Of course, not all days can be the same. You are a human, not a machine. But if you find yourself saying “The to-do list keeps getting longer” more than “I had a very productive day at work”, then you have landed on the right page.
This blog is for everyone — managers, employees, and founders who want to get hold of their day and not get led by the tasks.
Before I begin, I must mention that the spiraling to-do list isn’t necessarily your fault. There are multiple external factors that come into play.
According to the report 70% of workers admitted how they feel distracted when they’re on the job.
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Chatty coworkers and office noise were highlighted as the top distractions for 80% of workers and over 60% of the respondents also view meetings as just another interruption in the way of their being productive.
Nevertheless, there is a gamut of other reasons as well. The question is what is it that you can do?
Well, the best you can do is to identify what is impacting your productivity levels and work on it.
Sometimes, it is the little changes that can make a significant difference. It is only ideal to get ready to make the required changes wherever needed to be more productive. Otherwise, the day when all the stress would lead to burnout isn’t far.
Wait, what exactly can be called a productive day?
Put simply, a productive day is when you end up completing the priority tasks or getting the results that can help you move the project forward. It doesn’t equate to you stretching the work hours and compromising personal tasks like exercising, doing laundry, etc.
By the end of your workday, you should be able to make time for yourself without dreading the unmanageable pending task list.
But how do you ensure you have one? Below we share 11 tips:
1. Prioritize the tasks
Ever heard the saying “Eat the live frog first and nothing worse will happen”?
For those who didn’t, it means doing the most difficult task first and the rest of the day would get easier.
How? This works as you don’t end up running away from the toughest task, and dragging the work hours.
To further explain, it is essential for you to divide the tasks, no matter how long the list is, into two categories- important and urgent. Arrange tasks into these categories in order and analyze. Stop randomly picking tasks from your list or your mind based on what you feel like doing. This way you would always end up doing a lot and still not feeling unaccomplished.
Inculcate the habit of creating this to-do list either before going to bed or when you wake up. It is also a good practice to identify the tasks that can be delegated.
2. Communicate efficiently
As per a survey on Panopto, “Employees spend an average of 5 hours every week waiting to receive the knowledge and inputs they need.”
This becomes a major reason for work getting delayed, or even forgotten or canceled. Here are two ways to tackle such situations:
– If you are the one waiting for a response and the task is not super urgent, hop onto the next task for the day. In case, the inputs are required urgently, consider calling or using Chanty, a team chat tool instead of following up over mail.
– If you are a peer or manager who needs to respond, unless you are not super busy, do the needful. In case you are in a meeting or have blocked time for a task, share an automated reply to emails you receive with, “I am not checking my emails for the next x hours, please call if it is super urgent.”
For the sake of everyone’s productivity, we must also try to keep the communication brief and meaningful. Avoid breathing around the bush and come to the point- meetings, emails, one-on-one chats— everywhere.
3. Take mandatory breaks
The lifestyle of most work professionals is quite sedentary when it comes to their tasks. On top of that, it is hard to not lose focus and continue doing one task after the other. Taking short breaks after every hour or every major task is the best thing to do.
Use the time to walk, have a cup of green tea, make calls or even check your social media, standup comedy, etc. You can use it to refresh your mind and body and do whatever works for you. You could also practice some mindfulness techniques that will help you relax and deal with anxiety throughout the day.
However, remember to not get lost in doom scrolling your social media and get back to the work desk in time to finish the next task. If you try to be overambitious and plan to do all the tasks in a go and then take one long break, things can go down south.
No break-in hours can lead to mental fatigue. On the other hand, if you take breaks, you would have more energy and focus for the tasks ahead.
4. Use a relaxing work chair
Sitting in the same posture in a wrong or uncomfortable chair can lead to back pain and bad posture. If the work is not on-field, most of the time we find ourselves sitting and working on the laptop.
If anything, this has only aggravated since the pandemic. Investing in a relaxing chair makes all the more sense. At home or office, height & width adjustment, swivel, and recline function are the must-have features.
