After reading a piece on productivity or time management, have you ever thought, ”But I know that already.” Chances are, that like me, you are aware of many of the tips offered but you tend to forget them. We tend not to remember things that are not uppermost in our minds: hence the need for memos, agendas and to-do lists.
- The first hour of your workday is the most productive.
This is not the first hour after you open your eyes in the morning, or even after you get out of bed. This hour begins once you sit at your desk after your commute of variable duration. If you work from home or for your home, this hour begins once you have taken care of your morning chores, showered, and changed into “work clothes”.
This first hour is precious. It is the time when your mind and body are at their best and will allow you to perform at peak level. This is the time when you should tackle your most important or most difficult tasks. Get the most juice out of this hour (or couple of hours) while you are functioning at your best.
Not only will you get a lot done in this hour, it will also set the tone for the rest of your day. Maybe once you have made it through the most important or difficult part of a project, you find it easy to finish the rest of it. The feeling of having accomplished something early in the workday can give you a feeling of euphoria that carries you through the rest of the day, making you more productive.
If you are in a creative field like writing/journalism, illustration, advertising or design, this technique is for you. During the first hour, your brain is still unhampered by things that will happen during the rest of the day (phone calls, meetings etc.) and will be able to produce fresh ideas and content far more easily.
For those who cannot work on their own first thing, there is still hope. If you are in a meeting, or perhaps taking a class, be confident in the knowledge that this is the time of the day when the best ideas will come forth and you will interact best with other people.
2.Planning is the key
Your daily planner is your best friend. It makes it easier for you to get things done because you don’t have to waste time thinking about what you need to do. All the time management and self -help experts advise you to make a to do list either the night before or first thing in the morning before you begin your work day.
Some people, however, are not list-oriented and do not like to put down their tasks in writing. For them it is good to have a general plan of at least two or three ideas in their minds. Once these are accomplished, one can plan a couple more and so forth.
3.Road map your day.
In addition to, or instead of a checklist of tasks, it is very useful to have a general structural outline of your entire day. Some people call this time blocking. I prefer the analogy of a road map with destinations along the way.
It is good in your mind’s eye or on paper, to map out the whole day: work, grocery shopping, house work, car pool duties, entertaining, self-care etc. This helps to get all aspects of life covered and helps organise your day.
4.Back up plans
Picture this scenario:
You have made your to do list, road mapped your day and are all set for maximum productivity. Just as you have got things running smoothly, your child or elderly parent falls ill and you have to take the day off. “The best laid plans of mice and men” go out the window.
All is not lost if you have a Plan B. The aforementioned parent or child, once you have made them comfortable, may fall asleep for a couple of hours. You have an empty block of time: you can spend it worrying over how you will now have a backlog at work, or you can utilise it if you have a back up plan. Your back up plan may involve long neglected household chores, or some office work that can be done at home.
I am not suggesting that you live in constant dread of calamities. I just want you to always have an alternative plan handy. I speak from personal experience, as these days I often have to re-schedule my day and find it useful to have not just Plan B but a Plan C as well.
Another scenario: You have been on the go since you got out of bed whether at home, or at college, or at work. You suddenly find that it is almost dinner time. The day has passed in a blur, but you feel that you have not really accomplished anything.
This is the time to sit in your favourite armchair with a hot or cold drink and a paper and pencil. Make an inventory of all the things you have done since you got up in the morning. This includes phone calls, your workday and household chores. It also includes unexpected visitors or trips to the grocery store etc. Put down everything you did, however mundane. You will find that the list is quite long.
Now take a deep breath and look at all that you have accomplished. This might not be what you set out to do but it is quite a lot. This kind of stock taking, once in a while, is quite helpful. It is particularly useful for people without conventional nine to five jobs as well as stay at home moms and those who work from home.
Reading through this list of hacks or tips, have you thought to yourself, ”This is nothing new; I do this already.” If you are interested in getting more out of your day, you probably practice one or more of these tips already.
In the “daily grind” or rat race” or whatever other cliché one may use to describe the frenetic pace of modern life, we tend to forget many skills that we know. Very focused and organised people probably do all this as reflex actions. For lesser mortals like me, this kind of mental prodding is very useful.
What are your favourite productivity hacks? What secrets do you have to get more juice out of your day? I would love to hear about them in the comments section below.