I tend to get quite a bit done each day, in my opinion at least. I don't often find myself 'wasting time' unless I make a conscious effort to do so. So something I'm really good at is staying incredibly productive to get the most done that I can, and then re-focusing myself when my mind starts to stray. I can see the advantage, particularly from a creative stand point when I'm blogging, of letting my thoughts wander, but I also have some strategies that seem to work well for the times that I recognize that I need to buckle down and get back to work. If you struggle with wanting to get more done in your day without losing focus, I hope my tips will help you too.
How I Get More Done
Batching. I absolutely get more done when I batch similar tasks together, whether they are similar in nature or just all in the same area. It's the most efficient way for me to do things. For example, I look over my entire to do list and figure out what things are in the same area so I can knock out all those errands at once. If I need to go to the dry cleaner which is next to the grocery store, it doesn't make any sense to drive over there to the dry cleaner on Monday just to drive right back and buy groceries on Tuesday. Much easier to get them done at once. I also use this strategy for similar tasks, like blogging. Since I use an editorial calendar and have the posts planned out and written ahead of time, I batch tasks like scheduling tweets or making images for the posts. If I'm already in the programs I use for those things, it's much easier to just keep working on all those similar tasks together, rather than start over on them every day.
Multiply batched tasks. It's an extra step on that first strategy I'm already doing, and I find it's worth it every time. If I'm already doing something, I try to do extra of it at that same time so I don't need to do it as often. The best example of this is definitely cooking. If I'm already browning ground beef or chopping and steaming broccoli for one meal, it makes the most sense to cook extra of these things for future meals and just freeze whatever we aren't going to use within a couple of days. Future Stephanie always appreciates this. The same applies to laundry, so I get it all done on Sundays, and then fold and put everything away on Sunday nights, instead of doing one load every day from start to finish. I haven't measured it out, but I do think it saves me time. If anything it saves me sanity. (Plus it's better for the environment to just run it all at once instead of restarting the warmth of the dryer every single day.)
Multi-Tasking. Sometimes. I don't recommend trying to multitask two things that both require focus and brain power, but if you have one task that doesn't, then use that time to also work on something that does. For example, I take the train to work so I use that commuting time to respond to blog comments. When I fold laundry, I use that time to watch TV shows I really like or listen to audiobooks. I certainly can't respond to blog comments while I listen to an audiobook and effectively focus on and accomplish both things, but if I do each of those tasks with something that requires no brain power, like sitting on a train, I've essentially doubled my productivity in that single time frame.
Cut it down and cut it out. It seems like that's not a real tip, get more done by doing less, but it works for me. Anything I don't deem essential gets cut out of my daily schedule and I try to cut back the things I can. Which frees up time to be productive in other areas, just ensuring that I actually will get things done. My best example of this is ironing - I don't buy clothes that need to be ironed, so I cut that task out. I only iron John's work pants on one side of each pant leg (instead of flipping it around and doing both the inside and the outside of the leg separately, looks the same whether I do or not!), so I cut that task down. I also batch and multiply that task by ironing them all at once, once a week. See what I mean? Loads of time saved.
How I Stay Focused
Make a drink. No, not an alcoholic one. Just a coffee, tea, hot chocolate, something along those lines. Getting up from my current environment and letting my mind focusing on making a drink allows my brain to reset. Once I get back to my desk, or wherever I'm trying to work, I have a newfound focus and level of productivity that lasts at least until I finish my beverage.
Clean my desk off. When I'm trying to focus on writing something at work and I find my attention wandering repeatedly, it's a sure sign my desk is messy. I can't get anything done with a messy desk. Once I straighten up any papers and put away anything I'm not currently using, I'm able to get back to my work without distraction. At home, it's usually a nagging chore that's pulling my focus, so I just get up and get it done - like cleaning the sink or starting the laundry.
Run errands. I can always tell the times when I need to completely get away from what I'm doing. It's usually the moment when I re-read the same sentence 47 times and still haven't 'actually read it,' you know what I mean? This is when I leave the situation all together and go run errands. I go to the bank or the grocery, pick up whatever we need and just focus on that for awhile instead of whatever I left behind. Getting an errand, even a simple one, checked off my to do list is very motivating for me, and it makes me want to check more things off. So when I return to my work or project, I have renewed energy to just get it done and check it off the list as well. It also works when I feel blocked creatively, because I feel like a return with a new outlook and what I was working on doesn't seem so difficult anymore.
Pay attention to my environment. And make adjustments accordingly. Sometimes I can't get things done because I'm too focused on little things like temperature, but without realizing it. If I'm fidgeting with a blanket or getting really warm, that pulls my focus away from my work but in such a small way that I don't always realize it. If I find myself not making the progress I think I should be, I pause for a minute and consider if the room is too hot or cold and then adjust to make myself a little more comfortable. I also take this time to figure out if I'm maybe just hungry and that's why I'm fidgeting, so I make myself a snack and get back to the task at hand.
What can I say, I just have a lot of things I like and want to get done in my days! How do you stay productive and keep your day flowing? Any tips to add to the list? Let me know in the comments.
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