I have had a few people through the years say to me “you get so much done, I can’t believe how efficient you are” (or some variation of that) . And while I’m no Neen James, I take that as a huge compliment and am willing to offer some of my own advice on being more organized and getting more done in a day. So here goes:
You wouldn’t drive to a new location without directions (either written or a GPS) right? Well, don’t try to navigate through your day without a checklist. Make a To Do list. Everyday. Work with it. Consult it. Cross things out. Add things to it. Find satisfaction in working your way down a page of things to do and getting to the end. Let your inner id go crazy when you can tear up a completed list and toss it in the trash. Feel the zen of fresh starts when you take out a clean sheet of paper and begin a new list. And get angry with any task that gets carried over from one list to another. (Like a pebble in your shoe that To-Do needs to go!)
If a task will take longer to write down on your list than it will to do it, just do it. . .
Unless you’re in the middle of something. One of the advantages of a To-Do list is it’s easier to jot something down and then forget all about it until you have to do it than it is to try to focus on one thing while trying to remember to do something else. Remember that interruptions are the true efficiency killer. It takes twice as long to get back into the task you were working on than it does to do whatever the interruption was. So if you’re knee-deep in writing a blog and you stop for 2 minutes to answer a text message, it’ll take you four minutes to get back into the flow of the blog. Stay focused on one thing and see it out. That can be hard for many of us who have some form of A.D.D. or at the very least are just easily distracted, but it’s something well worth working on.
If your daily To-Do list is long and you want to organize it for greatest efficacy, here’s the best way: start with the thing you want to do least and end with the thing you want to do most. It’s human nature to work on the things we enjoy most. And sometimes you can can even work a twelve hour day and cross a hundred things off your list and then look it over and realize the two things you didn’t get to were the two things you really didn’t want to do anyway. Have a tough phone call you have to make or a bad meeting with an employee? Do those things first thing in the morning then get to work on the things you are actually looking forward to doing.
There’s a reason “multi-task” rhymes with “half-assed” (ok, they’re close anyway). They are synonymous. Want to accomplish two things at once? Great. Just accept the fact that neither will be done to the best of your ability. The only exception to this rule that I know of is when one task requires next-to-no thought. For example, I can walk my dog and make a phone call (with my headset in). I can go for a run and rehearse an upcoming seminar. But if I want to write an email and make a phone call, or meet with a staff member and check Facebook, I’m not only being rude but I’m not giving either task my full and undivided attention.
Take a break. The aforementioned twelve hour, hundred tasks completed day is done more easily if you step away from your desk from time to time. And I know the “go-getter” inside all of us resists this. We think, “No way! I can plow through and never take a break. I can eat breakfast, lunch and dinner at my desk and never stop working. I can even bring my smart phone with me to the bathroom and send out emails while I relieve myself. I Am Iron Man!” (Or woman, whichever the case may be). But you’re not. I’m not. None of us are. At some point (and that point is different for all of us but it does exist) we become not only less efficient but less creative. Far less creative. Our brain starts to shut down and we go into tunnel vision mode. The best way to fight this is to step away. Go for a walk. Get some fresh air. (And don’t check Facebook while you’re doing it). If you have a pet spend five minutes scratching it’s belly. Call your significant other and talk about anything but your work. Meditate. Clear your head. Then, when you return to your mountain of work, you will be far less zombie-like.
I have found that doing these things makes me more efficient and keeps me motivated throughout my day. I hope you have the same experience.