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Last Updated on December 1, 2020

How to Get Things Done: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to Get Things Done: A Step-by-Step Guide

There are always those days when 24 hours a day seem too little for you to finish all that you wanted to accomplish. The biggest question for a person with a lot of responsibilities on their shoulder is how to get things done before they are overdue.

Not being able to check off everything you had planned for the day can worsen your productivity due to the feeling of failure.

At the end of the day, there are only so many hours in a day. The only thing you can control is how you manage this time for maximum efficiency and minimal stress.

This 7 step guide along with some bonus tips will tell you exactly how to get things done without going through a mental breakdown once every day!

Step 1: An Effective To-Do List

Getting things done is impossible if you don’t know all the things that need to be done. What this means is that you need to have an organized plan of what the tasks are, when they’re due, what’s their order of priority, etc.

The best, easiest, and most effective method of organizing your work tasks is to make to-do lists. Yes, not one, but multiple to-do lists.

Generally, workplaces assign you tasks for the whole month or sometimes more. You know the goals that need to be accomplished over this period. So, what you should do is make a monthly to-do list with all these deadlines and tasks.

Next, break down the work per week. Which parts of which tasks will you tackle through the 4 weeks? Then, make it more detailed as you come down to your daily to-do list. In these lists, add the aspect of time as well.

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For example, if on the Thursday of the first week you have planned a meeting with the boss, mention how long you think it can take. This way you won’t over-schedule or under-schedule certain days.

One pro tip for making to-do lists is to add enough detail to have clarity of what you need to do. However, do not over-complicate them by adding too much information. A hefty to-do list can be intimidating and demotivating.[1]

Step 2: Get in the Mood to Work

You know how there are times when you’re so ready to work – during these times, you can literally get done with the hardest tasks without budging an eye. How does that happen?

Well, it’s all about your mind. If it’s ready to work, you’ll get the boost you need automatically. So, why not put in a small amount of time to prep your mind so that the rest of your workday goes on smoothly? Whatever has been bothering you or keeping you preoccupied, get rid of it.

Let’s say you’re super excited about your birthday that’s coming up in the next week. Do not let it distract you during work. For that, you can start the day with 5 to 10 minutes of meditation. It will also help you practice mindfulness for better focus.

You can also exercise, walk, or run to freshen up your body. Eat a filling breakfast so that you don’t lose your energy until lunchtime.

Another thing you can do to prepare your mind that it’s time to work  is to dress for it. Take a shower, wear comfortable but fresh clothes, spritz some perfume, do your hair, and put on some shoes. Your brain will automatically shift gears and encourage you to work, and this will help you to get things done.

Step 3: Set up Your Space

Your surroundings can work your productivity immensely. Have a well-set workspace. Well-set doesn’t mean it needs to be fancy, but you must have all essentials within reach.

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Things like your laptop, its charger, a snack, water, your to-do list, a pen, notebook, and other necessities should be within reach. Also, add the things that make you feel more comfortable, such as a candle, a table lamp, etc.

On the other hand, distractions should be cleared out. Keep your mobile phone silent or log out of your social media accounts.

Step 4: Get Done With the Hardest Tasks First

There’s this metaphor ‘eating the frog’ and a lot of experts have written books and articles about it. It is a concept to boost productivity which suggests getting done with the most challenging tasks first.[2]

You should implement the same strategy. Prioritize the tasks that need more work over the easier ones. Getting the hardest task out of your way early on in the day will give you a sense of relief.

Once the ‘big’ thing of the day is done, it is way easier to focus your energy on the easier and lesser important jobs. It also gives you a sense of accomplishment, which is the right energy booster you need to get things done.

Also, your energy and motivation are usually the highest at the beginning of the day. So that is the perfect time to push yourself.

Step 5: Delegate What You Can

If you’re familiar with the idea of delegation, you should put it to use. There’s a high chance that you can distribute your workload without compromising the output.

However, if you opt for delegation, make sure to delegate the right tasks only. Only then will you be able to manage more work in a shorter time. Otherwise, you’ll have to spend more time correcting others’ mistakes.

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Step 6: Get Done With the Short and Quick Tasks

This step is the second part of prioritizing your tasks. Once the most challenging job is out of the way, quickly move onto things that you can get done within the shortest time.

