Time is one thing you can never get more of. But sometimes, you can find better ways to use the time you have. That is true over the course of a day, a year or a lifetime.
So, let’s not waste any time getting to it: Here are some tips to make greater use of time and increase your productivity.
1. Make lists
Having a list of what you need to accomplish can help you focus, making it less likely for something to slip your mind. When you finish something, don’t spend time trying to remember what else you had to do — just consult your list.
Rate items not only by priority, but also by how long they should take you to complete. If you have only 10 minutes — not enough to check off the most important item on your list — turn to an easier item. That way, you’re still making progress.
2. Exercise and take breaks
It may seem counterintuitive to stop working so you can get more done, but taking a break can boost productivity. Exercising helps keep up your energy level so you have more vigor when it comes time to hunker down on the job.
Shorter breaks can let your mind rest and help lower your stress level. If you break down projects into smaller pieces — think of it like chapters in a book — it creates spaces where pauses make sense.
3. Eliminate distractions
You probably use a computer to do at least some of your work. Unfortunately, that same computer is the place where you can look through Facebook and email, handle bills, check the scores from last night’s game, and do a million other little things.
Set aside a time to address distractions — some people only check email once per day, or their phone once per hour — so that you can stay focused on work. Consider turning off your phone’s ringer if you really need to go without being disturbed.
4. Avoid pointless meetings
Yes, meetings can be good for networking that will advance your career. But getting your actual work done is also pretty important when it comes to moving up the corporate ladder.
Some meetings are useful, but time away from your desk is time you’re not finishing that project. So, before you accept a meeting invitation, consider how critical it is to attend.
5. Tell other people
If you have a big goal or project, share it and how you plan to achieve it with other people — whether friends or trusted colleagues. If you do, you’re more likely to actually do it because you have effectively built in some peer pressure. You also might get useful feedback, or even offers of help.
6. Learn the command keys
It’s way faster to save a file by hitting “Ctrl+S” than by using your mouse and finding “Save” on the drop-down menu. Learn more of these keyboard shortcuts. You save a few seconds each time, and that savings will add up.
It’s helpful to think of these command keys as a metaphor. What other shortcuts would pay off over a relatively short period if you took time to learn them, such as how to use an Excel spreadsheet or the mass delete function in your email program?
7. Check in with yourself
Ask yourself whether what you are engaged in is the most valuable thing you could be doing right now. If you need the extra nudge, set your phone alarm (or similar device) to ring every 15 minutes so you don’t stray too far from the task at hand.
When the alarm goes off, it can help you get back on track.
8. Stop trying to multitask
You really can’t multitask effectively. Ever try talking on the phone while you’re making dinner? Either the conversation or the meal will suffer.
The same principle goes for work. Better to finish one task completely and do it well than to have multiple things half-done and done poorly.
9. Track your time
If you want to lose weight, you track calories. If you want to lose wasted time, track that.
Take note of how much time you spend sending emails, checking Facebook, watching TV, sleeping, eating — basically everything. Most phones have free time-tracking apps you can download. The data may be surprising and help you devise some new strategies.
10. Set goals
Set and write down goals, both personal and professional. Doing so makes you more likely to accomplish them. And give yourself a deadline for each — open-ended tasks often don’t get done. And, if in doubt, go back to No. 1 and make a list.
What are your secrets to productivity? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.