The holidays are here. Even as your fast-growing list of priorities gets longer, you can still avoid the disastrous consequences of procrastination and disorganization. Getting and staying in control of your life any time of year means rocking your time management skills—focusing your energy without letting anything fall through the cracks.
But who has the time to learn a time management methodology? Thankfully, there are small steps you can take starting today that are guaranteed to yield dramatic results. We’ve done the research and distilled the following 5 productivity hacks to boost your efficiency now and for months and years to come.
Make the bed.
Navy SEAL Admiral William McRaven gave a simple piece of advice in a commencement speech to the University of Texas at Austin in 2014, “If you want to make a difference in the world, start by making your bed.” The underlying message is that you can start your day right by accomplishing the first task of the day as early as possible.
Aside from the added benefit of having a clean room, making the bed gets productivity flowing, one accomplishment at a time. Starting the day on the right note will set you up for success, and you will be ready for step 2, making your to-do list.
Make daily to-do lists first thing in the morning.
What is your morning routine? This is arguably the most important part of your day. You are setting intentions for how the rest of your waking hours are going to go. Part of your morning routine (after you make the bed) should include writing down your to-do list for the day. You have an opportunity to write down what you need to do for the day before the craziness of the day starts.
The morning is a time to decide what is best for you before you have the influence of others interfering. Write down your top 7 priorities in numerical order of importance. Try to conquer these early in the day, the first 3 should be non-negotiable. You might rarely use a pen and paper anymore, but this is a time to bust them out. The act of writing down your top 7 items for the day will also strengthen the reality of them.
To-do lists are a powerful yet simple habit that will make a difference in your day.
Do the most important task first.
How simple does that sound? People make the incorrect assumption that the more we get done, the more productive we are. We are instructed to-do the small things first, pay off your smaller debts first, do the quickest or closest errand first, but this can lead to the procrastination of what is truly important.
If you do your most important task first each day, you will get something important done every day. Another reason to do this is your willpower and energy tend to be higher earlier in the day. Maybe it’s the coffee rush or the promise of a full day ahead of you, but it is key to use this momentum on your most important task.
As our days go along, it’s likely that unexpected tasks will creep into the schedule. You’ll get a phone call, email, text message, and your to-do list will become longer. These distractions only add to the stress of an unfinished project.
Rather than starting your day opening your email, or checking your phone and answering to others, spend time on your #1 item. You can set aside devoted time to this task, called time blocking.
Time blocking is the opposite of multitasking. The idea is that you do one task for a chosen amount of time, and you put your undivided attention on that one thing. For example, if you need to clean your closet – set a timer for 18 minutes and during that time don’t check your phone, don’t eat a snack, your only goal is cleaning out the closet. This is an incredibly efficient way to stop procrastination and get things done off your to-do list.
Time blocking helps you make choices about the priority of the item, the time required to complete the task, and how much time you have available for it. Check out these 10 Benefits of blocking time: 10 Benefits You Get by Blocking Time
Use your calendar.
Calendaring is the final of the 5 tips – while it may be the most work, it’s the most rewarding. If you don’t use a calendar today, you are probably more of a go with the flow kind of person. Maybe you wake up and do a million things at once and in no particular order. However, this is not a sustainable way to manage time.
Take your pick on the calendar that speaks to you, maybe it’s google calendar or the one that comes on your phone. Or a big white desk calendar where you hand write your schedule. Whatever the method, calendaring is key to keeping your productivity. You could get as specific as calendaring your workouts, your free time, even your sleep time. However you decide to calendar is up to you, and the productivity rewards go far.
Between a priority to-do list, time blocking, and calendaring, you are going to get more done than you ever have before. Take advantage of the time indoors and make the rest of the year productive, setting yourself up for a strong start to the New Year.