This strategy allows you to tick off more in lesser time.

So, for example, let’s say you have 10 tasks for the day and 5 of them are quick and easy things that you can get done within an hour or two. Once you’re done with these tasks, you’ll be left with half of the workload with plenty of time to get it done.

The brain will see it as a win and give you the motivation to push yourself to get done with the rest too.

Step 7: Turn Off Work When You’re Done for the Day

One major part of being able to do things is to keep yourself from getting exhausted. Do not over-burden yourself.

When you’re done for the day, switch off your work side. Even if you were able to manage the tasks of the day earlier than the finishing office time, give yourself that free time.

Relax whenever you can. Treat yourself when you deserve it. Turning off is very important to be able to restart the next day.

Bonus Tips

This was the step-by-step process of doing things. However, amid this process, there are a few other things to keep in mind too. These bonus tips will keep your work morale high throughout.

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Firstly, take care of yourself. There are quite a few things to consider here. You should be fresh, healthy, well-fed, well-slept, and your basics should be covered so that you can focus on your work with your full potential. Unless you’re healthy, you cannot produce useful outputs.[3]

Take enough breaks. Working non-stop is the biggest paradox because a person thinks they’ll get more done by forcing themselves to work every second through the office hours. But it actually drains your mind and body. Once again, you are unable to generate good work. So, give your mind and body a few minutes to refresh after every couple of hours.

Next, have room for flexibility in your to-do lists. An urgent task can always pop-up. Deadlines can be pushed forward for whatever reason. It is expected for things like this to happen. So, if you don’t have the option to reschedule your to-do list, your entire routine will mess up.

Lastly, don’t over-stress. Focus on the task at hand only. Things that are to follow should be thought about when you’re working on them. The task at hand is where your complete attention and time should be going. Being all over the place will only waste your time.

Bottom Line

In conclusion, let’s not forget that we’re all humans. No two humans are the same despite the similar psychic we all have. This step-by-step guide is a general example of how a smooth workday can be planned. However, a few tweaks here and there may help you improve this process even more for yourself.

Feel free to experiment with whatever you think will work best for you. With the general idea behind this step-by-step guide in mind, you can easily find a way to get things done as per your needs. As long as you keep the idea behind each step intact, you can go about it any way you prefer.

So, don’t waste any more time procrastinating or stressing out. Get all your tasks finished promptly by implementing this work strategy for maximum efficiency!

More Tips on Getting Things Done

Featured photo credit: Gabrielle Henderson via unsplash.com

Reference

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Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

Think of yourself as a cup. Each day, you wake up full. But as you go about your day—getting tasks done and interacting with people—the amount in your cup gradually gets lower. And as such, you get less and less effective at whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re running out of steam.

The solution is obvious: if you don’t have anything left to pour out, then you need to find a way to fill yourself up again. In work terms, that means you should take a break—an essential form of revitalizing your motivation and focus.

Taking a break may get a bad rap in hustle culture, but it’s an essential, science-based way to ensure you have the capacity to live your life the way you want to live it.

In the 1980s, when scientists began researching burnout, they described this inner capacity as “resources.” We all need to replenish our resources to cope with stress, work effectively, and avoid burnout.[1]

When the goal is to get things done, it may sound counterproductive to stop what you’re doing. But if you embrace the art of taking a break, you can be more efficient and effective at work.

Here are five ways on how you can take a break and boost your productivity.

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1. Break for the Right Amount of Time, at the Right Time

When I started my first job out of college, I was bent on pleasing my boss as most entry-level employees do. So, every day, I punched in at 9 AM on the dot, took a 60-minute lunch break at noon, and left no earlier than 5 PM.

As I’ve logged more hours in my career, I’ve realized the average, eight-hour workday with an hour lunch break simply isn’t realistic—especially if your goal is to put your best foot forward at work.

That’s why popular productivity techniques like the Pomodoro advocate for the “sprint” principle. Basically, you work for a short burst, then stop for a short, five-minute break. While the Pomodoro technique is a step forward, more recent research shows a shorter burst of working followed by a longer pause from work might actually be a more effective way to get the most out of stepping away from your desk.

