Usually when people hear the word prioritise, they vaguely understand it because they aren’t sure how to effectively prioritise their tasks. An easy way of doing this is literally making a to-do list. On this list, jot down things you need to do from highest priority/importance to least. Also keep in mind deadlines and time you’ll need to spend on each one. It’s best to keep the list short and sweet, long lists are a trigger for anxiety followed by procrastination.
Tip: Train yourself to be more disciplined by keeping an eye on how long it takes you to finish a task without interruption and set that as a goal or the standard time frame to work within.
Work In Small Units
You might have a to-do list written down but the tasks you need to finish are too big to figure out where to start. Don’t indulge procrastination by wasting time trying to figure out a starting point. Instead, break down your tasks into smaller tasks and start from there. An example of this would be if you want to write a novel, break it down to character development, story and plot, themes and motifs, introduction and so on. This way, your brain isn’t overwhelmed and won’t go into stagnation mode.
Tip: If you find yourself stuck and stagnant on one task, move on to the next one instead of wasting time trying to force inspiration out. You can always go back on your list.
If you’re a university student or former student you probably recall people coming into exam venues with a pack of sweets, dried fruit or nuts. Keeping your energy levels up helps you stay focused and productive. Other than this, keeping a balanced diet is the most crucial part of productivity. Make sure you have a healthy and balanced breakfast, lunch and dinner, then snack in-between to maintain high energy levels. And of course, hydrate!
Tip: Sweets may not be such a good idea. To keep your figure while keeping your energy levels up, try healthy snacking instead.
With deadlines and work pressures it becomes all too simple to stay planted at your desk the whole day. This might not sound so bad but it’s terrible for your health to sit for so long and it doesn’t do any favours to your productivity. Take a five minute break every hour or a 10 minute break every two hours to just walk around, do some stretches or whatever else you like. The idea is to just stand up and do something active to wake your body and mind up.
Tip: For more information on how to be healthy at your desk, click here.
Ever noticed how some tasks go by faster than others when you conduct them while doing something else at the same time? For instance, when you prepare dinner and the task seems to go by smoothly, you finish feeling fulfilled and productive because you did it while listening to music. Or when doing your laundry while listening to an audio book instead of watching TV. The brain isn’t so fixated on the low attention task at hand, therefore multitasking helps hid boredom hence making you more productive.
Tip: Multitasking works effectively with tasks that require low attention. However, if our tasks require your undivided attention, it is best to single-task and focus on one thing at a time.
Create a schedule for yourself stating when to do certain things and have them completed by. Things such as your bedtime, wake-up time and work time should be regular and help you increase your productivity levels. Too much variation on such examples can be more detrimental to your productivity than anything else because fatigue and lack of structure deter your focus. However, other things within your day can be left to explore variation and flexibility.
Tip: Have a outline of set time frames to build a sense of routine, then you can fill in and play around with everything else to avoid stagnation or creative blocks.
Sometimes we struggle to actually get started on a task because unlike primary school, there isn’t a gold star waiting to be stuck on our foreheads once we finished. Though discipline plays a big role in this, it can be beneficial to give yourself small rewards as incentives to complete each task or boost you to start a task. For example, most people simply cannot start the day without a cup of coffee, much like Popeye needs his spinach before he saves Olive Oyl from Bluto.
Tip: If you have favourite sweets and treats you absolutely adore, be your own mother or teacher and only have them as a reward for having successfully finished a task.
As with most things that require us to use our brains or bodies, getting started is always the hardest part. Don’t think about it too much, take the plunge and just start!