Ever get the feeling that you’re just not accomplishing as much each day as you could or should? Sure, you have a lot on your plate. But you can still be productive and efficient. It requires being disciplined and following the three simple steps I present here.
1. Eliminate or minimize distractors. Close your e-mail program(s), and send all calls to voice mail. Family members must be told – gently, of course – that you need the private time. If you have a separate work room/den, close the door during the day. Avoid the temptation to play with your pets, as well. Budget time for them early in the morning, during lunch, or later in the day.
You may also have distractors outside. Kids playing, workmen hammering away, sirens screaming up and down the street. Can you find a way to mask that noise?
How about the scenery? Do you live or work in a wooded area or near a body of water? You probably like to glance out the window from time to time. But then your mind starts to wander. Close the drapes or blinds if you can’t stay focused on work.
2. Use an agenda each day. By setting time slots for each task, you force yourself to be more disciplined with your time and therefore be more efficient. A to-do list isn’t enough, I’ve found, because it doesn’t commit me to spend time on any one project. An agenda does.
How much time you allot for each task is up to you. And realize that a given amount of time, say 1/2 hour, may not be enough to start and complete a project. That’s OK. Spending some time on a project is better than none.
Remember to budget time to check for messages and perform other non-income-producing tasks. Fifteen minutes every couple hours should be enough.
A more detailed discussion about an agenda is available here.
3. Focus on one task at a time. Too often we feel that we can juggle multiple projects. Yet to be more productive, you need to focus on one task at a time. Don’t allow yourself to stray into something else, like pounding out an e-mail. You’ll soon find yourself wrapped up in that area, and quickly getting behind in your primary task.
Work on the initial task for the allotted time, then move on. If something comes to mind, write yourself a note, and come back to that when you have time.
A more efficient and productive day starts with discipline. That may sound like work itself, but you’ll soon develop a good routine. Just like a diet or exercise regimen, an efficient work schedule will begin to feel natural to you. And you’ll soon start seeing results.
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