9 Tips for Making the Most of Your Time
Simple Habits to Help You Tackle Your To-Do List
The holidays are a busy time. No one disagrees on that point. Even if you plan to keep things simple this time of year, the end-of-year obligations and deadlines can stress anyone out. And yet, even though we all have 24 hours in a day, some people just seem to be better at managing their time and getting things checked off their to-do list.
What’s the secret? Here are some tips that even the busiest, most disorganized person can put into practice.
1. Make a list.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you don’t have an accurate picture of what all you have to deal with during the day. Budgeting money starts with looking at our expenses; budgeting time starts with looking at the tasks we have to complete. Write it down. Check it off, once completed.
The hardest part of making a list is often deciding what to do first and what to save for later. The important and urgent items on your list should obviously get priority. Beyond that, you may want to look at that one big task you’ve been avoiding. Accomplishing it will give you a sense of momentum. However, there’s no one right way to do it. (Some people enjoy starting the day with smaller manageable tasks to get into a routine.) If it works for you, keep doing it.
2. Get enough sleep.
It may seem counterintuitive that the way to get more done is to sleep, and thereby reduce the available hours. But it’s true. Study after study has shown that people who get a full night’s rest are more productive and able to focus. If you can’t seem to focus on a task, instead of blaming the lack of caffeine, you might want to look into your lack of sleep.
3. Eat well.
At Saladmaster, we hold this bit of advice near and dear to our hearts. We’re well aware of the numerous benefits to eating a healthy diet. Food is literally the fuel that our body runs on. If you’re feeling run down, you need to evaluate what you’re running on. Are you eating the right foods? Are those foods prepared the right way?
Some people skip breakfast in the rush to get to work, and others will take a shortened lunch break to get more done. This is not the right approach. If you set aside time each day to eat a good meal, if you limit your snacks to healthy options, you will find that you have energy to conquer even the most stressful day.
4. Go for a walk.
When you are restless, it may be your body telling you it’s tired of staying in one place. Our bodies were not meant to be planted in a chair all day long. We need to get out and move, even if just for a little bit. A walk is the right amount of movement and the right amount of quiet space for your brain to keep doing its business. You never know what great ideas might come to you. Then you can return to your work space, refreshed and ready to conquer.
5. Identify your distractions.
Say no to the enemies of your time. We all have meetings we don’t want to attend or administrative responsibilities we’d rather avoid. I’m not talking about those monsters. You can get bitter quickly trying to manage all that, and it might simply be beyond your control. No, I’m talking about the micro distractions that are within your control, e.g., constantly checking your phone or responding to non-essential emails. In these instances, you may want to remove the notifications feature from your phone. Maybe it’s not technology at all. Maybe you get distracted by the chatter around you. In which case, headphones and some background music might help. (Author’s note: I prefer some Lo-Fi Hip Hop. But any gentle music that isn’t too demanding of your attention is useful.)
6. Don’t multitask.
Many people claim to be great at multitasking. Nope. Sorry. Research continues to prove that human beings are actually quite terrible at it. Multitasking inhibits productivity (according to a study by Stanford University, among others) and might even cause brain damage (study by the University of London)! If you want to increase your productivity, you need to focus on one task at a time.
7. Create rituals for being present.
Humans are creatures of habit. This is both a good thing and incredibly frustrating. Bad habits can sneak in just as easily as the good ones. Fortunately, we know this about ourselves—and we can literally reprogram ourselves with the right triggers. Maybe it’s a mantra that you repeat to yourself right before you begin a task or a special hat you only wear when you’re writing, maybe you have an aromatherapy mist (eucalyptus comes highly recommended) or a scented candle. Whatever it is, use it right before you “zone in” for a long task. Do this often enough, and you can trick your brain into focusing.
8. Identify what you love.
It’s good to say no to your distractions. But it’s even better to say yes to the things you love to do. If all-day everyday is work, work, work, it will wear you down. You need to set aside some time for the things that recharge you. To really get the benefits of these activities, you need to intentionally indulge and take joy in it. Mindlessly binge watching Netflix won’t do it, unless you make effort to grab some popcorn, turn down the lights, settle into your favorite spot, and turn it into a special treat, not just a routine. All these small changes can set the mood for watching one show and engaging fully. For this reason, I often find reading to be more energizing than watching television. I’m more likely to relax and not just zone out. (Two different things, believe it or not.)
9. Plan for tomorrow.
End each workday with what you have planned for tomorrow. Few things are more frustrating than returning to your workspace when it’s an absolute disaster, and you have no plan for what to do. Instead, write it on a Post-It or notepad. Leave the reminder for you when you return, and it should help get a good start to the day.
Do you have your own tips and tricks for productivity? Post about it on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Use the #Saladmaster hashtag so we can see what you do to stay focused and effective.