Productivity tips for busy professionals

These high performance habits can help busy people stay on task and increase efficiency.
In a study done by USA Today about busyness, only 8% of participants rated themselves “not very busy.” When the remaining 92% of respondents were asked what they had to sacrifice due to their busyness, most offered answers like sleep, family, friends, and hobbies.
Wouldn’t you love to have more time to sleep, relax or hang out with friends and family? Being more productive at work can help you complete tasks quicker and more efficiently, leaving you with more time at the end of each day for all those other aforementioned activities.
Even the busiest professionals can make small changes to stay more organized, on task, and do more in less time. These nine productivity tips can help.

1. Dig deep to fix procrastination

Every professional from business owners to freelancers to employees has tasks they dread. It may seem difficult, but try to do these tasks first. Getting the worst over with will lighten and free up your day to do tasks you feel happier or more confident about. But this is often much easier said than done.
If you can’t bring yourself to start, think about why you don’t want to do this specific task. What’s the worst that could happen? Sometimes just outlining the reasons why you’re dreading something suddenly makes the task seem less intense.
What you may not realize is that in many cases, procrastination has nothing to do with self-control or work ethic. It can go much deeper, connected to fear of failure, emotional blockage or low self-esteem.
According to Tim Pychyl, a psychology professor, “Procrastination is an emotion regulation problem,” and actually has nothing to do with time management. He told the New York Times that the key to rising above procrastination has to do with tricking your mind to offer yourself a bigger reward that the one avoidance is temporarily offering you.
This can be as easy as reframing the dreaded task in your mind, reminding yourself that you successfully completed a similar task, or breaking up the task into smaller, more manageable tasks to essentially “trick” your mind into thinking it’s simpler than it really is.

2. Create detailed to-do lists

The key when making a feasible to-do list is breaking up larger projects into a number of small tasks (and, as previously mentioned, this can also help you to beat procrastination). This way, you can go little by little, checking off each smaller task as you finish it.
To-do lists can be made on line or the old fashioned way: with pen and paper. There is something fulfilling about physically checking important tasks off your to-do list, after all. Find a list template you love and use it — this is a productivity ritual you can commit to doing daily.
Apps can also help your list stay organized. Tech tools like Evernote, Todoist, or even Google Keep can sync with both your phone and computer to make sure you never miss a task or meeting.
Time blocking can also help those attempting to organize their day. This will help you stay proactive instead of reactive. Schedule in time blocks to take breaks, tackle important tasks and react to what others may need from you — an edit, the final draft of a business plan or data in the CRM.
Day theming (or half-day theming) is another way to create your to-do list. This means each day is dedicated to something specific. For example, Wednesday is content creation day and Friday is for market research.
Another helpful to-do list you can make is a not to-do list for your workday. This may not need to be updated daily, weekly or even monthly, but having a physical reminder of behaviors you’d prefer to avoid (e.g. excessively checking social media, spending too long at lunch meetings, or getting distracted with news apps) may help with productivity.

3. Get enough rest

This one is simple. Get more sleep, and you’ll wake up energized. You’ll be more productive when you get enough sleep and take enough breaks to keep your energy and creativity consistent.
It may be easier said than done, but try to create a routine that works for you, whether that means earlier bedtimes, 5-minute breaks throughout the day or a 20-minute cat nap post-lunch to ensure you’re properly rested and ready to take on the world. Or at least, your to-do list for the day.
If you’re having trouble unwinding, whether it be for a quick catnap or before bed, consider a meditation app, such as Insight or Headspace, which can help your mind and body slowly relax after a hectic day.
Avoiding screens before bed is another important way to get yourself ready to sleep. Reading a book or having a bedtime ritual, like lighting a scented candle, putting on foot lotion and fluffy socks, or doing some yin yoga are things you can do to unwind that don’t include scrolling your phone.

4. Outsource whenever possible

You don’t have to do it all. Think about what tasks best need your attention, and if it’s possible to outsource other tasks, do so. Whether this means paying your teenager to file papers, properly utilizing your staff/employees, or hiring a virtual assistant, do it. This can even mean ordering a healthy lunch, saving you shopping and prep time.
With smaller or low-priority tasks out of the way, you’ll be freed up to focus on the business that really counts.

5. Eliminate distractions

Getting rid of distractions will be a friend to your time management. Distractions can come in many forms (especially if you’re working from home). Whether it’s construction noise, co-worker chatter, or Slack pings, do whatever it takes to keep your focus. Turn off social media alerts, mute Slack, and invest in a solid pair of noise cancelling headphones. This way, you’ll be less likely to interrupt your workflow to check Facebook, or answer an email.
If you absolutely have to be on social media or answer those Slack messages, schedule time into your day to do so at specific times, and avoid doing it when it’s not on your to-do list.

6. Use productivity tools

Finding the right time management app, project management system, or online timer for yourself and your business is key. Whether it’s Asana, Trello, Monday,  Toggl Timer or anything else, using technology tools and apps to organize your time/tasks is key for getting everything done.
Even those aforementioned meditation apps can help you eventually improve your productivity. If you’re resting more frequently and better thanks to a little help, you may end up feeling more focused at work.

7. Check email less frequently

We all know how addicting email can be. And if you’re a busy professional, you could be getting tens of emails every few minutes. The solution is to plan specific times each day to check and answer emails — with a time limit.
Working this task into your to-do list is a great plan. Many busy people find the most success checking email once in the morning and once in the afternoon, but do what works best for you. Email can be a section if you’re doing time blocking, or a portion of the day if you’re doing half-day theming.
Using an email signature, separating emails with folders, and dedicating extra time every few months to keeping your inbox organized are other ways to keep your email under better control and save time. Unsubscribe from unnecessary newsletters and email lists, and mark emails unread you may need to attend to later.

8. Consider shorter meetings

Most meetings and phone calls don’t actually need to be an hour. Think about the subject matter and participants for each meeting you schedule or attend. Can it be set for just 20 or 30 minutes, or even 45?
Shorter meeting times will keep your brain fresher and give you extra time in the day to finish those other tasks on your to-do list.

9. Don't multitask, time block instead

Most busy professionals are guilty of multitasking. But it actually takes your focus away from key elements, and it’s likely you’ll complete all the tasks you’re doing at once in a subpar fashion. Instead, prioritize one thing at a time, focusing directly on one single task until it’s complete. Set time blocks to complete that task. Then take breaks in between before starting the next one.
Successful people are usually busy people, so figuring out how to stay productive while busy is key for professionals. Following these tips may help you prioritize, organize, and work efficiently, giving you extra free time at the end of the day that you can dedicate to something you love while still keeping productive professionally.

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