Set Alarms for EverythingWhen it comes to distraction, there’s nothing like having alarms go off while you’re working, urging you to do something else. It’s a great way to break your concentration and ensure that you have a persistent feeling of panic throughout the day.
Alarms are for events you can’t miss, not for tasks. The Pomodoro technique may be an exception if you’re using it to eliminate anxiety instead of create it. For everyday work, though, I’ve found it’s important to train myself to check my schedule consciously, and allow myself to dictate any anxiety surrounding due dates. Chances are you’re not going to forget the looming task due by the end of the day, and having your next task ding at you isn’t going to help get either one done.
Be SocialWe all need a break now and then. Check Twitter, scan Facebook, and maybe fire off a few emails and texts to see how friends are doing. Keeping all of those outlets available all day is a guaranteed way to ensure that you’re never fully focused on what you’re doing. Chat rooms and IM are even better; it’s like a water cooler that comes to you.
When it’s time to work, shut off your Twitter client, turn off notifications on your mobile devices and close all those browser tabs that are going to tempt you into just “checking.” Go “dark” wherever you can. It seems obvious, yes, but I’m betting that I’m not alone in wavering on this.
Lump Your Tasks TogetherIf you want to end a day feeling like you accomplished nothing, make sure that all of the items on your to do list are “big picture” projects. Overarching concepts with no sequential set of smaller tasks are a perfect way to make any job seem overwhelming.
If, instead, you want to make progress and see results, you might want to break that “year end report” task into a series of smaller tasks that you can actually tackle. Mark them off one at a time, and keep moving forward. At the end of the day you’ll be rewarded by a series of checkmarks and an easy way to see how far you have (or don’t have) to go to finish the project.
Say “Yes” to EverythingIf you say “yes” whenever someone asks you if you can “fit it in” or help out with something, you’ll easily ensure that you don’t get done what you already need to, with the added bonus of not helping anybody out successfully.
If you’re a little more thoughtful with what you agree to, you can keep life manageable and, ultimately, get more done. Remember, saying “yes” to one thing means saying “no” to something else, and vice versa.
Being constantly busy is not a sign of productivity. Being able to finish what’s on your plate and take a break is.
Don’t SleepWorking all night to finish a project can accomplish great things. For me, even the next day is productive. Then, I lose two, maybe three days of productivity as my body and brain crash and struggle to catch up. Assuming that your life is a series of tasks and not one big, end-all job, maintaining a sleep schedule and finding a healthy equilibrium is vital to actually doing anything.
Set a bedtime. It doesn’t have to be strict, but let your mind stop for a while. Learning to clear my mind at the end of a busy day is a skill I honed, and I have no regrets. More often than not, my mind solves problems that were slowing me down while I sleep. Letting your subconscious do some of the lifting can help your conscious thoughts be even more productive.