11 Secrets to Getting More Done

Feeling swamped by all the tasks at hand? Here are 11 easy ways to accomplish more and avoid the feeling of being overwhelmed.

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I am not one of those full-of-energy, get-a-million-things-done-in-a-day types. So when I told my family and friends I planned to quit my full-time job to start freelancing, I wasn’t met with a rush of support.

In fact, I heard things like: “You know, being self-employed is really hard work,” and “Do you think you’re organized enough for something like that?”

Then, there was my personal favorite: “Well, at least you’ll get to take those afternoon naps you love.”

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That was almost a decade ago. Today, I’m still freelancing, and I get a lot more done in a day than I used to. It took some trial and error, but I found a few ways to power through and still have time to do the stuff I enjoy.

Here are 11 tips I have learned for getting stuff done:

1. Keep multilevel to-do lists

I’m a huge believer in to-do lists. However, a long, cluttered one of everything you want to accomplish will only make you feel bogged down.

To keep things organized, group your to-do lists into categories. For example, I have a work to-do list divided into:

  • Projects that need completion
  • Business meetings and emails
  • Accounting tasks

I also have a separate personal to-do list organized by chores, errands and appointments.

2. Prioritize

If your to-do list is three pages long, you’re probably creating too many tasks.

I struggle with this myself. I’ll write down everything from an important meeting to laundry. Then, when I can’t get to all of it, I feel frustrated.

To combat this, I write down everything I think I should do in a week, and then I go back and cross out what really doesn’t matter. Do I need to write down laundry? Probably not. I’ll just do it when I run out of clean underwear anyway.

After that process, my list is focused and I get a little mental boost from already having tasks checked off.

3. Use a timer

Most people are guilty of distracting themselves and procrastinating. It’s easy to lose yourself digging into The Atlantic’s archives or trying for the 300th time to beat a level in Candy Crush Saga.

To cut down on distractions, I use an online timer. For 60 minutes, I can’t do anything but work on the task at hand. After the timer goes off, I give myself leeway and try the game’s level for the 301st time.

4. Own your email

You are going to feel overwhelmed if your email box is bursting at the seams, you can’t remember what needs an answer, or you can’t find something important.

Instead, resolve to empty your inbox every day before you head home. Set a time to check your email, and act on it as soon as you open it. Answer it and delete it, or put it on your to-do list for later and file it away.

5. Delegate

Doing tasks yourself can save money. However, always remember that time — not money — is the most valuable resource you have.

Rather than spending all weekend learning how to repair a leak in your air conditioner unit or mowing your lawn, delegate such tasks to someone else. Save your time for stuff you enjoy.

6. Eat your frogs

This saying has often been attributed to Mark Twain:

If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.

Most of us avoid the things we don’t want to do and keep putting them off, which causes more stress.

Instead, learn to tackle your least favorite task first thing in the morning. Once it’s out of the way, the dread won’t slow you down anymore and you’ll get more accomplished.

7. Make a playlist

Music can work wonders for your productivity. I’ve found that if I listen to music that makes me happy at work, I’m better at my job. If I listen to music that makes me feel calm, I have an easier time doing chores at home.

Find your tunes, make a playlist, and let the music help you get through the day.

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