Do you ever find yourself wondering why it’s so hard to get things done? You’re not alone. In an increasingly digital world, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and find yourself searching desperately for help — or an escape plan.
If you’d like to discover how to squeeze more hours out of your day, you may be happy to hear that there are many different strategies available, and most of them seem to share three basic principles.
Principle #1: Get Rid of Distractions
We all love our phones, but they can sap our attention and lower productivity. Don’t let your phone rule your life! When you have stuff to do, close Facebook, Snapchat, or whatever apps you use most. Then, turn off all notifications or turn off your phone entirely.
Next, remove all other distractions from your workspace. If your desk is cluttered with items that are likely to steal your focus, clear them off. If you have a door, close it. Keep some water and a snack nearby so you don’t have to get up every time you’re hungry or thirsty.
To keep interruptions to a minimum, consider calling people back or responding to emails or text messages only at certain times of the day — maybe once in the morning and again in the afternoon. This enables you to devote the bulk of your day to getting things done.
Principle #2: Take Control of Your Time
Even after cutting out distractions, the amount of work in front of you can be overwhelming. Some tasks may be half done, partly done, or not done at all. Where do you begin?
Some believe in tackling the biggest, most painful tasks first, just to get them out of the way. Another strategy is to “chunk” projects into bite-sized blocks of time. Designate an hour to work on a specific project, and when that hour is up, stop and move to the next project.
If you have a lot on your plate, however, tackle the easy stuff first, such as tasks that take five minutes or less. There are two benefits for this. By knocking off several tasks quickly, you’ll develop momentum that you can use to finish other projects. Plus, with half of your projects done, your once insurmountable list of to-dos will seem more manageable.
Principle #3: Take Care of Yourself
A lack of sleep has been linked to cognitive impairment and other health problems, including diabetes — yet a recent Gallup poll found that two out of every five Americans are not getting enough sleep. If you’re one of them, you’ll get much more done by simply getting more Z’s.
Also, people who take regular breaks from work are able to work more efficiently. Often, the longer we work, the less productive we get — a situation that can lead to frustration and a feeling of being “stuck.” Try scheduling small breaks throughout your day. Many people swear by the “50-10 rule” — work without interruption for 50 minutes, followed by a 10-minute break. Breaks are like giving your brain a fresh reboot.
Keep in mind that the most successful people aren’t always the ones who work the longest hours. However, they are more likely to make smart choices about what to focus on and have rules for how they spend their time. The good news? You can do the same.