Doing things is not the same as getting things done.
Many of us have the urge to reach for more caffeine, work longer hours to get it all done, and feel defeated before even reaching the computer in the morning. That’s just the reality of modern workloads, right?
Well, it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, it’s possible to get more done in a day without feeling overwhelmed or defeated by the herculean effort you put in. When you follow these simple suggestions, you’ll be able to reclaim more of your energy and maybe even take some much needed time away from your work on a regular basis.
Start with a Full Tank
The most important piece of the productivity puzzle is how you enter the ring, are you already tired and zoning out? It’s totally normal to have off days and to feel burned out if you’ve been going at it without proper rest for a while. Do you ever wonder why you get more done after you come back from a vacation? It’s because your tank is full, and you’re able to work at an improved energy level.
What if you can’t take a vacation right now, or you’ve got a pressing project that needs to get done? Take time away from work by fully unplugging in the evenings, and getting a solid 8 or 9 hours of sleep. Most of us run on far too little sleep, and the day to day meetings, tasks, and other demands can really take a toll.
Another idea is to take a fully unplugged day per week, like Saturday or Sunday, where you don’t check email, social media, or do any work. It can be difficult if you’re not used to it, but you’ll come back with more energy for your work every time.
As humans, we constantly overestimate what we can achieve in one day, and underestimate what we can achieve in one year. Set big goals for yourself in life, but set small achievable goals for your day to day activities.
Breaking down bigger projects and tasks helps you do the hardest thing of all: start it. Once you start on a project, you’re more likely to finish and to feel good about your progress. This is more motivating than writing down the same task you were supposed to do yesterday on tomorrow’s to-do list because you underestimated how big it was. I’ve been there, with a big task showing up on my to-do list day after day for weeks, when I should have just taken the first step, then the next, etc.
Focus on Fewer Projects at a Time
This one is important, and we’re all guilty, but once you start putting it into place you won’t look back. To explain this idea, let me use the analogy of a highway. When you have a highway with just a few cars on it, everyone can go fast and get to their destination. But once you add more cars, things start to slow down until you get a traffic jam.
It’s the same with the number of projects we take on at any one time. If you’re trying to work on too many projects at once, they will each progress at a slower pace than they would have if you had taken them on one after another.
This doesn’t mean that you can only have one project at a time, but it does mean not biting off more than you can chew. Do you really need to have 5 major endeavours happening simultaneously? Or can you schedule 1 for the next few weeks, the next two in one month, and the final two a few months from now?
Once I really “got” this in my life, I started to put everything on a big wall calendar in my office so I could see what major projects I had in the works during each part of the year, and it changed everything.