There is only a limited time available to complete your projects and with the volume of work and ambitious deadlines it can often feel overwhelming. Here are a few tactics to eliminate stress and improve your productivity:
Set your working hours and try to stick to them
Working for yourself, especially if you work from home can easily turn into a continuous all day activity and before you know it, you have spent the entire day behind your computer. To avoid being overworked and unproductive, set your daily working hours and do your best to stick to them. By working ridiculous hours each day you are more likely to become less effective and more tired and you can easily forget about your personal life.
Create a weekly plan
I often find myself with to do lists that are difficult to finish in one day and end up moving tasks to the next day. It can cause unnecessary stress when you see unfinished tasks at the end of the day – when in fact you might be simply overambitious. Having a weekly to do list could be a way to plan your time ahead more realistically. Prioritise your tasks based on urgency and importance, allow yourself some extra time if possible and always include some contingency time for new tasks that pop up as the week goes on.
Focus on one thing at a time
With many clients and projects, it’s easy to find yourself switching between them and wasting a ridiculous amount of time doing it. To save yourself the time and keep your mind focused on one thing at a time, dedicate a specific number of hours to each and avoid working on projects outside of those hours. It might take some time getting used to but it’s worth it in the long term.
Pick up the phone
Picking up the phone instead of drafting long emails will not only save you time but is also much better to build relationships. Phone communication is more personal and will allow you to get your stakeholders to know you. And vice versa. Of course, emails are always easier but getting out of your comfort zone and speaking to people will not only save you time, but increase your effectiveness and confidence.
Take regular breaks
We all done this – being so focused on work that we forget about the world and don’t even take a lunch break. No good. Try to have at least a few breaks during the day and make time for lunch, preferably not at your desk. If you can, try to mix your breaks with social interactions. Even if you don’t feel like seeing anyone. It’s good for your brain and will help you to relax in between tasks.
Remember to take notes
Write it all down. It may not seem critical at the time, but anything that could be useful post-meeting should be captured in your notebook. It helps you to plan as well as have a reference to what has been discussed and it helps everyone to ensure they know their next steps.
Don`t make assumptions
Assumptions can get you into difficult situations. No matter what it is, always clarify that you understand what`s required and go back to double check if needed. Often, when making assumptions you may end up spending a lot of energy and time focusing on something that wasn`t required at the first place. If you are being reasonable, people will have no problems to respond to your questions.
Keeping your colleagues and clients updated about the progress you are making will help you manage expectations and keep on top of things. If you are receiving questions that you don`t have the answers to, just admit that you can`t answer them at the time, do your best to figure it out and respond as soon as you can. If you just ignore others until you have final answers they will naturally start to make assumptions.
Use your calendar
Use your calendar to track future appointments, as well as block time for specific tasks to ensure you get them done. Not allocating time to complete tasks often leads to multitasking, which is not a very effective way to get things done. I would always recommend prioritising tasks based on their complexity and time required, to set aside time accordingly and train yourself to focus on each task during these time-blocked periods.
Don`t feel bad for saying no
We often say yes, even when we know we can`t or don`t want to commit. But by saying yes to everything you are asked to do, there is a risk that you will exhaust yourself or spend time doing things that bring you no value or joy. The truth is that saying no in an appropriate way does not communicate that you are unwilling – it shows that you are responsible and take your commitments seriously. Try to avoid the automatic yes when asked to make another commitment and just say you would need to check before you can give an answer. Before committing to anything, get a realistic and detailed idea of what is required and then decide.