Everybody today is busy about something. May it be your average office guy rushing to meet a deadline, or that high scholar cramming a project just before finals week commences, the modern world is chock full of busy bees buzzing around. With all these hectic schedules, each second matters and even a slight miscalculation about the duration of an activity can result in a whole day’s routine being ruined.
Many people today complain not so much about their busy schedules but rather about the way these activities drain the life out of them. They have done a massive amount of task for a certain day yet to no avail; a daunting task remains but their energy has already run out. The idea of not having the energy to finish all these tasks irritates them even more, which makes them less inclined to start the task and therefore making them less productive and that makes them more irritated! The cycle continues! If you feel one with these people, then here are 10 simple tips on how to prevent such a vicious cycle from eating you alive and tearing apart your sanity:
1. Recognize the important things first
Many people today do not know how to prioritize things. They just go along the day, finishing whatever task they see first and then moving on to the next task. However this is not always good; some tasks require a lot of concentration and meticulousness but it is not that important. By the time you finished that one task alone, you may have expended most of your energy pool already. Classifying things according to their importance helps you allot the proper duration for each task, and minimizes overspending precious time over unnecessary tasks. A good way of classifying the importance of things is using Covey’s Quadrants of Time management.
2. Don’t start the day with heavy work
Classic example of this? Doing strenuous work at the beginning of the day. While it may stimulate your mind for a short while, the resulting fatigue may hamper your proper functioning for the rest of the day. This is a common misconception; it is more advisable to schedule more challenging tasks at the peak hours of your wakefulness, rather than at the beginning of your day whenever possible. Doing a physically-demanding task even before you have your first cup of coffee reduces your efficiency (the number of things you can do) and effectiveness (the quality of the outputs of your work), thereby lowering your over-all productivity.
3. Sleep is wealth
People often only take a rest after they have already finished the tasks they want to finish, which makes their rest time vary from day to day. Staying up late is a very unhealthy and unproductive habit, as this increases emotional vulnerability; people who lack sleep are easily annoyed and irritated, or too lethargic to even produce something. When creating a schedule for the day, your rest time should be among the “immovable”, activities that can’t be compromised. One’s body should be trained to follow its natural Circadian Rhythm (the body’s sleeping pattern that follows the day/night alternation); once sleep time hits, all tasks must be stopped. Varying sleep patterns disrupts the body’s natural clock and encourages health deterioration if done for a considerable period of time.
4. Organize the necessities the night before
This is just classic “plan in advance” advice. Some tasks can be prepared ahead of time, and this can be done by doing a realistic schedule for the entire day. One does not necessarily have to write it down, so long as one approximates well the duration of each activity. If a task requires ample time for preparation, then prepare the requirements the night before, so that one will not have to cram when morning comes.
5. Multitask only when there’s no other alternative left
Millennial and young people of the generation today pride themselves in their ability to multitask, that is, to do several things at once. While this may sound cute and elegant, such a habit is not really productive. Multitasking divides your attention, making you expend more mental energy than required by a single task you focus on. It may save time, but multitasking often leads to poor quality of outputs, and thus such outputs may need redoing, thereby wasting time that would have been saved if one could have just focused on a single activity on hand.
6. Limit the time each task takes
Did you know that your wristwatch could also be used to notify you how much time you have already dedicated on a single ask? Apparently watches are not just for watching time; as such, being constantly aware of the time makes one more efficient by ensuring that no task consumes more time than what it’s supposed to consume.
7. Keep a time log of your activities
Yes, I know all time-management advice has this one. And yes, I know it’s a bit meticulous, but that is the only way to see which activity actually takes the largest portion of your 24 hours. As said above, if a task takes more hours to complete than sleeping, then you may have a problem in managing your time productively.
8. Freedom is negative
Learning to say NO is a valuable skill when concerning time management. Just learning how to refuse to do activities which are really unnecessary may save you precious time that can be used for more urgent and pressing matters. If saying no can’t be done, then try to divert it to other people.
9. Turn off your phones when you are finishing an important task.
Phones are the bane of modern day productivity; the problem here lies with the distraction it brings. One starts to say, “Oh, I will just check my messages to see if there are important ones” and before you know it, you are already spending minutes tinkering with the other apps on your phone, as minutes slowly turn to hours. This may even lead to your train of thought or mindset being disrupted, which means you will have to exert effort again regaining that lost gusto or remembering where your though last dropped off.
10. Always seek feedbacks
We are never perfect, and no matter how much of a control freak we are, there are instances that things could go way out of our hands. Also, there are habits that we might be unconscious of but is actually harmful to us. It is then extremely important to ask other people from time to time regarding their observations about your time management habits. They might even suggest their own time management tactics which may possibly fit in your preferred routine, thus aiding you to become more productive. Whenever you feel down, or seemingly burdened by the amount of tasks that need to be done, try casually asking that workmate who seems to be pretty carefree despite having the same amount of work as you have. He or she might have some useful tips that could help you deal with the stress of it.
So there! This list does not claim to be comprehensive or broad enough, but it should help any human being currently about to hunk in a corner and cry get through the problematic cycle mentioned above. For all these tips and advices, it should be remembered as a whole that increased productivity entails changes in your habits in many different aspects: mentally, physically, and emotionally. All of these aspects should be taken into consideration and a balance be struck between them. The modern world is a busy place, but we should not let it suck dry the life out of us even before we have enjoyed the fruits of our labor.