My son is about to go off to Uni. I know, I know, how can I even have a son that old? (As one kind friend said). Anyway, we were discussing productivity and he asked me for some advice – much has been written about this I know – but here is my round up of things that work for me:
- Use your most productive hours
Work out which time of day you are most productive (for me it is first thing after breakfast) and make sure you use those prime hours for your most challenging tasks/highest priority items.
- To-do lists
If something takes less than two minutes to complete, do it immediately, if it takes longer put it on a list. I use daily lists (make sure they are realistic 5-8 things max) and I also have task-specific lists, such as ‘Coffee Website’.
- Break tasks down
Sometimes if a task is too big, such as ‘design coffee website’ it will never get done because it is too daunting. Large tasks need to broken down into smaller tasks to make them manageable and realistic, so for example, I would create a list called ‘Coffee Website’ and have smaller tasks such as ‘competitor research’, ‘wireframes’ etc
- Group like-tasks together
Revisiting number 2, it is more efficient to do like-tasks together, so if I have an appointment in a certain part of town, how many other things can I get done while I am over there? For this reason I have a list called ‘When out’ (you see, I am a big fan of the list!)
- Take social media breaks
I use social media and email as a reward for completing tasks, or to create mini-breaks in a larger task, otherwise that stuff can break your flow and disrupt your day like crazy!
- Work on things that ‘pull’ you
I have read some productivity articles which recommend doing the worst thing on your list first, and I do agree to a certain extent, but I am also a fan of doing the one thing you are most inspired to do (such as writing this blog post when I am supposed to be marking papers!). Sometimes you just have to get something out of your system and if you are inspired then that is so much easier!
- If you get stuck, change the scenery
Getting stuck on a problem or task is very frustrating. If this happens to you, get out, leave it, your brain will continue to tick over and mull it over (like a background task). So go for a walk, go for a run, meet a friend for coffee, hell, unload the dishwasher, it doesn’t matter!
- Prioritise tasks that require input from other people
If you are working on something which needs input from someone else (such as client approval on a design) prioritise this and have it sit on their desk rather than yours. You don’t need the pressure of someone hassling you for something (unless you work best this way – I don’t!). You can then get on with something else while you wait for them to get back to you.
- Always have a few ‘mundane’ tasks on your list
I call this ‘knitting’; those things you can get done when you are tired, when you don’t want to think, they are just processes you follow (such as flowing text into a document or unloading the dishwasher!). A little bit of prep today will mean better productivity tomorrow. Also it’s nice to cross these off your list and feel you have achieved something!
- Be flexible
Make sure you are not so scheduled to the hilt that you can’t have fun. When that unexpected call to go to the beach or have coffee with a friend comes make sure there is flexibility in your schedule to take a little time out and enjoy life!
Image ©Clare Davey 2015