Many successful people have developed methods that allow them to get as much as 90% of their work done before they take their lunch break. That doesn’t mean they are up before dawn or that they lock themselves in an office every morning to get things accomplished. They have simply found ways to streamline their tasks and get more done in a shorter period.
1. Do All Your Writing in the Morning
There are studies that say writing helps focus your brain and increase your productivity. That’s why many time-management experts suggest writing things down in order to remember them. If writing reports, memos, or contracts is part of your daily routine, consider doing all your writing in the morning. Your quality of writing will improve, and you’ll find that the rest of your day flows much better as well.
2. Set an Alarm to Take Breaks
It may seem counterproductive to take a break in order to be more productive, but the fact is that stopping periodically is the best way to recharge and create better focus for the task at hand. Set an alarm, either on a clock in your office, on your watch, or on your cell phone, for the same time each day. When the alarm goes off, stop, stretch, walk around the office, or go get a cup of coffee. Limit your break to only five or 10 minutes to avoid getting distracted, but even that short break will improve your attention span.
3. Plan Your Day the Night Before
Every night, before you go to bed, list all the tasks you want to do the next day and what time you plan to work on them. Be sure to allow adequate time for each task, and don’t overload the schedule if at all possible. As you finish a task the next day, cross it off to give yourself a feeling of accomplishment. If you don’t complete a task, make it the first item on your list for the next day and do nothing else until it is done.
4. Don’t Linger Over Decisions
When you are faced with a decision during the course of a normal workday, make it within 60 seconds and then don’t second-guess it. The majority of the time, your initial reaction to a problem that must be solved is the correct response, but we tend to overthink decisions until no decision is made, or it takes much longer than necessary to reach one.
5. Use the 80/20 Rule
Research has shown that only 20% of what you do each day produces 80% of the results. Therefore, eliminating the tasks that don’t matter can increase your productivity. For your next project, break it down into steps, removing tasks that won’t be productive until you end up with the minimal tasks required to get the project completed. More than likely, you will eliminate 80% of the tasks but achieve much more productivity from your team.
6. Ignore Email and Voice Mail Until After Lunch
By checking your email and voice mail first thing each day, you allow others to dictate what you accomplish in the morning. Instead, eat a healthy breakfast, and read the newspaper or work out during the time you would normally be checking email. If possible, remove your phone’s connections for email and only check it at work or at a computer. This forces you to focus on the information in the email when you have the files, documents, and information you need at hand. In addition, improving email etiquette can help improve productivity. Instead of copying multiple people in an email, use the blind copy function when you reply to an email with multiple recipients. If an email chain goes beyond two replies, pick up the phone.
7. Stop Multitasking
Instead of trying to do 10 things at once, focus on one task at a time. Changing tasks more than 10 times in one day actually lowers your productivity rate. When you are working on a task, focus on getting it done before moving on to another. The same applies to things that need to be done at home. If you are dusting the bedroom, don’t get distracted by the dirty dishes in the sink when you carry something to the kitchen. Finish one task before starting another.
8. Keep Your Desk Clutter-Free
Clutter leads to distraction. If you arrive at the office to the sticky note you left the day before that reminds you to call a co-worker, that sticky note is going to draw your attention, not the task you scheduled when you planned your day the night before. Each night, before leaving the office, organize your desk, placing items in bins, baskets, or files in the order you hope to tackle them. Take that sticky note with you, add it to your to-do list for the next day, and then toss it in the trash. A clean working environment helps you think more clearly.
9. Get Up Early
Although many people will argue that they are not “morning people” and simply can’t get up any earlier, the fact is they can. If you currently get up at seven and are finding yourself scurrying around in the morning to get everything done, back the alarm up to six. It may mean an earlier bedtime, but most people find that they are more productive getting up earlier than working later.
10. Eliminate Distractions
There are many ways to eliminate distractions, both at home and the office. Purchase a set of noise-canceling headphones. Inform co-workers that at certain times in the morning you are not to be disturbed, by phone or in person. Shut your office door. Turn off the radio or television. Although you may not think these are distractions, they can make it easy for your mind to wander and take your focus off the tasks at hand.
These 10 suggestions will help you be more productive and get the majority of your work done before you leave for lunch. Although taking the afternoon off every day may not be an option, at least you know you will leave the office feeling less stressed and more in control.
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