Achieve more during your work day with these simple strategies
It’s the end of another day at the office. You look down at the “to do” list you created that morning and see an immense amount of tasks you weren’t able to cross off beside a select few that you finished. How is this possible? You were busy for what seemed like all day, but ended up with almost nothing to show for it. This feeling isn’t uncommon—your attention span can be very vulnerable in a world that’s so busy.
Dividing your tasks
According to Dr. Donald E. Wetmore, founder of the Productivity Institute, only 20 percent of the average workday is spent on crucial and important things, while 80 percent is spent on tasks that have little or no value. This separation of tasks is how you should begin planning your schedule for the day.
Jory MacKay from Crew encourages us to focus more on “important tasks,” which contribute to long-term missions and goals, and less on “urgent” ones, which require much less time to complete. The typical urgent tasks include phone calls, emails and meetings that get in the way of activities like large presentations or long-term collaborative assignments.
Need help deciding if a task is deserving of your full attention? Just ask America’s 34th President:
“What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.” –Dwight Eisenhower
Eisenhower used this mentality to organize his hefty workload as President and a five-star general in the U.S. Army. His concept inspired a box that divides tasks into simple categories so that you can determine which ones to complete, delegate or delete. Use this matrix, titled “The Eisenhower Box,” in honor of the man who brought these ideas to light. It can help you organize the tasks ahead of you.
Photo from: Yaware Blog
How to say "No"
In addition to his other findings, Dr. Wetmore noted, “The average person gets one interruption every eight minutes, or approximately seven an hour, or 50-60 per day. The average interruption takes five minutes, totaling about four hours or 50 percent of the average workday.” Are you a victim of the overriding monster called distraction? You have the ability to tame this beast because you know better than anyone else what is most deserving of your time.
Start by staying focused for eight minutes without being distracted by outside interruptions. Stephen Covey has said, “You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage pleasantly, smilingly and non-apologetically—to say ‘no’ to other things. And the way to do that is by having a bigger ‘yes’ burning inside.”
The clock won’t stop or reverse itself if you find you’ve wasted time on something. Steer yourself down paths that will result in the most rewarding feeling when each day is done.
Don't hesitate—start now
Additional tips to achieve proper time management include:
- Turn your phone off during the work day and only check it during breaks. Connections to the online world grab our attention within seconds—we are often more invested in these distractions than you might think.
- Live by design, not by default. Devote specific time to your important tasks and goals, then fill the gaps with more urgent but insignificant tasks.
The power rests in your hands. When it feels like there isn’t enough time in one day to accomplish everything, decide what receives the highest priority, and work from there—but work with focus. With these new tactics and a little inspiration from President Eisenhower, you’ll be checking more off your “to do” list in no time.
Looking for more ways to stay focused in a world filled with distractions? Work better and faster with these quick tips: How to stay focused in a world full of interruptions
Brittany attends Penn State Harrisburg in pursuit of her Communications degree. When she isn’t studying, traveling or playing volleyball, she is spending time outside with her two dogs or planning her wedding.