Productivity is fairly simple, in theory. Even if you have an overwhelming amount to do, the steps aren’t hard to figure out: Pick something important to work on (a task from your most important project, perhaps). Focus exclusively on that task for a bit, finishing it if you can. Take a few minutes break. Pick another important task after that, and repeat. But it’s not that simple, because no matter how focused you are, there will always be distractions. Everyone struggles to get work done everyday.

Here is a summary of all you need to know and do to get real work done everyday and to be more productive every week.

1. Set and stick to daily goals

Without a clear focus, it’s too easy to succumb to distractions. Set targets for each day in advance. Decide what you’ll do; then do it. Keep your to-do list close to you to remind you of what needs to be done today. Whatever you do, stick to it and make sure you get it done.

2. Make a shortlist

Make a long list of all the tasks you need to do … then make a short list of 1-3 things you really want to get done. Choose so that, if you got only these tasks done, you’d be proud of what you did today. Start with the most important task, before checking email or reading online.

3. Do the worst first

To defeat procrastination learn to tackle your most unpleasant task first thing in the morning instead of delaying it until later in the day.  This small victory will set the tone for a very productive day. Plus, you are more productive and have a lot of brain energy in the morning.

Or better still, identify your peak cycles of productivity, and schedule your most important tasks for those times. Work on minor tasks during your non-peak times.

4. It pays to handle everything once

Starting now, don’t set things aside hoping you’ll have time to deal with them later. Ask yourself “What do I need to do with this” every time you pick up something from your email list, and either do it, schedule it for later, defer it to someone else, or file it.

5. Slice and dice

Break complex projects into smaller, well-defined tasks and focus on completing just one of those tasks at a time. Give yourself a fixed time period, like an hour, to complete the task. Don’t worry about how far you get. Just put in the time and get started.

Related: 53 Productivity Ideas from 3 of The Best Books on Getting Things Done

6. Start setting and sticking to mini-milestones

When you begin a task, identify the target you must reach before you can stop working. For example, when working on a book, you could decide not to get up until you’ve written at least 1000 words. Hit your target no matter what. And move on to the next one after a short break. Embrace small chunks of time. Work in small blocks.

7. Write shorter emails

If email takes up a lot of your day, the simple change of limiting yourself to 3-4 sentences per email will make a big difference. First, it’ll drastically shorten the time it takes to write or respond to emails. And second, it’ll shorten responses to your emails, which means you’ll spend less time reading email.

8. Learn how to stay no to more tasks

Just say no. You simply can’t take on another assignment no matter how small. You will lose focus and get distracted. There are way too many things that can get in the way of real work.

9. Don’t plan meetings that require more than thirty minutes to complete

Seriously, cut out all the unnecessary meetings. If you do have a crucial meeting in mind that requires a long time-span, it’s better to split the meeting into two or more parts.

And stop scheduling that 4 p.m meeting. Most employees mentally check out after 4 p.m! Don’t waste your productive time in meetings that end up with more things to do.

10. Whatever you do, don’t overload yourself!

People tend to pile too much on themselves for a single day, overestimating how much they can actually do. Get into the habit of choosing only two or three most important tasks to do for the day and take time to refresh for another day.

1 COMMENT

  1. Interesting article, but does this 90 min and then a break philosophy applies to programmers as well? As I read in an article a while ago, a programmer must work continuously at least 4 hours to be the best of himself. Its a contradicting thought.

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