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7 Ways To Get A Whole Lot of Things Done In A Day

7 Ways To Get A Whole Lot of Things Done In A Day
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Have you ever been so overwhelmed with things to do that you wished you could simply stop the clock and make time stand still while you got everything done?

It would be wonderful if we could all do that, wouldn’t it? Sadly, those of us not living in some fantastic science-fiction show aren’t blessed with the ability to halt the hands of time, leaving us looking for more practical ways to get things done in any given day.

Though by no means an exhaustive list, here are seven things that may work for you to improve your daily productivity:

1. Wake up earlier

It may sound obvious, but if we’re really going to start getting more things done in a day, then where better to start than right at the beginning of that day.

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Getting out of bed earlier gives us more time to do more stuff, and hopefully still have time left over for the things that matter, like family and friends.

2. Stay healthy

Dragging ourselves out of bed a little earlier doesn’t mean we have to spend the rest of our day fighting off fatigue. By eating healthily, enjoying exercise and generally taking care of ourselves, we’ll find ourselves with more energy to tackle the things we need to do.

Instead of dropping off into a post-lunch slump in which productivity is at an all-time low, or being too exhausted after a day at the office to spend time on our passion projects, we’ll be alert and awake and ready to get things done.

3. Organize and prioritize

Getting things done isn’t about doing a bunch of stuff for the sake of keeping busy, it’s about doing what matters to help us achieve our goals.

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In order to have a successful day, it pays to prioritize. Take care of the biggest, most crucial things first, and then work your way up.

Think of it like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: when we’ve dealt with the most mission-critical things, we’re better equipped to move on to the next set of tasks, and upwards we go, building on our own productivity and finding it even easier to get things done.

4. Stay out of the past (and don’t go too far into the future)

How many times do we find ourselves dwelling on the past and reliving memories, both fond and painful? Physically, we’re in one place at one time, yet mentally and emotionally we’re somewhere else entirely. If we’re not lost in once-upon-a-times, chances are we’re projecting ourselves into the future, either worrying about things that haven’t happened yet or daydreaming about what might be.

Though it certainly pays to take the occasional look ahead in order to know where we’re going, when it comes to getting things done, we benefit much more from being present in the moment and focusing on the now.

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By being alert and focused on the task at hand, we’re more capable of doing what needs to be done.

5. Delegate

One of the most common mistakes people make when it comes to getting things done is falling for the belief that they have to get it all done by themselves.

Yet being able to ask for help often means that you can not only get more done, but get it done better than if you tried to do it all by yourself.

6. Eliminate distractions

Whether it’s by listening to music to block out background noise, or using website blockers like Google’s Stayfocussed app to keep you away from Facebook or other time-sucking sites, one of the best ways to get things done is to keep everything else out so that we can focus on the task at hand.

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For this writer, turning the computer off altogether and heading back to the pen and paper works best, but for you it might simply be a case of switching your cell phone off for a few hours or finding a quiet place to work.

7. Take a break

For much the same reasons that keeping yourself healthy is the key to getting more things done, being able to take time out once in a while can make all the difference to your productivity.

Whether we step back to take a moment of stillness and quiet, or head outside to enjoy a walk in the fresh air, it’s important to relax from time to time if we want to avoid burnout.

By avoiding burnout, we give ourselves more energy and, again, more energy leads to increased productivity.

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More by this author

Chris Skoyles

Coach, and trainee counsellor specializing in mental health and addiction.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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