Productivity Tips – How to Buckle Down

In a busy workplace, competing demands are a constant. Without a set of organizational tools, you’ll end up working to please whoever bugs you most, which often means losing ground on higher-priority work. It doesn’t have to be that way.  Below are some of my favorite techniques for getting the important stuff done.

Clear your clutter.

Sometimes, when you’ve got too much to do, it’s hard to do anything.  You feel exhausted and defeated. You don’t know where to start. It might sound counter-intuitive, but when I find myself in that situation, the first thing I do is clean my workspace, for three reasons:

  • It gives the illusion of order and control, which immediately calms me down.
  • It gives me a sense of accomplishment, which encourages and motivates me.
  • It allows me to sort through the papers on which I’ve scribbled my to-dos, so I can determine what needs to be added to a proper schedule, and what I can toss in the bin.

Prioritize your tasks.

Once you’ve figured out exactly what needs to be done, put all your tasks in a single list, then prioritize and assign due dates. Productivity software is a great place for your to-dos, especially if it’s in the cloud. That way, you always know where to find your task details. You can rest assured you’re working on what’s most important, and you can stop letting the other stuff suck your mental energy.  It’s in writing. You’ll deal with it at the proper time.

Do one thing at a time.

We’d all love to be able to accomplish several things at once, but numerous studies have exposed multitasking as the productivity killer it really is. The quality of your work suffers, you get less done, and it’s bad for your brain. Give each task the whole of your attention, and when it’s done, move to the next thing.

Reclaim your time.

So how do you keep all your attention on one task when your chatty coworker wants to talk about the weekend, your clients are sending panicked emails, your best friend is texting about the fight she had with her boyfriend, and your teammates need you to proofread this mailout right now?

  • Schedule blocks of time for working on your most important tasks, especially the important-but-not-urgent ones you’re always pulled away from. Make sure the blocks are long enough so you can get into a creative flow. The Client Experience Team at Function Point reserves Tuesday afternoons.
  • Make sure everyone knows how busy and important you are. A friend of mine has a wonderful trick: he has a whiteboard beside his desk, and every day, he writes on it what he’s working on. It makes people think twice about pulling him onto something else. At Function Point, our VP of Technology and Development Services puts a timer on his iPad, and sets the iPad on his desk. We all know that when the timer is on, we’re not to disturb him.

Too often, people think productivity is about working as hard as possible, but if we burn ourselves out, we’re not doing ourselves or our clients any favors.  Getting organized means working smarter instead of harder, so we can do more with less effort.

Amanda Truscott | fp. Onboarding Consultant

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