You’re sat at your desk and an hour has passed and still you stare at the screen, mindlessly sorting through unimportant emails and checking your social media feed. We’ve all been there. Not only is it soul-destroying but it’s such a waste of our most precious resource: time.
If you’re ready to give procrastination the heave-ho and become super-productive, give these habits a try:
Work backwards: As a huge advocate for visioning, first and foremost have a clear idea of what you’re striving for. Don’t wait for New Year to write your goals. Make sure you have your top 3-5 goals written down and placed somewhere you’ll be reminded often. From your big goals, decide what milestones are between your goal and where you are today. Write those down and put a deadline against them. Then dig a little deeper: for each milestone, work out all the baby steps you need to take and write down all the tasks that will move you in the right direction. Any one big goal can seem overwhelming (and will remain untouched on your daily to-do list) until you break down into manageable chunks that feel achievable.
You may find my free Big Picture Planner useful in creating a step-by-step goal visioning and action plan.
Free your mind: Stop wasting your brain-power by using it to store a mental to-do list. Reserve its energy for the big tasks and goals and instead create a system that works for you. Have one place where you can ‘pool’ all tasks that you need to do. That’s all tasks, great and small: from the dentist appointment you need to schedule, the anniversary break you want to book, to the business proposal you need to complete this week. Have one ‘catch-all’ that you can access at any time. It might be that a pen and paper works for you, or there’s a huge choice of online systems and apps you could use. I use ToDoIst as the home for all my tasks: I love that I can group tasks by category (home chores, family, business projects), that it links with Google Calendar and that it has both an iPad and iPhone app version too.
Plan it: Have a plan before the day begins. Know which tasks are your priorities. Don’t be lured into completing only those tasks which feel urgent, often the priorities of someone else’s agenda. Allocate some time to those non-urgent but very important tasks that will move you towards your big goals.
Listen to your body: Know when your body has the most energy and dedicate that time of day to your priorities. If you’re an early bird, use the time before the day begins to focus on your biggest task at hand. If you’re a night owl, use your energy stores to push onwards with your biggest project. Use your less effective/creative time of day to complete the less mind-intensive tasks such as returning phone calls, writing emails, checking in on social media.
Turn off the ‘ping’: Simply put, don’t be distracted by the lure of distractions. If you can’t resist the temptation of the alert to tell you an email is waiting, or the ‘pop’ of an instant message, turn off all alerts until your designated email/social media time.
Know your strengths (and your weaknesses): Don’t spend hours aimlessly trying to do something if it is beyond your capability. Yes, it may cost you money to outsource it but you’re spending another valuable resource ineffectively, your time. Know your strengths and dedicate your time to using your time productively. Where you can, delegate the rest.
Take care: Make yourself, your wellbeing, a priority. Working away until the wee hours may feel productive but it’s going to take its toll on your health and wellbeing. Get the sleep you need, eat the foods that give you energy, keep hydrated and take breaks. In short, all the things we know we should do, but often overlook.
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. What tips for being productive can you share with us? What’s the one thing that distracts you? How do you avoid procrastinating?