And beat procrastination..
By Manolis Zografakis
Today’s business world is absolutely mad! It’s super demanding, extremely competitive and requires people to work faster and be more effective than ever before. If you’re a freelancer, you can find ways to control the workaholic self-boss inside your head. However, as an employee working for a company that pushes fast results, the stress can sometimes send that little man that works inside our brains to throw his papers in the air and run screaming. The best way is to find clever ways to work faster because you want to and not because you need to. Being fast and effective is essential in today’s competitive world. If you’re a career focused person then at some point you’ll need to adjust yourself to the ‘work fast’ mentality – whether you like it or not – otherwise you’ll simply be out of the game. Some time ago I wrote an article about 5+5 Tips for being productive when working from home which can be very useful for freelancers and entrepreneurs. This time, I’ve gathered my 5 top tips for working quickly and efficiently, all of which work every time. You can start by getting rid of that classic ‘Why do something now if I can do it tomorrow?’ mentality, before following these 5 handy techniques to transform yourself into the Flash Gordon of the office!
#1 Create a daily plan and stick to it
Spend some time in the morning before you start working to create a day plan. List the important tasks of the day that you’re confident you will complete. This will help you be concentrated and committed on specific tasks and goals and at the end of the day you can see what you accomplished, and therefore set realistic goals for the next day. This is a great way to work faster and more efficiently. There are lots of nice to-do list apps for mobiles and laptops that can help you with this.
2 Nice Free To-do-list Apps
#2 Time Management – Create estimates and use a timer!
Now is a good time to start using those time management skills you raved about on your CV. As Parkinson’s Law states, “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” This is a simple philosophy. If you do not allot an end time to a task, you will have no target to work towards and subsequently take more time to complete it. If you set a specific amount of time to complete a task, you will work faster and more efficiently as you will race the clock to achieve your target. You can simply use your phone’s timer for timing each task or just install Task Timer or a similar widget on your Google chrome browser.
2 Nice Free Time Management Apps
30/30 | A nice Timer App.
Focus Booster | A digital pomodoro timer that breaks tasks down into timed blocks separated by short breaks.
#3 Complete unimportant boring tasks in the morning and keep the good ones for after lunch
In this part I have 3 suggestions for different personality types.
- If you are energetic in the morning: I am one of those types of people and I’ve noticed that after having lunch I lose my energy and my enthusiasm. I feel sleepy and that makes me less productive. If I work from home after having my lunch break, lying on the couch or in bed can be a big temptation – but of course, it’s not an option. So I struggle and I struggle and I drink several cups of coffee ‘til I get my mind rolling again. However, I realised that what was making me feel like a zombie wasn’t just my full stomach, but also the boring tasks that I had to do. So I came up with a way to keep myself motivated. I decided to start the day with the boring tasks, therefore always keeping the best and most interesting tasks for later in the day.
- If you feel tired and unmotivated in the morning: If you are one of those types then it might make more sense to do the exact opposite. You can schedule the most interesting tasks for the morning part and keep the most boring for the evening. This way, you will have a motive to be more energetic and enthusiastic early in the morning when you would normally feel like collapsing!
- If you are a balanced person and none of the above works for you: While you set your to-do list/daily plan (technique 1) you can try to mix up the boring tasks with the interesting tasks. So, when you complete a boring task, then you have an interesting one to do, then a boring one and so on… it’s like a continuous reward system designed to keep you going.
#4 Stay away from Social Media
I know, checking your phone or Facebook while working can be addictive. Especially if you are easily distracted. Well, here’s a solution. Put your phone aside or inside your bag or pocket. Close every single tab on your pc or laptop that has nothing to do with work such as Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest, Reddit and even your personal e-mail. Set your own rule and stick to it. For example, you can set a rule that you will spend 5 minutes every 2 hours to check what’s going on and not a minute more. In the beginning it might be hard, but you need to get used to it in order to stick to it and be focused and more efficient at work. Once again, you can try a Google chrome widget called StayFocused which helps you limit the amount of time that you can spend on time-wasting websites like Facebook, Twitter and so on. If you want alternative you use other free time tracking software out there, like myhours.com.
NOTE: The above technique doesn’t apply to all. There are lots of jobs that require you to use social media as an essential everyday tool (marketing, pr and so on) – in which case, you’re fine!
2 Nice Free Apps to help you stay focused while working
Stayfocused | A nice App which is limiting the amount of time that you can spend on time-wasting websites.
Rescuetime | Productivity and Time tracking App.
#5 Have short breaks every 1 hour
Ok. This one may sound a bit controversial. How can a break help me work faster? Well, think about it. Imagine a person who works for 3 hours in a row without having a break, and another one who takes short 10 minute breaks every hour. The first one might seem to be more productive as he works 3 hours while the second one just 2 and a half hours. However, similar to athletes – stamina is key. The second one will always have more energy to work efficiently till the end of the day while the first one will probably feel mentally exhausted by the end of the first half!
If you want to eliminate this to do list as soon as possible, you need to make the call right away and don’t postpone it, as when you put off decisions, they pile up. Try to keep away from the ‘let’s do it later’ attitude. If you can do it now then do it and take it out of your to do list. Do it and move forward. They say that even a bad decision is recoverable, and better than no decision, and I totally agree…
You may also want to check out Manolis’ article on how to start your own online business for cheap.