No matter how many pretty notebooks you buy to get organized, that to-do list isn’t getting any shorter. It just keeps growing. You start the day fully intending to plow through all 15 super-important tasks, only to end up completing three and adding four more. Truth is, old tricks don’t really work for our generation of hustlers. Our attention span is short, and our ambitions are big.
To really get things done, we don’t need to create another to-do list; we need a mental shift. While we’re huge proponents of finding that work-life balance, we’re also realists and understand you have goals to achieve and places to go. For that reason, we found and tested seven practical solutions to help you get more out of every day. It’s not about buying another organizer or getting to inbox zero. It’s about employing your most powerful ally: your mind.
1. Assign purpose to the things you dread. When you can place value on individual tasks, you’re much more likely to get them done — and be happier doing so! Consider how every daunting email or proposal will affect immediate outcomes (no more guilt over putting off your inbox) and long-term goals (hello, new clients!). Focus on the payoff to help you stay on track.
2. Reflect on your day. There’s no reason why a mistake you make today should slow you down tomorrow. Every night, take stock of what went well, what didn’t, and why. Use that knowledge to inform future behavior. Did you crush it in a meeting? If so, remember how you prepped this time around and which parts of your presentation got the most attention. Review your outcomes, so you don’t have to spend time obsessing over the same stuff later.
3. Prioritize like it’s your job. Part of why we can’t get as much done as we want is because we’re often reacting and not thinking through what’s important versus what’s urgent. Important things propel you forward; urgent matters stress you out. Once you start taking the time to reflect on your day and think through what you hope to accomplish long term, you’ll be better able to gauge which to-dos need immediate attention, and which ones can be delegated, deleted, or delayed.
4. Visualize your entire day. The body follows the mind and vice-versa. By imagining how things will go, you can set off a series of actions that will get you to the finish line. Start with micro-moments, like visualizing a gym session or grocery trip in vivid detail. Work your way up to imagining your entire day exactly as you want it to play out. Not everything will go exactly as planned, but you’ll get a heck of a lot closer to getting things done when you’ve already thought through how you’ll complete each task.
5. Set yourself up for success. You’re more likely to do something when it’s right in front of you. Start by removing all possible barriers, and create the path of least resistance toward the things you have to or want to do. If you need to work out first thing in the morning, put your workout gear in the bathroom or sleep in yoga pants. Want to be more informed about the world? Leave your computer screen set to The New York Times homepage before leaving work, so it’s the first thing you see when you log on.
6. Automate your routine. Reduce mental clutter by creating a system that puts the mundane into auto-pilot. The idea of wearing a turtleneck and jeans every day, à la Steve Jobs, may be a bit much, but having the same healthy breakfast every weekday morning isn’t so crazy. The less you have to slow down to think about one thing, the more time you have for another.
7. Try interval working. Alternate between blocks of focused work and chill time. Set a timer, and give yourself 20 minutes to start your first task. Then, take 10 minutes to do whatever you want: Scroll through Instagram, call a friend, do squats (an active recovery, for you overachievers). Repeat. Switching off between spurts of hustle and rest makes big tasks feel more manageable and pushes you to squeeze more out of every minute. It’s just like interval training at the gym — you work smarter, not harder!
What’s your favorite productivity hack? Tweet us @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)