Ever feel like you’ve worked all day but accomplished almost nothing? You’re not alone. With all the distractions in our lives, from jarring notifications to addictive social media apps, it’s no surprise we struggle to stay productive. For those of us who can’t simply unplug from our digital lives, here are five ways to get the important work done.
1. Eat the frogs
According to Forbes contributor and co-founder of TalentSmart Travis Bradberry, “frogs” are the least appealing, most daunting tasks you have to complete. The longer you leave them untouched, the more time you’ll stress over them. If you “eat” (or complete) these tasks as soon as possible, you can stop worrying and devote more time to work that inspires you. To help you tackle your biggest “frog,” create a to-do list in Evernote and set a reminder to get started on it at the beginning of the day.
2. Sprint, rest, repeat
Let’s say you’re working on a project that bores you to tears (we’ve all been there). Maybe it’s a long report for which you have to prepare not just text but charts and infographics. Instead of thinking, “I have to write this impossibly long thing,” break the project down into small, digestible tasks. Then you can focus on only the introduction or the first graphic. This allows you to “sprint” until a given task is done, then take a break before moving on to the next one.
3. Be kind to your memory
Ever met someone at a party and forgotten their name two minutes later? Or listened carefully to that presentation at work, then left the room and—poof—an important detail escaped you? Our short-term memories have limits, which is why we take notes in the first place. You might be a dutiful notetaker, but if your notes are scattered across a bunch of Word documents or sheets of paper, it’s easy to forget where they are. Evernote keeps track of your notes for you. And if you forget where you saved a note, its powerful search feature will always help you find it.
4. Let yourself (kind of) quit
The hardest part of jumping into your work for the day is simply starting. However, once you taste the satisfaction of finishing a task, it’s easier to do more. If you struggle in the morning, pick one important job and tell yourself you can stop working once you finish it. When you complete the task, you may instead feel a sense of drive that will propel you to keep going. Even if you do stop for a break, you can still enjoy a sense of accomplishment.
5. Reclaim your attention
Your phone buzzes. It’s a social media notification. You tell yourself you’ll check it quickly then go right back to work, which (let’s be real) is a bald-faced lie. Next thing you know, you’ve been swallowed up into the digital abyss. When something like this happens, it takes time to refocus on what you want to accomplish. As a result, you might struggle to finish (or even start) a task. The solution is simple: Turn off your smartphone or put it in Do Not Disturb mode. That’ll help you avoid distractions and focus solely on your work.
Today’s intrusive technology can zap your productivity potential. But with these tips, you can trick your brain into boosting your time management skills, and avoid the distractions that stand between you and your goals.