get things done

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Life is hectic and we are all trying to get things done. Using tried and tested methods to tackle tasks can help to improve our sense of control, self efficacy and effectiveness.  Productivity tools work best when combined to become your 'productivity system' - a method for getting stuff done.  Here are 6 tools that can help.

1)  Monotask                                                                                       

Multitasking is often thought of as something to aspire to, with an assumption that the more we’re doing, the more efficient or hardworking we are.  The problem however, is that this juggling act can only be maintained for a short while before our concentration, energy and focus begin to fade.  It is hard to do anything well, when tasks are competing for your attention.  “Monotasking” is simply an alternative to multitasking - stop juggling multiple tasks and instead focus deeply on one thing at a time.

Commit to try.  Think of the activities that you often try to ‘multitask’ but will try to monotask instead?  What?  When?

2)  Batching                                                                                                 

Here are two ways to manage time when single tasking.

Time-Batching    Set aside a realistic amount of time for specific tasks and during this time, minimise distractions and give the task your full focus.  Once the time has lapsed or the task is complete, you move onto the next with the same determined focus and attention.

Day-Batching     Organise your week by assigning a specific focus or task to individual days.  Monday might be administrative work, while Friday is for client appointments. 

Commit to try.   Plan ahead: what work activities could you schedule in batches, according to days and or times.

3)  To-Do Lists                                                                                                        

It is easy to say “do one thing at a time”, but how do we manage our workload or prioritise which tasks to work on?    A good place to start is with a well-considered list of ‘things to do’.  Spend the first 5-10-minutes each morning writing a ‘to do’ list to clarify tasks for the day ahead.  Some prefer the old-fashioned pen-n-paper method, even colour coding tasks or crossing items off as they’re completed.  Meanwhile, others opt for the latest digit aps – the exact method or process is up to you.     The benefit is you will get organised and improve your productivity.

Commit to try.  When will you write your to-do list?  Will you use an ap or pen and paper?  Where will you keep it so you can refer to it throughout the day?  Will you cross off items?   If an item isn’t crossed off, consider keeping it for the next workday. 

4)  Prioritize                                                                                                            

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With a to-do-list, you can keep a track of what tasks need your attention, but how do you prioritise which tasks to work on first?  What tasks should take priority?   To help prioritise tasks on your to do list, try using this Eisenhower matrix.  Place items from your to do list into the appropriate box by asking yourself, “is the task – urgent, not urgent, important or not important? Then act accordingly, by doing it, delegating it, scheduling it later or deleting it from your to do list all together!

Commit to try.  Next time you compile your to-do list, try asking yourself if each item is urgent or not urgent; important or not important. 

5)   Plan Breaks                                                                                                      

Focusing your attention on single-tasks is important to work efficiently, but equally important is allowing yourself short, planned breaks to detach from being ‘on-task’. You can easily improve your productivity and your happiness by taking intentional breaks during your workday.     Breaks are most effective when spent on a preferred activity that brings you joy – Everyone is different.   To maintain attention at work, take short, regular breaks to reset & refocus.

Take a break 

  • Every 45 minutes – 60 minutes
  • More often during challenging or emotionally upsetting tasks
  • When switching between different tasks
  • If you’re finding it difficult to focus or concentrate

Plan the perfect breaks

Generally, if you’re on a screen for work, take a break from screens during your break.  If you are sitting during work, stand and move during your break or vice versa.  Choose activities from the list to try on your breaks or think of your own.

10 minutes of less

  • Get up and move
  • Take a seat and rest your feet
  • Stretch
  • Walk to kitchen
  • Have a drink or a snack
  • Refill your water bottle
  • Bathroom visit
  • Empty trash
  • Refill the photocopier
  • Practice slow breathing
  • Check Social media
  • Listen to your favourite music
  • Text your partner
  • Tidy your work area
  • Small-talk with a colleague

10-20 minutes

  • Morning or afternoon tea 
  • Get away from your work area
  • Tidy your work area
  • Switch to an easier task
  • Practice slow breathing and relaxation
  • Sit outside with a drink
  • Go for a walk around the office or outside   Chat to a colleague about their day
  • Listen to music that energises or relaxes you
  • Listen to a podcast 
  • Watch a Ted Talk

20 minutes or more

  • Lunch away from your work area 
  • Go to a new café
  • Have a quiet lunch alone  
  • Lunch with a friend 
  • Get away from your workplace 
  • Go for a walk
  • Phone a relative or friend 
  • Go to the barber or beautician 
  • Take an exercise class
  • Read a magazine or novel
  • Window shop
  • Do your groceries
  • Ask a colleague if they need a hand   
  • Get a massage 
  • Have a nap
  • Listen to music 

Commit to try.  Design your perfect break.  Think about your tasks/workload and what you can do to take a break from being ‘on-task’, to re-energise and refocus?

6)  Beat Procrastination                                                                                     

Procrastination is whenever you delay important tasks for activities that are of less importance. Everyone struggles with procrastination at times, and the trick is to catch yourself when you’re about to avoid or switch.  Once you notice the urge, pause and get back on track.  Here’s one way how.

Beat procrastination in 5-steps

  1. At the beginning of an important task: Commit to doing nothing but your important task.
  2. Don’t let yourself shift attention.  Clear distractions and have nothing that you can do except this one task. When you get the urge to switch, notice this! But don’t act on it. You can feel an urge and not act.
  3. Stay with the urge. Instead of acting on the urge, instead of ignoring the urge … just stay with it. Notice discomfort.  Restlessness. Boredom, dread, feeling intimidated, overwhelmed, confused or incompetent. Just stay with it and be curious about the experience. 
  4. Return to the task. After sitting for a minute with the urge and the discomfort, they most likely lessen. Simply return your focus to your task.
  5. Create a system for work.  If you want to get things done, you need a method. Deadlines create urgency, accountability creates responsibility, working in intervals improves your focus, exercising and a healthy diet will give you more energy and eliminating distractions will take away the temptations.

But there’s no system that can help you if you don’t know your ’Why’ - Why do you do what you do?

Commit to try.  Think of an important task that you anticipate you may procrastinate on, but instead, approach it with a commitment to do nothing but work on the task.

 from the Work Well Toolkit: tools to build resilience at work

by Lydia Rigano