Do you wish you could be more productive in your working day?
Did you get up this morning and before you had finished your first cup of coffee, had already started to feel completely overwhelmed. You knew you had so much to do and so many tasks to finish and you just didn’t know where to start.
Does this sound like you? Yes? Well first and foremost, if you are a regular reader of my blog posts and a member of my Facebook group and see my daily tips, you will already know that I always suggest taking a few minutes at the end of each day to tidy up your workspace and plan ahead by writing down your top three priority tasks for the next day. That way, each morning you can then come into your office or workspace and know exactly what you have to focus on for the day which will, in turn, help you to be more productive
The psychological effect of a timer
But even so, at times, you get up in the morning and still feel completely overwhelmed. So here is my tip. Get yourself a timer. This can be a kitchen timer or an app on your phone but make sure it has a decent ticking noise. There is something quite powerful in that ticking sound which creates a sense of urgency. No, I am not talking the gentle ticking of a Grandfather clock but the urgency of the tick tock you hear on the timer of Countdown (for UK readers) or the tick-tock from the crocodile in Peter Pan that made you aware of imminent danger. Hearing that noise can have quite a psychological impact to somehow propel you to get your work done as quickly as possible.
When you get up each morning, make sure that you have your three key tasks in front of you and your timer. Then sit down and work out how long it is going to take you to complete each task. Once you have done this, you need to then break down any longer tasks into 15 or 20-minute chunks. Therefore, if you have a task that you believe it’s going to take two hours, simply break it down into six lots of 20-minute chunks. Doing this will make life so much easier and keep you focused for short bursts of time rather than getting overwhelmed thinking you have to work for two hours solid where you are more likely going to faff about wondering where are you going to start and actually getting not a lot done for a least first hour.
For instance, if you’re writing a section of a workshop such as I was yesterday morning, or creating content for your website, break it into bite-size sections. The first 20 minutes will be for mapping out the content. The second 20 minutes will be pulling together all the resources and relative articles that are needed. The third 20 minutes will be bullet pointing into a PowerPoint keynotes and pulling images together etc. The next three chunks of 20 minutes will actually be writing the content.
If you are making a product, your first 20 minutes could be getting all of your materials together setting up your workspace. The second 20 minutes will be putting the basic items together that form the framework of whatever you are making.
If you are a web designer or graphic designer, your first 20 minutes could be something such as choosing colours and fonts in order to be ready to move on to your next 20 minutes of sketching out an initial design. Think of all the things you have to do and keep breaking each area down until they fit a 20-minute time slot.
The key trick to be more productive and get your work completed
The key trick to getting your work done is to take regular breaks so when that timer goes off after each 20 minutes, you need to take a two-minute break. You may think this is wasting time if you are in the flow of things but I promise you it’s not. It gives your brain a rest just by moving your body around, just walking from one room to another, stretching and grabbing a glass of water.
Taking these regular short breaks will keep your mind fresh so you feel like going back and doing the next 20-minute task. This can be so much more effective than just trying to go at something for hours on end and losing momentum and motivation along the way.
You can apply this principle to anything. Try it with your housework (I do all my housework in 20-minute dashes). Try it with your fitness rather than feeling you can’t achieve something. If you think you’ve got to go out and do a 1-hour run but you really don’t feel like it, break into 20-minute chunks. Go run for 20 minutes then stop and walk for two minutes. Run for another 20 minutes, stop and walk for two minutes. Have a final run of 20 minutes. Doing it this way stops you feeling overwhelmed by thinking you have to run for a full hour. By breaking it down and having a rest in between, you have achieved what you set out to do without losing motivation part way through.
At the end of each hour of work, yes, you have taken more time as your one hour of work will have taken one hour and six minutes, but by giving yourself breaks it helps you get refocused and keeps you motivated.
Try it for yourself and tell me in the comments below if it helps you be more productive or not.