As most of you will probably know, I got back from a two week trip to The States late last Wednesday. While I love nothing more than getting away from the humdrumality (is that even a word?!) of everyday life and work, there is pretty much nothing more stressful than coming home to a to do list as long as my arm and an inbox fit to bursting.
I joked on Twitter that I should write a post entitled “How to get shit done when you have no time at all” to which many of you responded saying you’d love to know the secret too. While I can’t claim to be some kind of productivity wizard, as I powered through everything I had to do in the latter part of last week, I wrote down just how I did it. I hope you find it helpful and if you have any other tips I’d love to hear about them in the comments too!
A task will take as much time as you give it
Parkinson’s law states that any task will take you exactly the time that you give it. If you allow yourself a week to write a blog post then that’s how long it will take you – you’ll likely put it off until the last day because you know you have all that time or you’ll write it and then keep working and reworking it until your deadline. However if you’re up against it and you only have a few hours to write something, you’ll get it done. Why? Because you have no other option. “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”, it states, so set yourself some achievable deadlines and get on with it!
Do the biggest, ugliest jobs first
It’s very easy to think “Oh I’ll quickly do this or update that because it will only take me a few minutes” but doing the small, insignificant jobs first is a recipe for disaster. We often feel that by doing lots of little things we’ve achieved a lot but actually, getting through just one mammoth task will not only be much more satisfying, it will mean you’re much more productive in the long run.
Firstly, if you do the small and easy jobs first you’ll be using up that vital ‘just getting started’ energy on (by comparison) insignificant things. Then, when it comes to the monster task that requires more brain power (doing your accounts/ editing a wedding/ tacking your inbox/ writing a blog post) you’ll be wiped out… or at least less efficient than if you’d done the big job first.
Have a system
It’s vital that you have a system in place for anything that needs constant attention. For me, email templates mean I can wizz through this job with greater ease than if I had to handwrite a personalised response for every one.
Think about some systems that you can employ in your own job. If you’re a photographer maybe maybe you need to refine and streamline how you cull and process your images… if you’re a designer maybe you need to spend some time really learning the ins and outs of inDesign or Photoshop. Instead of muddling through each time, learning as you go, make the effort to really hone your craft so that in the long term you can do these jobs better and quicker.
Know when you work best
Everyone has a particular time of day when they focus better and get more quality work done so make sure this is the time that you’re doing it. Turn off your phone, shut down your email and close Tweetdeck. Get rid of any distractions and just get on with it. Also make sure you’re always keeping this time free. Don’t schedule meetings when you know you do your best work and make sure you’re always able to be at your desk when you’re going to be the most efficient.