4 Ways to Get More Done in Less Time
Many of us spend our days trying to cross off tasks on our to-do list, and yet, at the end of the day, it still feels like we haven’t done enough, or worse, haven’t been efficient. Here are four tips to help you be more productive in your workday:
First, align your most important work with your body clock which refers to the natural 24-hour sleep-wake cycle we experience. Everyone has a unique body clock that influences the peaks and troughs of energy we feel throughout our day. For instance, around 10% of people feel most energetic in the mornings while 20% do their best work at night. Most of us lie somewhere in the middle, and experience peak alertness before noon, an energy dip after lunch, and a second wind in the late afternoon. So, to get more done in less time, pay attention to your body clock and structure your tasks around your energy peaks.
Next, plan your day the night before. A productive day doesn’t just happen. It requires meticulous planning. To take control of your day, begin by writing down your top three priorities at the end of your previous workday. When you write down what you intend to do tomorrow – along with when and where you intend to do it – you’ll be more likely to achieve your goals. Under the first priority, add a reminder that “until this first task is finished, everything else is a distraction.”
Then, plan your day at a micro-level, hour-by-hour. Simply writing down that you plan to work out between 7am to 8am can make you more likely to do it. You can also include “snack sized to-dos” in your plan... these are tasks you can do in between meetings as they only require a few minutes, like making a phone call or replying to emails.
Third, develop different rituals for different types of work. Being deliberate about where you work adds structure to your day... so, deliberately link different locations to different types of tasks. Then, think about the main categories of work that you do, and start to create rituals around them. The rituals might involve your physical location or the time of day you take on a certain task. For instance, you may prefer clearing your inbox while sitting outside on a sunny porch, and prefer doing your Zoom calls indoors in the quiet of your workspace.
And finally, avoid being fully booked. It’s easy to assume that the most productive people are booked solid for 100% of their day. But research indicates the opposite. If you have your entire day blocked out, it leaves no room for real life to happen. If your child needs your attention even briefly, for example, or if you get an unexpected phone call from a colleague, it can have a negative impact on your mental health and on the schedules of other people. So, if your calendar looks full, deliberately schedule time to do nothing. This will serve as a buffer for things that run over or crop up unexpectedly.
Productivity isn’t about how many hours you work, or how many to-dos you’re able to cross off your list. It’s about doing what you need to do in order to work in an effective and time efficient manner. And that starts with being intentional about your day. Don’t leave it to chance – use these tips to get started.