As the long evenings of summer (sadly) come to an end, and we gear up for fall and the busy routine that it brings, consider these noteworthy quotes when you start to wonder, “How am I going to get it all done?”
- Clean House
“Organization isn’t about perfection. It’s about efficiency, reducing stress and clutter, saving time and money, and improving your overall quality of life.”
Take time to organize both your physical and digital office to increase productivity. Clutter is counterproductive; a neat workspace will help you access what you need without breaking workflow (see 3 Tips to Turn Your Office into a Clutter-Free Zone). Organize your inbox, desktop, and electronic files to ensure that items are easily accessible. And take a good look at your daily planner. Are your current commitments helping you move toward your goals or are they wasting your time and energy? Get rid of commitments that are not serving you.
- Schedules, Checklists, Templates, Oh My!
“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” —Stephen Covey
Now that your workspace is organized for efficient workflow, take it one step further—keep track of how you spend your time by creating a weekly plan. Once a week, create a schedule of what you want to get done and take time to review what you accomplished the week before. Consider how much time you are actually spending on tasks. Are they getting you closer to your goals? Create task checklists to ensure you don’t forget important steps and create templates for those pesky repetitive tasks. It will save you loads of time.
- Hang Your Do not Disturb Sign
“We need space to be productive; we need places to go to be free.
Interruptions are costly to your productivity. Studies show that it can take your brain anywhere from 15–25 minutes to refocus on a task after being interrupted. Avoid interruptions by setting boundaries. Check and respond to emails and phone calls only during scheduled times. Train the people around you to leave messages and to wait for your replies. Avoid online disruptions by using apps like Focus to block distracting websites. Lastly, consider creating a to-don’t list—a list of habits that lead you to be unproductive. Keep this list at your workstation as a reminder of things to avoid.
- Become a Monotasker
“The quickest way to do many things is to do one thing at a time.”
Repeat after us, “multi-tasking is a myth.” In fact, multi-tasking makes us less productive—up to 40 percent less, according to some studies. Instead of focusing short quantities of time on many tasks, choose to dedicate blocks of time to a single task. Then move on to the next. The key is to focus on the task at hand. This will also increase the quality of your output. Start by setting aside time each day to work on a task or project. Don’t worry about finishing each task, just concentrate on giving it undivided attention for a set period of time. Consider giving MyTomatoes.com a try. This online time-tracking system based on the Pomodoro Technique allows you to break work into intervals separated by short breaks.
- Make “No” Your New BFF
“It’s only by saying ‘no’ that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.” —Steve Jobs
We promise this will change your life! When it comes to staying focused and increasing productivity, this is one of the most valuable skills you can master. As women, we have a tendency to bite off more than we can chew, and as a result, our priorities often come in second, third, or tenth on the to-do list. Consider this: by saying yes to everyone else, you are saying no to the things that are important to you and your business. Learning to say no will help you create a balance between your commitments and interruptions.
There are always too many tasks to cram into too few hours: these five tips will help you make the most of the time you have available. Don’t forget to schedule some time for you!