I’m obsessed with lists—to-do lists, especially. More than being a staunch reminder of the things I have to accomplish for the day, they’re a barometer of my daily success: More items ticked off means I’m more productive; more productivity = a happier me. The thing with to-do lists, though, is they’re endless—there’s always another report to file, another meeting to attend, another problem to trouble shoot, another article to finish (in my case). It’s a vicious cycle, but you shouldn’t let it get the better of you—because, really, you should replace “overtime” with living your life. Of the countless tips out there, I’ve found that these four ones are easy, yet very effective, and lessen the pressure I put on myself:
1. Get a headstart on your work day—but also set a “closing time.” The idea is to fit all the work into your nine hours in the office (without sacrificing lunch break), so turn up to work on time (or earlier!) and condition your mind that you only have until, say, 6PM to finish everything. Strategically plot out the urgent and priority tasks within your schedule based on their deadline. Online magazine The Week outlined the productivity strategies of So Good They Can’t Ignore You author and Georgetown University professor, Cal Newport, and among them, my favorite is the way he suggests scheduling everything: Backwards. “Fix your ideal schedule, then work backwards to make everything fit—ruthlessly culling obligations, turning people down, becoming hard to reach, and shedding marginally useful tasks along the way,” says Newport.
2. Stop checking your Instagram feed (unless, of course, it’s part of your job). Okay, so we already know life is not perfect, things get thrown at you throughout your workday and you have to finish them ASAP. Instead of going through your social media feed, squeeze in smaller tasks or those that pop out of nowhere into the small bits of time you have in between. Train yourself to not waste any moment by dilly-dallying, chatting up workmates in the pantry, or procrastinating. When tempted to while away, ask yourself this: “Is 10 minutes on Instagram worth the setback from accomplishing another task that will in turn force me to spend an extra hour in the office?” I bet your answer will be no.
3. Make a plan and establish a routine. Little things like planning your entire week’s wardrobe and fixing what you need for the next work day the night before, can make a huge difference. In I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This: Success Secrets Every Gutsy Girl Should Know, a book by American editor, author, and speaker Kate White, productivity expert Joanna Levin recommends breaking down your plans in “complete-able steps”: “It’s also important to take into consideration your concentration threshold—instead of finishing big tasks in one sitting, break them down into parts so you don’t exhaust yourself.”
4. Simplify. Analyzing a situation or a project from different angles and overthinking are essential to be successful in what you do, but if you overthink everything—even what you’re going to eat for lunch—then you’re wasting so much time. Choose your battles wisely, be more realistic, and channel your energy into work that matters instead of obsessing over every little thing. By doing that you gain control of your workday, instead of your workday controlling you—and when you’re in control this way, you become less stressed and more confident and productive.
This story was published in Metro April 2015 issue and authored by Katrina Angco. Metro is available in bookstores and on newsstands for P175. Like them on Facebook (www.facebook.com/Metro.Magazine) and follow them on Twitter and Instagram (@MetroMagPH).