We tend to underestimate how long we need to finish a task. Even though we try to manage our time, we keep failing, without learning the lesson, because we don’t plan and then blame external factors and distractions. With a deeper understanding of how to prioritize your tasks and arranging your workplace to be more productive, these tips will surely help you.
MAKE A MASTER TO-DO LIST
Your master to-do list serves as a running log of what you need to accomplish over time, and gives you a big picture overview of your workload from day-to-day with the set deadlines. You can either maintain an up to date to-do list manually on paper or keep an electronic one. On your to-do list, write down all the daily main tasks that you hope to complete in a day. Then break it down into a series of achievable mini tasks that you can prioritize and assign time slots to.
Tip: Always update your to-do list at the end of each day where you delete items that have been completed and add new tasks to work on. This will also give you a preview of what the following day’s schedule looks like.
After you have broken down your main task into smaller ones it’s time to prioritize each of them. Divide them into three categories,
High priority: This should include tasks you need to do right now. All the immediate, urgent or closest deadlines and the most important projects with highest returns and significant consequences will come under this category.
Medium priority: These include tasks with later deadlines. You can start working on parts of these tasks over time so that they can be ready when due date approaches. Your long-term projects which can be done over a longer period of time such as planning a conference, will fall under this category.
Low priority: These tasks mainly include those with low consequences if not done i.e. things you can complete when time permits you to.
To complete everything you want done each day, carefully prioritize what, when and how you’re going to get it done. Even if you aim to get more than 10 things done on a given day, you may want to list the five things that have the highest priority and that you really must accomplish that day. At the end of each day, look over what you’ve accomplished and check if you completed all you set out to do. If not, make the unaddressed tasks tomorrow’s priorities, along with other things you identify in the morning.
DECLUTTER YOUR WORKSPACE
Clutter causes distractions. It not only stops you from doing what you’re supposed to be doing, but before you know it, you’re behind on your work and anxiety and stress start to develop.
Here are a few ways to declutter your workspace:
- Remove everything that may cause a distraction, from your workspace.
- Do a clean-up of your laptop, by deleting unnecessary documents and files or saving downloads away from sight if you need them at a later date.
- Finally, email. A cluttered inbox is a time-waster and utterly disheartening to use, especially if you’re trying to find an old email. Boomerang and Unroll.Me are excellent options to help you better organize your mail.
WORK IN TIMED INTERVALS
Even with prioritization, set time slots and distractions minimized, there will be times when alertness dips and attention wanes. Research indicates that the brain is only able to handle up to 45 minutes of information before it starts to decrease in its capacity to absorb any information. You can avoid this by working in blocks with short breaks in between. The break will allow your brain to recharge itself and be ready to take in new information.
Try the ‘The Pomodoro Technique’: It suggests working for 25 minutes followed by 5 minute breaks, where you refresh your mind before you get back to work. You can also work longer and break for longer too, depending on what suits you best.
One of the top reasons people miss deadlines is because they overcommit themselves. Don’t stretch yourself too thin by taking on too many projects at work. This way you’re setting yourself up for failure. By overloading yourself, you’re not only putting unnecessary stress on yourself, but you won’t be able to produce quality work and may miss an important deadline altogether. This can lead you to losing credibility and more importantly, losing clients.
DON’T HESITATE TO ASK FOR HELP
If you’re getting short on time and it looks like you might not meet the deadline, don’t hesitate to ask your co-workers for help. If they can’t help out on the actual project, they may be able to take additional things off your plate so you can devote more time to hitting the deadline and concentrate on the most important tasks.
DON’T PROCRASTINATE OVER PERFECTION
If you’re a business owner or freelancer, there’s a good chance you’re striving for perfection on a daily basis. It is a tricky one to overcome, but realising that no one is capable of producing a perfect piece of work is essential if one is to meet deadlines. You need to know when to stop and when a task is good enough.
Becoming a multi-skilled individual is a great way to ensure that projects are delivered on time. The more you can do relating to your area of expertise, the more of a firm grasp you’ll have on the work you undertake. Upskill yourself through eLearning and reading insightful blogs related to your profession.
Meeting deadlines is an indicator of how seriously you take your success and the success of your company. You can quash any questions about your reliability and seriousness by using the tips above to consistently hit your deadlines.