It is 5:55 and Rahul is about to end his workday. As he walks down the stairways towards the exit, he takes a minute to review his day, it suddenly occurs to him that he did not complete a single key task that he had intended to finish today. But Rahul feels exhausted and decides to put forward the tasks for tomorrow. He thinks to himself “How did I not accomplish anything today? I feel like I have been running around all day, there is never enough time for me to complete my tasks.”
This is a relatable situation for many professionals.
The feeling of “let down” at the end of the day, is common and depressing. Some people work tirelessly but do not get any REAL work done. Later when they evaluate their day, they wonder “What did I spend my day doing? It all feels like a blur, but I have worked hard for sure.”
Most people respond to such a situation by working even harder, longer, and burning themselves out. And when they engage in a blame game, the three most common factors are:
1- Stuff - “There is too much work coming my way and I feel overwhelmed.”
2- Time - “There is not enough time to get these tasks done.”
3- Others - “If only my boss did not put this much work on me….”
What if I told you that none of these factors is the real problem? The real issue is with these people. Majority of the time, the reason for work stress is not lack of time or volume of work, but how you manage it all.
It may seem kind of cliche, but your habits indeed play an important role in getting things done. If one wants to succeed in this world, then he has to learn how to manage everything, rather than blaming everything. Notice how I did not mention “do” everything, instead, I said, “manage”. It is not too much work that is hampering your REAL productivity, rather how you go about it. Therefore, here are 4 things you need to stop doing and 4 things you need to start doing, to kick start your productivity.
1- Stop checking your emails every morning: Let me clarify, I am not against checking emails in the morning, but do not make it your priority at the start of your day. The reason for it is, when you go through your email the first thing in the morning, your daily tasks get disorganized by all the new stuff that has been popping up. You then shift your focus towards these new inputs and forget about your original tasks.
2- Start looking at your calendar and to-do lists: Take a few minutes to review your calendar. This is the best way to decide how to allocate your time on different tasks. It also helps you to prioritize work that may require your immediate attention. Therefore, going through your calendar and to-do lists before your emails, increases the chances of you staying on the right track throughout the day.
3- Stop saying yes to everything: Sometimes we get caught up in the moment and say yes to every task that comes our way. But it is an illusion to think that we can always get everything done. So try to be more careful in the future and do not say “yes” to every little task. Help your future self by not taking work you cannot do.
4- Start declining requests and renegotiate commitments: If someone makes a request of you, and your hands are already full with work, then consider declining their request. You are just a human and you cannot go beyond your limit. But taking on a request knowing you cannot fulfill it, would leave a bad impression.
5- Stop planning on doing several things in one day: Most of the people pretend to be multitaskers and think that between several meetings and plowing through dozens of emails, we will find a way to execute 10 key tasks. It is highly unlikely for it to happen. When we give ourselves unrealistic daily goals, we set ourselves up for failure.
6- Start making a list of 3 key tasks to accomplish each day: When we break down large projects into smaller digestible chunks, it becomes easier for us to complete them. To deconstruct your work into 3 key tasks and go about it. However, anything beyond 3 key tasks a day should preferably be avoided.
It is unlikely that life would slow down any time soon. So follow these 6 steps and control your work rather than having your work control you and have a stress-free productive work life.