This guest post is written by Alyssa Gregory. Alyssa is a small business collaborator who provides small business help through the Small Business Bonfire, a social, educational and collaborative community for entrepreneurs.
Unfortunately, a magical time-creating machine that will let you expand a day on a whim doesn't exist, despite how much we wish it did. But there are some things you can do that will help you streamline your daily processes and use the time you have more effectively.
If you find yourself often wishing you had more time, you may need to improve the way you work to make better use of the time you have. Try these productivity-boosting tips, and see if you can get more accomplished in a day, and reduce stress in the process.
Do a Daily Review
There's nothing more overwhelming than looking at a massive list of tasks that you know you can't accomplish in one day, or possibly even in one month. So before you start working for the day -- the evening before is even better -- take a few minutes to review your list, and see what's on your plate. Doing this every day will help you stay on top of your work and prevent things from falling through the cracks.
Start with Three
Life rarely goes exactly as we expect it to, so it shouldn't be a surprise when the three solid hours of work you had planned for the afternoon gets eaten up by a last-minute meeting or an urgent issue. This is why part of your daily review should involve prioritization. All of your tasks should be prioritized so you know where to start and what to do next. To kick your day off even more productively, pick just the top three tasks that must be completed that day and focus on completing those before you even look at the rest of your list.
Schedule Your Time
If you are someone who responds well to schedules and can estimate how long a task will take you, try scheduling specific tasks during specific time slots on your schedule. Getting pinged when it's time to work on new tasks can help you shift your focus successfully and make sure everything on your list is getting your attention at some point during the day.
Wake Up Earlier
This will not be a popular option for many, but there is no denying that the solitude of early-morning hours can do wonders for your productivity. You don't have to wake up in the middle of the night, but setting the alarm clock for an hour or even a half hour earlier can give you some time to get focused and prepare for the day ahead. Even if you just use the time to get a handle on your email inbox while sipping a cup of coffee, it is time well spent.
Make Your Own System
Having a system for managing your to-do's is often a huge part of the productivity puzzle. What does it take for you to process email messages, requests, and ongoing tasks, sort by priority, and keep track of everything on an ongoing basis? This is what will drive the task and time management system you use and help you hold yourself accountable. It really doesn't matter is you use GTD, Covey's 7 Habits, sticky notes, or some other methodology, just find the system that works for you (or create your own) and stick with it.
Get Off Facebook
Let's talk distractions. There are always things that pop up in front of you during the day, and the next thing you know, you've lost 45 minutes wasting time. You need to know where your weaknesses are and be able to limit them. It could be Facebook, Twitter, online games, television or phone calls. Know what triggers 'time-wasting' mode for you, and save those activities for after you've accomplished your first three big priorities for the day. And make sure you set a time limit!
Take a Breather
While it may sound counter-productive, taking a break from your work can actually be a great way to restart your productivity. Go for a walk, spend some time being willingly distracted or just enjoy doing nothing for a little while to find new motivation. When you get back to work, you may be surprised how much you accomplish after a mindless break in your day.
There are hundreds of ways to boost your productivity, and finding what works for you often comes down to trial and error.
What tricks do you use to stay productive during the workday?