The team at DeskTime analyzed more than 5 million records of how workers used their computers on the job. They found that the most productive people worked an average of 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break afterward.[2]

What’s so special about those numbers? Leave it to neuroscience. According to researchers, the human brain naturally works in spurts of activity that last an hour. Then, it toggles to “low-activity mode.”[3]

Even so, keep in mind that whatever motivates you is the most effective method. It’s more about the premise—when you know you have a “finish line” approaching, you can stay focused on the task or project at hand.

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There are many applications and tools that can help you block distracting websites and apps (such as social media) for specific periods of the day. Similarly, you can also use some mailing apps like Mailbrew to receive all the social media content or newsletters you don’t want to miss in your inbox at a time you decide.

So, no matter how long you work, take a break when you sense you’re losing steam or getting bored with the task. Generally, a 10-15 minute break should reinvigorate you for whatever’s coming next.

2. Get a Change of Scenery—Ideally, Outdoors

When it comes to increasing a person’s overall mental health, there’s no better balm than nature. Research has found that simply being outside can restore a person’s mind from mental fatigue related to work or studying, ultimately contributing to improved work performance (and even improved work satisfaction).[4]

No lush forest around? Urban nature can be just as effective to get the most out of your break-taking. Scientists Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Biophilia Hypothesis, claimed that even parks, outdoor paths, and building designs that embrace “urban nature” can lend a sense of calm and inspiration, encouraging learning and alertness for workers.

3. Move Your Body

A change of scenery can do wonders for your attention span and ability to focus, but it’s even more beneficial if you pair it with physical movement to pump up that adrenaline of yours. Simply put, your body wasn’t designed to be seated the entire day. In fact, scientists now believe that extended periods of sitting are just as dangerous to health as smoking.[5]

It’s not always feasible to enjoy the benefits of a 30-minute brisk walk during your workday, especially since you’ll most likely have less energy during workdays. But the good news is, for productivity purposes, you don’t have to. Researchers found that just 10 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and attention span throughout the entire day.[6]

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So, instead of using your break to sit and read the news or scroll your social media account, get out of your chair and move your body. Take a quick walk around the block. Do some jumping jacks in your home office. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely find yourself with a sharper focus—and more drive to get things done.

4. Connect With Another Person

Social connection is one of the most important factors for resilience. When we’re in a relationship with other people, it’s easier to cope with stress—and in my experience, getting social can also help to improve focus after a work break.

One of my favorite ways to break after a 30-or-so minute sprint is to hang out with my family. And once a week, I carve out time to Skype my relatives back in Turkey. It’s amazing how a bit of levity and emotional connection can rev me up for the next work sprint.

Now that most of us are working from home, getting some face-to-face time with a loved one isn’t as hard as it once was. So, take the time to chat with your partner. Take your kids outside to run around the backyard. If you live alone, call a friend or relative. Either way, coming up for air to chat with someone who knows and cares about you will leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.

5. Use Your Imagination

When you’re working with your head down, your brain has an ongoing agenda: get things done, and do it well. That can be an effective method for productivity, but it only lasts so long—especially because checking things off your to-do list isn’t the only ingredient to success at work. You also need innovation.

That’s why I prioritize a “brain break” every day. When I feel my “cup” getting empty, I usually choose another creative activity to exercise my brain, like a Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an unrelated, creative project in my house.

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And when I’m really struggling to focus, I don’t do anything at all. Instead, I let my brain roam free for a bit, following my thoughts down whatever trail they lead me. As it turns out, there’s a scientific benefit to daydreaming. It reinforces creativity and helps you feel more engaged with the world, which will only benefit you in your work.[7]

Whether you help your kids with their distance learning homework, read an inspiring book, or just sit quietly to enjoy some fresh air, your brain will benefit from an opportunity to think and feel without an agenda. And, if you’re anything like me, you might just come up with your next great idea when you aren’t even trying.

Final Thoughts

Most of us have to work hard for our families and ourselves. And the current world we live in demands the highest level of productivity that we can offer. However, we also have to take a break once in a while. We are humans, after all.

Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you need but also increase your productivity in the long run.

More on the Importance of Taking a Break

Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

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