When it comes to work, it can often feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day. Time flashes by, the to-do list grows longer, and big, daunting tasks get pushed back as smaller chores arise. The result? Stress and anxiety, which can affect home and leisure time as well as the quality of your work.
Fortunately, there are ways to set yourself up for success. Everyone's workday is different, but by improving your working approach, you can maintain more consistent focus, allowing you to tackle that to-do list in no time. Read on for a guide to staying productive and achieving your goals.
One task at a time
The modern working environment can be difficult to navigate. Emails and app notifications come in constantly, and big projects and small daily chores press in with equal urgency. It’s tempting to respond to this situation by juggling tasks, in the hopes of finishing everything quicker. In fact, the best way to keep your focus and productivity high is to avoid multitasking. Balancing too much at once leaves us vulnerable, draining energy reserves and slowing things down. Setting priorities and then tackling tasks one at a time can lead to better – and faster – results.
In the age of flexible working, it can be easy to slip into bad habits. Sometimes, the freedom to work at all hours is a trap: you feel like you’re chasing behind your day instead of getting on top of it, and work can spill over into leisure time. The solution? Make a plan and stick to it. Try sketching your day out in blocks, making sure to set aside enough time for all your responsibilities. Most importantly, plan based on your working style. If you get your best focus in the morning, then aim to tackle your biggest tasks then. Your inbox can wait for the afternoon slump!
Recharge your focus
Your attention span decreases with every task completed. Whether you’ve created something from scratch, hosted a meeting, or scrolled through a feed, the activity drains your concentration, making it tougher to focus as the day wears on. Luckily, this focus can be recharged by taking time-outs and changing scenery – perhaps with a walk in the park. On busy days it can feel like you don’t have time for a break. This feeling is deceptive. That break could actually save you time, allowing you to return to work refreshed and more productive. Try treating your attention as a daily budget you shouldn’t exceed. Spend it wisely, avoid wasting it on unnecessary distractions – and make sure to replenish it when you can.
Creativity is key to a productive day. Tricky problems are often solved with a flash of inspiration, and new ideas come from imaginative daydreaming. This inspiration can strike in unexpected ways, appearing at odd times and disappearing quickly. Use a capture tool like a notebook or screenshot app to keep on top of your ideas. By quickly recording important thoughts and information as they arise, you can file them away for later without disrupting your current task. That way, you won’t lose track of your good ideas – nor of the task at hand.
Get your space right
Technology allows us to work anywhere these days, but not all spaces encourage focus. Tidiness is preferable to clutter, and a quiet, calm space is better than one full of noisy distractions. This rule applies to your physical and visual space, but also to sound. Think about what you can hear around you and how it impacts your feelings. Cultivate an ambiance that supports you, and you’ll find it much easier to attain focus. Of course, we can’t control everything in our environment, but we can still set ourselves up for the best.