At the end of the work week, you may look back exhausted at the 60 hours or more that you put in at the office and be dismayed at all the work you actually didn’t get done. But you were there every day, from sun up to sun down. You had meetings, company lunches, hours of work at your desk each day. Why couldn’t you get it all done? Are you feeling less than satisfied with what you’ve been accomplishing? It’s likely not your lack of drive that’s to blame. It’s more likely that you’re unproductive, failing to make the best use of your time. One of the keys to success is using your time wisely, rather than spinning your wheels and exhausting yourself. So, how can you be more productive in your work and life?
Set Clear Goals
Take some time to plan out your goals, or clarify and adjust the ones you already have. Seeing them on paper can push those goals into reality rather than something that’s just floating around your head. Set both personal and business goals for the long and short term. Identify the goal, be specific, and set a time frame. This will help keep you accountable. To avoid procrastination, set clear and concise time frames for an added challenge, suggests Forbes. Don’t forget to add in any setbacks you may predict that could roll back your goal.
Stop the Excuses and Distractions
Setbacks and distractions have the power to weaken your goals and defeat you. Come up with a strategy that allows you to push through those challenges, past the pain, and into the pleasure of accomplishment. Adopt a laser focus to that one task, every day, reaching your goal closer and closer. Set priorities within the task. What has to be done first? What can wait a bit? Think about what you are currently doing: does it serve your goal or pull you away from it?
Embrace Your Strengths
Only YOU know YOU! If you do your best work first thing in the morning, follow that urge. If you do better late at night, burn the midnight oil and take advantage of your creative juices. Perhaps you do your best work after your fitness routine. Do you work best from home or does the chaos of a busy office fuel you? Whatever it is, identify the environments in which you thrive and get to work. Don’t fight them. Working against your instincts will burn your energy and productivity.
Set Aside Time
Each day, set aside time for extreme focus for at least 90 minutes. Put away the phone, don’t touch your email, tell your co-workers not to disturb. Use this block of time to work solely on your goal. Once finished, that sense of accomplishment will drive you forward another day.
You may think because you’re multi-tasking at work while eating lunch at your desk, you’re getting more stuff done. The opposite is actually true. According to Success, studies show that one 30-minute break per day is not as beneficial as five-minute walking breaks every hour, which increases energy, improves mood, sharpens focus and reduces feelings of fatigue that can set in during the afternoon. Other research has shown that eating lunch anywhere but at our desks allows us to better cope with workplace stress, with greater energy to finish out the workday.
Shut Down at the End of the Day
There are only so many productive hours in a day. You’ll know when you hit your limit. Respect it. Go home and unplug. Shut off your mind and vow not to work until morning. Everyone needs a refresh. Home, friends, family, game night, dinner out: these all provide ways for us to relax and reboot for the next day so we can meet tomorrow’s challenges head on. Develop a mental shut down of your day; if you don’t, the stress of unresolved work will linger in your mind well beyond quitting time. To cut down on stress and provide closure for your day, take a few minutes to write in a journal about what you achieved. This will give you a sense of progress, which has been shown to act as a powerful motivator at work. It also instills a sense of control — something else that can give you mental closure.
Remember, progress is power! It is, in fact, our biggest driving force, fueling us to achieve what we once thought was impossible. Take these steps to greater productivity and you can experience higher levels of fulfillment and achievement.