Everyone has had one of those days – where you feel like you didn’t get anything accomplished at work. I’ve been there myself. You went to work, you talked to people, you wrote emails but you didn’t really get anything finished. Why?
Here’s a list of ways to rethink your workday so you’re more productive:
1. Make a list: You saw this one coming didn’t you? I sound like a broken record because it works. Everyday before I leave work I make a list. Even if I’m dying to get out of there or I’m running late – I make time to make my list for the next day.
I look at my calendar and run through the following day in my head. I write out everything that I need to do – emails I need to write, phone calls I need to return, appointments I need to keep, shoots I need to go on, etc. I usually make two columns – one for work and one for personal stuff. Then the next day when I come in – I don’t even have to think about what needs to get done – I just follow my list and cross out tasks as I finish them.
2. Add to the list: Throughout the day I write down other things I need to do that I might forget. If I get sidetracked…I write down what I was in the middle of doing so I make sure to finish it later. It seems neurotic – but it’s incredibly effective. It’s so easy to forget what you’re in the middle of doing. How many times have you said, “Now, what was I doing?” You waste time and energy trying to remember and get back on task if you don’t leave yourself a note.
3. Leave yourself reminders: My Outlook calendar is ridiculously filled with appointments. Not because I’m so popular – but because I use it as a tool to remember what I need to do. When I leave work and I remember something I need to do but didn’t put on my list – I make a meeting maker for it. That way a reminder will pop up at some point the next day and I’ll get that task accomplished. You can also write notes or use Post-its but I tend to lose track of those. If it’s in my phone and it pops up – I can’t lose it. Oh it’s also easy to ignore the pop-up alerts – so just add the tasks to your list when they first appear.
4. Use different folders: This is something I started doing early on. For each shoot I’m working on I make a folder in Outlook. Then every time I get an email related to that project – I put it in the appropriate folder. It’s so easy to mix things up if you don’t have a place for each project. This is much easier than relying on searching through old emails, which wastes time and effort.
5. Bribe yourself: I’m serious – do it! Make deals with yourself. “If I finish this and this then I can go on Twitter for 20 minutes,” or “When I finally cross this item off my to-do list, I’ll reward myself with a manicure.” That one works for me every time! If you have a goal or a deadline that you set – you are more likely to finish the job.
6. Unplug: If you have trouble getting work done because you are inundated with phone calls and emails — shut off your phone ringer and close your email. You don’t have to do it for the entire day – that would be crazy. But just for a little while until you catch up. Seeing that you have a new email will throw your focus off and you might get pulled onto another project. Same goes for the phone. Just give yourself a little alone time to finish what you need to do first. Believe me – it’s empowering!
7. Put on headphones: I work in a loud newsroom with a lot of people. I’ve mastered tuning people, TVs and loud sounds out. But it’s not that easy for some people – and sometimes I have trouble myself. My solution? Put on headphones – listen to music or whatever will drown out the sounds around me. It takes a little practice to not actually listen to the words of the song and just hear it as background noise – but try it. It might help you get into the zone.
Paula Rizzo is the Senior Health Producer for FoxNews.com and founder of ListProducer.com. She’s an Emmy Award winner and attributes much of her success to her compulsive list making. She makes lists for everything and started ListProducer.com to help others become more organized, focused and efficient, while being less stressed.