cluttered too. Customize your computer, and clear your desktop. Simple PC tasks may cost you minutes if you don’t organize enough.
62. Learn keyboard shortcuts. Using a mouse is just slower.
- Learn MS Office shortcuts (http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/help/HA011407361033.aspx),
- Firefox shortcuts (http://www.mouserunner.com/FF_Shortcuts1Printable.html),
- GMail shortcuts (http://mail.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=6594)
- Windows (http://windowshelp.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/help/2503b91d-d780-4c80-8f08-2f48878dc5661033.mspx),
- Mac (http://en.onsoftware.com/200-leopard-shortcuts-for-the-new-year)
63. Manage Interruptions. Despite your efforts to block distractions, there are times when they are inevitable. If you are in the middle of the task, handle interruptions quickly before you lose your drive.
64. Take notes while in the middle of a task. If you are in the thick of your work, you may remember things/ideas that can stall you. Write your ideas down so that you can clear them from your mind then get back to work.
65. Recharge and Drink Water. Even if you are not doing an overtly physical activity, always drink water. Have a glass on your table.
66. Use Breaks as small rewards. After your task, take a breather and use the time to do your work distractions – read e-mail, blogs, IM. A 10 minute break every hour works for me, but you can set your own break pattern.
67. Work in Bursts. Be “in the moment” of your work. You can get a lot done in 30 minutes of focused work than 2-hours of erratic work.
68. Write Deadlines in bold. In our job, deadlines are important. When you have a to-do list make sure you have the deadline written in clear black, highlighted letters for emphasis.
69. Have clear deadlines. Some tasks have deadlines that are neither here or there. If the client does not give you a clear deadline, challenge yourself and make your own deadline.
70. Understand what you have accomplished. It is easy to cross out a task, but it is harder to put the accomplished task in perspective. Know why the task is needed so that you know you are going somewhere when you are done.
71. Learn from your mistakes. If you fail in completing a task, do not brush it off. Analyze what went wrong and avoid the mistake next time.
72. Overextend sometimes. Sometimes you just have to get down, get dirty, or stay late until the job gets done. That is reality and no other productivity tip can change that.
73. Be creative against repetition. Repetitive tasks are unavoidable (that is why we repeat it). Get over the hump by placing them within your work day strategically or delegate them.
74. Cut non-producing projects. You might get small victories from elaborate tasks, but it might amount to nothing when you put these tasks together. Understand what projects can give you more impact.
75. Monitor Energy Drains. Subtle and seemingly harmless things might put you in jeopardy and leave you tired before you even start work. Less sleeping time, more TV, dragging relationships, are energy drainers that take productivity away from your work.
76. Put a “Do not Disturb” Sign on Your Door. Your colleagues or family members will get the message.
77. Automate. Whenever you face a familiar task, have a contingency to get the task done faster.
I hope this post is timely and will help you get more done right now and in the future.
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