This is a guest post by Jacob Gube of Six Revisions, a web development and design blog. Six Revisions is rapidly becoming successful by publishing positive and very useful articles.
Having a full time job, running a web development and design blog, and being a co-founding member of a small group of freelancing web professionals, I tend to have a lot of things that need to be done right now. Naturally, I’ve come to develop a handful of habits that helps me manage such a busy lifestyle while living a balanced life that allows me to give enough attention to my personal well-being.
Here, I’d like to share the 9 simple strategies that I use to stay productive, motivated, and happy.
1.) Start with the hard stuff first.
We often tend to put the difficult tasks as a late entry on our to-do list because we just don’t want to deal with it right now. Moreover, we are attracted to the smaller and easier tasks because it gives us a false impression that we’re doing more.
“Saving the worst for last” can prove to be detrimental in our ability to get things done because we’ve already used up our initial energy on non-critical tasks. You’ll also end up constantly thinking and worrying about that dreaded task ahead, causing stress and distraction throughout the workday. Finishing the hard stuff first will give you an early boost in morale and a sense of real accomplishment earlier in the day.
2.) Write down just five tasks to do today.
Often, we measure our productiveness by the length of our task list. The more items we have on the list, the more impressive we appear to be. On the contrary, trimming down your list provides the benefit of you being able to focus on your current tasks and allowing you to easily manage your timeline on these endeavors. You should measure your efficiency and productivity with the quality of the work you’ve done, factored into the equation. A responsibility that’s rushed and poorly finished (read: “half-assed“) can actually be less efficient in the long run because you might have to commit additional time to fix issues and provide additional support and maintenance. In addition, if you’re not overwhelmed with a myriad of things to do, you won’t risk simply giving up and leaving them for another day.
3.) Take a breather regularly.
Give yourself a few minutes at different points of the day to temporarily “power down” and relax. You can take a brisk walk around your office building or you can spend some time catching up with a colleague – just don’t stray off too much. A simple thing I do when I’m stuck on an issue that’s preventing me from progressing is to take a five-minute break away from my work area. When I come back from my mini-break — more often than not – I’ve already figured out the solution without even thinking about it.
4.) Cut down on non-work activities.
The oldest trick in the book when it comes to getting stuff done is to limit activities that don’t relate to the job at hand, yet it’s something we often don’t think about seriously. If you find that you’re constantly running out of time at work, take a day or two to consciously keep tabs on activities that you indulge in but aren’t pertinent to your daily responsibilities. You might be surprised to find that you’ve been checking your favorite websites a tad bit too much or chatting up your co-workers a little too excessively.
5.) Keep a work journal.
A work journal comes in many forms. It can be a simple steno pad, a Word document, your PDA, and you can even use web services such as HiTask. A work journal serves many purposes towards getting stuff done. First, it allows you to better organize your work which leads to a more effective way of planning out your work schedule and prioritizing tasks.
Second, it catalogs the things you’ve done and the problems you’ve solved so that when you encounter the same situation at a later date, you can just look back on your journal entries, saving you time and effort trying to figure out how you addressed a similar task.
Third, it’ll keep you motivated and focused on your daily tasks; I find that when my journal’s light on content, I step it up a notch and get things rolling. Lastly, it’s a way to show yourself that you’ve done a good job.
6.) Work fewer hours.
Again, when we think of productivity, we think putting more hours into our work day yields higher productivity. Less work hours generally means more time to spend on your personal affairs, which leads to better health and a reduction in stress levels – two major variables that cuts back productivity. Sure, staying late at work is good for appearance-sake (showing the boss your dedication), but if it leads to things not getting done, they’ll eventually catch on to your “I’m working hard” bluff.
Working too much can be a never-ending feedback cycle where: you work long hours, which leads to less personal time…which leads to less sleep and time for your personal activities… which leads to tiredness in the morning and less energy to complete tasks at work… which leads to even more work hours… and you see where I’m going with this. If you’re able to control your workday, try to adjust your schedule so that you’re able to enjoy your life outside of work more fully.
7.) Disconnect yourself momentarily.
The modern worker is faced with an ever-growing method of staying connected to other people. Cell phones, emails, social networking sites like Facebook, and web services like twitter that let’s everyone know what you’re doing right now, allow us unprecedented ability to communicate with everyone around the planet (well, minus those few dead-zones on the poles and some shady coordinates in the Bermuda Triangle). This is good for our social life but can lead to distractions at work. When you’ve got to get things done, disconnect for a moment; set a “Busy” status on your instant-messaging client, stop checking your emails every minute and opt to check it once every one or two hours, you’ll find that disconnecting provides you an uninterrupted period of time where you can really focus on the tasks at hand.
8.) Mix it up.
Monotony is a key factor that leads to a work slump. When you’ve been looking at the same Excel spreadsheet for the past few days or working on the same project for months, the reason that might be holding you back from finally delivering is that you’re stuck in a rut. Volunteer to help a co-worker on his project and step away from yours for a short period of time; it might help you break the monotony and it’s a good way to improve your karma at work.
9.) Keep motivating thoughts in mind.
Figure out what motivates you to excel, finish, and progress. Are you a competitive spirit who doesn’t like to be outdone by others? Do you find satisfaction in impressing others with the speed and quality of your methods? Or maybe you have family and loved ones that depend on you to advance in your career. It doesn’t matter what the reason is — find it — and use it as a constant reminder as to why you’re doing what you’re doing