Finding time to work at your peak productivity is a time challenge that we all face. The reality is that the busier we get, the more likely we are to be pulled off course. Not only that, but often what is going to be most helpful to us when stressed is exactly the opposite of what our initial, knee jerk response may be.
So, what helps? Here are 5 tips to get you on track … and keep you there:
- Define your task: Envision your end point, and brainstorm what you need to reach it. What is the most direct route? Write it down. Let simplicity be your guide; include only the items necessary to accomplish your task. Too many details can lead to overwhelm and procrastination. If you get tangled in the minutiae, tell yourself to shift gears and refocus on translating thought into action.
- Staying Focused Means Saying No: Just keep saying YES to your focus and NO to your distractions. You need boundaries to stay focused, and practice really helps. Keep a notepad nearby so you can jot down things that tug at your attention. Promise yourself to come back to them later. Set a specific time for doing this. Make it a reward for staying on track now! When you can trust that you’ll come back to something later, you’ll be more willing to let it go in the moment!
- When You’re Tempted to Accelerate, Put on the Brakes: Learn to recognize feelings of overwhelm and stress. When you feel them, take a breath. Stopping to gather yourself puts your feet back on the ground and puts YOU back in charge of your time. Working from a proactive, rather than a reactive, place always enhances your energy and creativity … as well as your productivity.
- Your To Do Lists Should Serve YOU (Not Vice Versa): Only put on your list what you can realistically do and are motivated to do. If you can’t finish a project today, don’t put it on today’s list. Or just enter the small portion you can accomplish. Anything else goes onto your weekly or monthly list, in doable chunks! Your To Do List can help you stay focused and productive. To do that, it needs to be something that you want to look at – NOT a source of guilt.
- Don’t Just Put on the Brakes, But Give Yourself Breaks: If you don’t GIVE yourself regular breaks, you can rest assured that you’ll find ways to TAKE them. Schedule a specific time every day for spontaneous pleasure. The more consistently you enjoy this special portion of your day, the easier it will be to reject impulsive choices.
And when all’s said and done, don’t forget to give yourself a friendly pat on the back as you look at your To Do List, with Today’s Tasks all checked off. Remember that you are in charge, and you really can find time to get everything done!© Copyright 2011 Paula Eder, Ph.D.