Using a planner changed my life. There is something freeing about being able to write down what needs to be done and checking them off at the end of the day. Even if your tasks are on-going, using a planner can help measure your effectiveness. Before I started using one, I was part of the club that consider using planners as additional workload. But if you are reading this with the hope that it will guide you to using your time more productively for the rest of the year, you need that planner before you try the other recommendations.
- Plan: Pick your planner book from the various options available. Use a simple notebook if there is nothing else available but sticky notes and pieces of scrap paper are not recommended, unless you’re binding them into a book. Make a list of all the tasks that you have to accomplish. Let’s call that list your goals. Now pick a few priorities for each day. It is important not to tag every task as a priority for the day. You will most likely never get through it all. So if you are wondering how many to choose, consider three top priorities. Now that you have them picked, don’t waste time contemplating your choices too much.
- Maintain timeline: You will be amazed at the amount of free time you can accumulate if you can time your projects. Use past trends to note the time required to complete your priorities. Note these time estimates next to your priorities on your planner. This will help you decide your break better. Now that you have set your timings, begin work without getting distracted. Complete a task before moving on to the next even if your current task is not enjoyable. If a task requires your undivided attention and your colleague or superior has a question, ask them if you can meet them later. Specify the time, if needed. Now note that request down and get back to business. If you don’t honor your timeline, no one else will. Apply this to your meetings as well by starting and ending on time. You will have plenty of time to spare for distractions when your priorities are done.
- Plan for the unpredictable: If you have a regular job, chances are that there are unexpected matters that require attention every day. Sometimes at the worst times possible. So include some downtime in your planner. If nothing unpredictable happens, you can fill that time learning something new or start a new goal. Having this time included in your planner can help you avoid being frustrated with interruptions and additional priorities. It also ensures that you are not caught working overtime every day.
- Plan breaks throughout the day: Short breaks after certain intervals can help avoid extreme exhaustion and burnout. If your job requires you to sit or stand for long periods of time, these breaks can help you avoid causing postural damage to your body. Walks are often recommended after intense meetings to help gather your thoughts and plan implementation strategies. If you have the option of distributing your lunch break throughout the day, you won’t end up wasting too much of your company’s time. In any case your break should help you deliver strong results throughout the day. That makes you more productive than if you dragged a task on for longer than necessary with average results.
- Don’t work overtime: Unless you absolutely have to, plan to leave work on time everyday. This will ensure that you have time to recharge for the next project. Every moment of the day is strongly connected to the next. It is therefore not surprising that leaving work on time can help you make time for your loved ones, try new things, exercise, eat healthy meals and have adequate hours to rest. These activities increase levels of productivity significantly.
It is true that people are naturally more productive if they enjoy their work but even if you don’t, using these techniques can help you increase productivity and be more effective in your role.