In a world where we are constantly bombarded with information, your mind may feel like an internet browser with 600 tabs open at once. It's easy to feel overwhelmed by personal task management. Like most of us, you want to know how to organize your tasks to have the most productive days at work possible. Here are some of our best practices to help you manage your personal workflow:
1. Know thyself, and adapt accordingly.
Are you reactive? That's great for dealing with crises or even everyday issues that pop up and need your full attention. However, you might have a hard time getting your own other work done, not to mention planning for future projects.
Perhaps you are the opposite: You are committed to your to-do list and have no flexibility.
Extremes in either case can hinder your productivity. You don’t need to become a hyper- productive morning person overnight. Allow some wiggle room into your to-do list to account for the unexpected. You don’t have to plan out every minute of your day if you skew more reactive. A simple sketch of your upcoming tasks might be all it takes to keep you on track.
2. Get real when it comes to your to-do list.
Sure, you can tell yourself that all of your tasks are important, but are they? Rank your tasks by urgency to ensure you finish what you need to, when you need to. If you’re approached with a new task, feel confident enough in your current workload to respond with proper deadlines. Ask probing questions to understand the nature of any new “high priority” tasks. You’d be surprised how different your “high priority” is from your superiors’.
3. Block out your time.
Remember the earlier analogy of your brain on browser mode with 600 tabs open? It's impossible to get anything done when your attention is scattered in every direction. Some of the most productive businesspeople today insist they only answer emails after lunch and spend their mornings tackling their most urgent tasks. They also rely on apps that save articles or other links in one spot, so they can finish their reading all at once. Time management is critical to productivity.
4. Set up document or cloud sharing and e-signatures.
Most of us rely on others to sign off on various parts of our work. When documents can be shared or signed electronically, it saves considerable amounts of time.
5. Rein in your inbox.
Most email systems come with filtering capabilities that can organize your emails. Use them, so you’re not scrolling through spammy offers when you’re trying to pay attention to important work correspondence. Also, there are various tools that can take email organization a step further. The app Todoist can turn your emails into action items, and Unroll.me can consolidate all of your email subscriptions into one readable email.
6. Stop procrastinating.
You know you're a procrastinator if you're Googling "how to stop procrastinating" instead of doing your work. Seriously, though, procrastination is a vicious cycle that can keep you from doing your best work. How do we stop procrastinating?
One word: deadlines.
Break down your work into smaller tasks and give yourself a specific deadline to accomplish each task. On those days when the urge to procrastinate is overwhelming, just do one thing. Even if it's small, it's a step forward and can create the momentum you need to keep going.
Whereas 15 years ago your biggest distraction at work might have been an overly chatty co-worker, in today's office, you can get distracted by a friend who lives halfway across the world whose Instagram post just popped up on your phone alert. To be productive, you must be your vigilant about task management.
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