It seems that our days are getting ever shorter. There just isn’t enough time in a day to get everything done. More often than not, we find ourselves staying late at work or taking work home with us. Computers and smartphones are helpful tools but also are huge distractions. We live in Hawaii. Let’s spend more time at the beach and less time being controlled by Facebook, email, and interruptions. Below is a list of 5 tips to getting more done every day.
Use the 80/20 rule
Founded by an Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto, the 80/20 rule states that 80 percent of results come from only 20 percent of inputs. The key is to figure out the important 20% and make sure that those tasks are accomplished every day. Then look at the remaining items and figure out which tasks can be eliminated and which you can delegate. When I first moved to Tokyo, I worked as an international admissions counselor. Being fresh out of college, I struggled to keep up with the pace of my work. After discovering the 80/20 rule, I realized that the majority of my results came from direct calls with students. I increased the number of my calls and eliminated several of my daily tasks. The two biggest time wasters were email and meetings. I stopped replying to emails that weren’t absolutely necessary, avoided meetings whenever possible. As a result, I ended up as one of the top admissions counselors and was usually finished with my work by mid-day.
Ask yourself what would happen if you stopped doing a task altogether. If it’s not providing towards part of the 80%, it may not be as big of a deal as you think. The 80/20 rule is an important part of effective marketing and web design. We only have so much time in one day. If Facebook is bringing in 80% of your website leads, it may make sense to eliminate or reduce some of your other social media endeavors and focus on your more productive platform. One of the key aspects to driving traffic to your website is a good blog. Writing helpful, quality content on a regular basis is one of the best ways to get more traffic. Unfortunately, blogging is often one of the tasks that get pushed to the bottom of the list.
I touched on this in the above section but I feel it needs its own category. One of the problems with not being able to get enough done is that we try to do too much. A lot of the things we do don’t help the bottom line. In addition, a lot of the things we do cause us more stress than happiness. Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter may be a fun way to waste time, but what could you get done if you weren’t constantly watching videos or looking away every couple minutes at a new update. Make a list of the things that make you productive and the things that actually make you happy. Just for a week, stop doing the other stuff and see what happens. You might be surprised.
Stop Multitasking and Start Batching
Multitasking was a huge thing in the 90s and early 2000s. I remember that I had it on my resume after college and often promoted my multitasking ability in interviews. Unfortunately, research has shown that there really is no such thing as multitasking. Multitasking is really switching back and forth between tasks. Each time we switch our brain pauses to figure out what we were doing before we stopped. Some people are better than others but it is still time wasting.
Instead, it is much more effective and efficient to focus on and finish a single task at a time. You can easily test this yourself. Time yourself writing an email while also typing a message on your phone at the same time. Now time how long it takes to finish the email first and then type the message on your phone. You’ll be surprised how many times a day we do this.
You can further this effectiveness by batching. By batching together similar tasks, your brain is able to transition easier. If you just finished replying to emails, your brain is in a writing mindset. Writing a blog would be an easy transition.
According to recent research, the human brain can generally focus for about 15 minutes. After 15 minutes we start losing focus and are more easily distracted. Taking breaks gives your brain a chance to process the information you are taking in and to reset your focus time. It also rewards you for completing tasks.
Avoid Procrastination with the Pomodoro Technique. AKA set a timer.
If a task seems too large or too difficult, we may put it off until a later date. Instead, use the Pomodoro technique to break up a task into smaller segments. Using what we learned about focus above, set a timer for about 15-20 minutes and get to work. Get as much done as you can in that 15 minutes. When the time is up, take a small break and then start again. Breaking large tasks up into smaller pieces like this can make them easier to tackle. As much as possible, keep trying to work on the same task until it is finished.
Bonus Tip: Remove Distractions
Even if you have a strong focus, bells and notifications going off constantly will waste your time. Turn off audible bells and pop-up notifications. Checking and replying to email only once or twice a day will save you a ton of time. Don’t let your email, Facebook, or other programs pull you in with notifications. I recommend turning them off.
Find your Productive Time
For me, it is early in the morning. My mind is clear and I am very motivated first thing in the morning. I start work at 6 am when no one else is around to avoid distractions. Having a distraction free environment makes a huge difference. I can get so much more done the first thing in the morning compared to later in the day. Those few distraction-free hours are worth at least double their time later in the day. Maybe more.
One very important part of this is to make sure that you have a clear list of the most important things you want to work on so you don’t waste this time. I generally write a list of things to do at the end of each day. I go over the list in the morning and can immediately get started.