Today’s professionals are busier than ever, despite the many tech tools now available to automate activities. As technology has made things easier, it has also provided a wide variety of distractions that seem to pull people away from the tasks they need to complete. The more hectic your workday gets, the more stress piles up, leaving you frustrated and unproductive.
This type of stress is nothing new. For decades, productivity experts have offered tips on streamlining processes to get more done. The following 15 tips are designed for the tools professionals have available today, mixed in with the kind of practical advice that has helped busy professionals for years.
Use a time tracker
A vital step in managing your schedule is first understanding it. Use time-tracking software to monitor your daily activities and identify areas where you can save time.
Write things down
When things get busy, it can be easy for things to slip through the cracks. Keep a reminder file on your smartphone that makes it easy for you to jot things down as you’re going through your day.
Keep an up-to-date calendar
It’s important to have a calendar available with updated information. A wall calendar near your desk can provide an overview of your month so that you don’t forget anything.
As you glance at your calendar each day, chances are you see a long list of things you likely can’t get done in a day. Instead, prioritize your to-do list to ensure you complete most important items first—and use your negotiation skills to deprioritize tasks with flexible deadlines.
If your calendar is packed with work activities, you’ll put yourself at risk of burning out quickly. It might seem counter intuitive to put downtime in your schedule each day, but it’ll pay dividends for your mental, emotional, and even physical wellbeing.
Don’t skimp on sleep
Studies have shown that a lack of sleep has a direct impact on productivity. Try to squeeze in the recommended eight hours of high-quality sleep every night, even if you’re busy.
Before your day begins, block out your time, preferably using an erasable calendar. This will give you the flexibility to shift things around as emergencies and new priorities arise.
Overachievers can often take on too much responsibility, even if they have a team of capable employees at their disposal. Review your daily task list and identify things you can delegate.
If you don’t have a team, consider hiring contractors or freelancers to help. A virtual assistant can manage your schedule, or a social media manager can keep up with your Twitter and Facebook accounts.
If you monitored your daily activities, you’d likely find a great deal of time is spent repeatedly checking email and surfing the internet. Set large increments of time aside where you stay offline and work.
Wake up earlier
If you often find yourself working late into the evening, you may be taking the wrong approach. Instead, set your alarm ahead and start working 30 minutes to an hour earlier than usual.
Do dreaded items first
It can be tempting to procrastinate tasks you’re dreading. However, if you do those items first, you’ll be able to tackle everything else on your list with enthusiasm. After all, as French writer Nicolas Chamfort put it (and not Mark Twain, contrary to popular belief), if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long.
Keep files organized
Unless you’re a naturally organized person, you can waste hours each week searching for paperwork you need. Invest in file cabinets to keep your physical files organized, as well as keeping your home and office tidy using storage racks.
Just say no
It can be difficult to turn down requests, especially if they might lead to opportunities. However, if you’re over-committing yourself, you may not be able to perform to the best of your abilities. Learn when to say no to requests.
When your to-do list is long, it can be tempting to try to do multiple things at once. However, you can get much further by focusing on one task at a time. In addition, as you cross each item off your list, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment.
A busy workday is a sign you’re on the right track. But it also can lead to burnout and unhealthy stress. Learning to manage your time can help you get more done each day without stretching yourself too thin.
Got any scheduling tips of your own? Be sure to let us know—and don’t forget to follow us on social media for other great workplace insights, including 5 ways to boost your meeting productivity.