5. Create a work schedule
Creating a work schedule is especially helpful for professionals in certain industries or job profiles where they have to work in rotational or odd-hour shifts. Work schedule maker helps you plan, check or change your shifts easily. It gives a clear view of time off requests, sees shift swaps, and results in a major productivity boost. To make your employees adapt and accept it without resistance, look for the one that comes with a mobile app.
6. Exercise regularly
As mentioned earlier, a lot of external factors impact our productivity, one of them is body movement. Due to the sedentary lifestyle we have, we are prone to eye strain, heart disease, and back pain.
To avoid such problems impacting work and vice versa, you must exercise regularly. It would not just help you stay active but also in keeping your posture in place. It is also believed that good posture makes you confident, and less strained, and slouching/ bad posture can lead to negative thoughts.
For the unaware, physical exercise produces more ATP which is great for your mental and physical energy thereby leading to more productivity.
7. Eat healthy meals
It’s no news that eating a lot of junk food can make you lethargic. This is why it is important to take control of what you eat and how much you eat. Start balancing your meal nutritions and stop eating mindlessly. It’s best to eat more greens and fruits.
In fact, it’s best to start your day with a wholesome breakfast with balanced nutrition. Wake up timely, eat mindfully, and not in haste. Start small like work on replacing coffee or tea with smoothies and keep progressing. The better the breakfast, the better the productivity.
For lunch, avoid eating heavily as the body would start utilizing the energy in digesting, you might also feel sleepy. Salads and steamed veggies can be a good choice. However, if you do eat something heavy, have a smaller portion.
8. Manage your time
Checking emails, getting those notifications on the phone, calls, multitasking, and all the noise count as major time killers. You should try time blocking and begin monotasking.
As per your to-do list, time your important tasks, and in that time framework on them. When you are done with one, take a 10-minute break and then jump on to the next. If the task at hand would take more than 1 or 2 hours, you can follow the 2-minute rule.
You can use this time gap to do the very trivial but urgent tasks at hand and even check and reply to emails. If not this, you can fix three times to check emails or take calls- 11 am, 2 pm and 5 pm. This would ensure you stay undistracted and focused.
9. Upskill when commuting
Why do some people at work always seem to be rising the learning curve? That’s because they upskill. While you learn as your work stands true, sometimes you need to learn the new to be more successful.
24 hours is all that we all have. How we use them certainly makes a world of difference. So, If you are unable to find time to learn more, you should try using your commute time for it.
It benefits in more ways than one. You won’t even feel the time pass by and you would be learning instead of wasting your time on social apps or games, or songs.
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10. Learn to say NO
The first thing you must apply if your to-do list keeps getting longer is learning the art of saying no. Stop entertaining requests that are not aligned with your performance goals. When you already have a lot on your work plate, it’s only the right thing to reject unreasonable requests.
If not, your to-do list would continue to get longer, adding up to your stress. Remember, how you choose to spend your time in the present, would set the tone for your future ahead.
For instance, if your task for the day is to write a blog, and someone from the sales department requests you to work on a sales pitch that very day; you know what to say— “I can’t take it up today, if it’s critical, please drop a mail to my manager regarding this.”
11. Sleep on time
Disturbing the ideal sleep clock does more harm than you think. It can lead to sleep disorders, but sooner than that, it starts reflecting on your work. Not sleeping on time and for a good 7-8 hours makes you struggle to keep up with anything and everything throughout the day. You are not alert enough!
For those who argue they have a very busy schedule— isn’t it better to get uninterrupted sleep and increase productivity at work than not sleeping enough and reducing your productivity levels notably? Isn’t it better to sleep well enough and feel energized to work better in fewer hours than working for more hours and still not getting things done?
Focus on the outcome, not the hours. If you are a night owl, it would be a little difficult for you but not impossible. Begin by waking up earlier than usual and exercising so that your body is tired enough to sleep early.
What does it take to have a productive day?
It is not easy to change your habits but the good news is, if you keep putting in the effort, you will get there.
There is a lot for you to pick from — eating healthy, sleeping on time, making a to-do list, timing your tasks, exercising, saying no, and more. Which one do you plan to begin with? Let us know in the comments.