I am a Type-A workaholic. For most of my life, achieving in school and then my career has defined my self-worth. I take a lot of pride in the quality of my work, and have always worked extra hours at night and on the weekends to complete projects. I know this is a learned behavior picked up from my mom who regularly stays up until 1:00 am working on her side business only to get up at 6:30 am for a full day of teaching.
When Nick and I started seriously dating, he really pushed me to focus more on my relationships rather than my work. To value myself not by the quality of my work, but by the quality of my friendships and relationships. To spend my weeknights cooking dinner with him, and not finishing up some report. To prioritize weekend get-togethers with friends over clearing out my inbox.
While I still enjoy working, focusing on this mindset has helped me step away my desk after hours and has made me focus on working smarter and not harder. It’s easy to let small tasks and distractions bog you down at work; before you know it half the day is gone but nothing significant has been accomplished.
Here are a few of my strategies to help me focus and increase my productivity:
1. Get in Early. My days are constantly interrupted by phone calls and people dropping by the office – and somehow everything is always an “emergency.” Getting in early allows me an hour to plan out my day and start focusing on my work before the interruptions begin.
2. Make a To-Do List With a Few Must Do Items For the Day. I don’t know about you, but at any given time I have about a dozen work projects in progress, with all the little tasks associated with each one. Every morning I start my day by listing out 3-6 tasks to get done. In the past I’ve tried listing out everything I needed to accomplish in total, but this quickly became overwhelming and it was hard to know where to start. A shorter list helps focus in my work and ensures that I complete a minimum number of tasks. I feel efficient and successful when I check everything off at the end of the day. I don’t know about you, but I love checking things off!
3. Don’t Check Your Email First Thing. I find that checking emails can turn into a rabbit hole of activities that monopolize your day. As soon as you check your emails, it’s easy to caught up in replying to messages and following up on requests. In the mornings, I start working on my tasks for the day for at least an hour before I allow myself to open up my Outlook and get sucked into my email.
4. Develop a Hobby. This may seem random, but having a hobby can help increase your efficiency. Having a fun activity after work helps me focus more throughout the day. I want to make sure I can leave on time to go for a run or to do some writing for the blog.
What tricks do you have for getting more done in less time? I’d love to know!