7 Secrets to a Productive Work Day
A few simple measures taken at the start of the day can make all the difference to how productive and how calm you are by the end of it. Here are some tips to help you get your workday off on the right foot.
1. Limit Start-Up Time
Don’t spend more than 15 minutes getting coffee, settling in, looking at newspapers or reading emails. You are often at your freshest and most productive at the beginning of the day. A prolonged morning routine takes the positive edge off and makes your afternoon more stressful. Better to jump into the important work quickly and read the non-essential emails after you’ve covered lots of ground.
2. Write Two To-Do Lists
The first should contain everything you need to get done soon. It should be a comprehensive list of short, medium and long-term projects and work, and you should constantly adjust it. The second to-do list should be what you can reasonably expect to get done today, and today only. Be fair to yourself. Factor in the likely disruptions, meetings, phone calls and travel hassles. Make the tasks as specific as possible and assign the amount of time you plan to devote to it. Print the list out on brightly coloured paper; this keeps it from getting lost on your desk. By prioritizing your work and breaking it down into small, achievable pieces, you greatly increase the chances that you will be satisfied with your day’s accomplishments.
3. Assess Your Day
Take a few moments to assess the day’s emotional challenges. Almost as important as your to-do list is a ‘be-prepared-for’ list. Make an inventory of tough phone calls, boring meetings, challenging customers, frustrating red tape, infuriating rush-hour commutes, droning detail work and other mental challenges you are likely to face. Then accept that they are inevitable and prepare yourself to get through them without anger, frustration or impatience. Remember: it’s usually not work that gets us down, but rather the challenges that lie along the periphery of the job.
4. Schedule Social Time
You probably work with people whom you like and know well. In fact, camaraderie is what makes many jobs great. So build a ritual into each morning in which you spend a few moments of social time with colleagues. Make it short, at an appropriate time, and don’t let the day go by without it. But avoid personal phone calls if you can; they can unexpectedly turn into big time-eaters.
5. Schedule in Some Reading Time
There’s no job that doesn’t require at least some reading, be it about the company, the industry, the marketplace, the economy. Create a ritual that gives you 15 minutes or so to review newspapers, electronic newsletters, industry magazines, company memos and other reading. Be disciplined – this is not the time to do online shopping. You’ll find that being up-to-date with your business has many advantages, just one of them being a sense of control about your own situation.
7. Set Your Alarm
Set a quiet alarm on your watch or computer to go off every hour. This will be your signal throughout the day to take a break, get up and stretch, walk around the building, etc. But, in an open-plan office, for instance, keep volume low so that it doesn’t upset your colleagues.