1. Time Block
Don’t just think about your to-dos or write a list. Allocate time slots and put your tasks into Google Calendar. Treat each time slot like an appointment to keep you on schedule and avoid procrastination.
2. Create a Uniform
Remember Steve Job’s black turtleneck? Not only did he have a signature and instantly recognizable look, he was helping reduce his decision fatigue. Studies have shown that after a certain point, we start to struggle when it comes to making decisions. So, why not save your brain power for more important work?
It could be as simple as choosing a color palette so you know everything will match. Maybe it’s your thing to wear black, white, grey and red? Or create a capsule work wardrobe so you have limited options that you know you love without the need to look through everything you own each morning.
3. Hit The Unsubscribe Button
How often do you receive emails from mailing lists that you don’t even read? For some reason, most of us don’t actually take a few seconds to unsubscribe even when we have no real intention of reading those emails. Tidy up your inbox by hitting unsubscribe and cut down on the irrelevant emails coming in. Better yet, try Unroll.me to auto unsubscribe you from all the e-newsletter you no longer want to receive.
4. Stop Multi-tasking
Studies have proven that multi-tasking is actually bad for productivity. Instead, focus on one task at a time and you’ll actually get more done. Laser focusing in to one task at a time is working WONDERS for Mary and her clients!
5. Allocate Email Time
Checking emails is a distraction from tasks that need your full attention. Instead set specific times in the day for you to read and respond to emails. Maybe 15 minutes in the morning and another 15 minutes in the afternoon would do the trick. And don’t forget to turn off notifications, too!
6. Make Dinner Go Further
If you struggle to meal prep by spending a whole evening cooking for the week ahead, start off with a more simple process. When you cook dinner, double the ingredients and use the left overs for lunch or dinner on days when you have less time and don’t want to rely on overpriced sandwiches or takeaways.
7. Break Down Exercise Into Bite Sized Chunks
You don’t need to exercise for a whole hour at a time to feel the benefits. Take breaks to go for a walk or do some squats and lunges. Even 10 minutes will do wonders. This is obviously easier if you work from home or have somewhere private in your offices. However, you could get other people in the office involved and hold each other accountable. An added benefit is that you’ll break up the time you spend sitting down which is thought to slow the metabolism.
8. Set Boundaries
When you don’t have set work hours, it is easy for work and stress to creep into the rest of our lives. Others may also expect you to be available at all times whereas having set hours sets fair expectations. It might be difficult, but resist the urge to check email or work social media outside of work hours. This will also help you switch off and truly re-charge when you are trying to relax.
9. Have a Separate Daily To-Do List
If you have what looks like a never ending to-do list that you add to each day, create a separate one each day. Choose the tasks that are most urgent and important for today and create a list without the rest. This will help avoid overwhelm and keep you focused. Mary uses Trello to track her daily to-do list and LOVES the simplicity of this web-based, free tool.
10. Batch Similar Types Of Work
Doing tasks that require similar skills or types of attention will help you be more productive. For example, separate creative tasks like brainstorming new ideas from admin tasks like answering emails or sending out invoices. When you switch between different types of tasks, it takes time to regain your focus so limit how often you need to change.
11. Keep Healthy Snacks In Your Desk Drawer
Reduce the temptation to buy unhealthy treats when you need a snack to help keep you going. Mary loves to munch on raw almonds, sugar snap peas, apples and oatcakes, in particular.
12. Write Efficient Emails
Keep emails focused. Use The Simplifiers method of putting key points and questions in bold text. Use bullet points and give deadlines for when you would like a response or action. Make it easy for the other person to read and understand. Using similar templates also means you get into a flow and spend less time thinking about how to construct individual emails. Remember, if it takes more than 3 sentences to communicate, pick up the phone instead of sending an email.
13. Set Agendas For Meetings
Often we have meetings without planning out an agenda in advance – particularly if there are only 2 or 3 of us attending. Unfortunately, this can result in longer meetings and less being achieved due to lack of focus. Write a simple agenda and you’ll stay on track, save time and remember everything that needs to be discussed.
14. Try The Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro technique is fairly straightforward. The basic rule is that you set a timer to 25 minutes, focus on work until the timer rings and then take a 5 minute break. It improves your focus and helps avoid overwhelm.
15. Create Routines
Morning, night time, your first 30 minutes at your desk. Create routines for different parts of your day and it will feel like you’ve started to automate. There’s no need to think about what you need to do next which reduces decision fatigue and keeps you on track.
16. Ditch Your USB Flash Drive
If you haven’t already, make sure you’re using Onedrive, Google Drive, Dropbox or something similar. Flash Drives can be lost, broken or simply forgotten. Use a method that makes documents easy to access and share.
17. Switch To Audio Books
Want to read more but don’t seem to have the time? Audio books can be listened to during your commute, while you’re walking, and when you’re doing household chores. Make use of that valuable time.
18. Create a Follow-Up Email Folder
Get rid of emails that clog up your inbox by putting them in a designated folder. This makes it easy to find all of the emails you need to take action on without having to sort through emails you’ve kept for reference.
19. Use a Business Card Scanner App
Keep track of all your contacts and get rid of the piles of business cards that inevitably clutter up our desks and purses.
20. Keep a Notepad By Your Bed
For all those thoughts and worries that always seem to drift into our heads and stop us from relaxing. Unlike during the day when you can put notes straight into your phone, you want to avoid looking at screens which stimulate the mind.