All of us have thought, "I don't have enough time," or, "If only there were more hours in the day," at one time or another.
Unnecessary tasks waste our time everyday, and we usually waste even more time trying to make lists and organize everything we have to do. It's frustrating and exhausting. Here a few tips for simplifying your "to do" list and getting things done.
Simplify your "to do" list
You shouldn't be writing a new list everyday of all the things you need to do, and you shouldn't include literally everything you need to do on it. Keep your list in one central place -- a plain notebook works -- and only include the items you absolutely have to do AND risk forgetting about. If your boss gives you a new project to work on, add it to the list. Non-essential tasks that no one but you is going to notice if you forget or delay -- tidying your desk and organizing your email inbox, for instance -- only serve to make your list longer and more overwhelming. Daily tasks you're going to do regardless, such as going to work and checking your email, also clutter up your list. Your list should only include the essentials.
Learn to prioritize
Then focus on high priority items first. Your highest priority tasks at work are the things your boss has asked you to do. Low priority tasks are the ones no one will notice if you skip. It's common to have multiple high priority tasks. Work on whichever project is due first. If there is no due date and you aren't sure what takes priority, just ask. Part of your boss's job is to help you prioritize your work so that it gets done. Communicating this way is particularly important if you report to more than one person.
Do one thing at a time
Multitasking typically makes the quality of your work suffer, and it ends up making things take longer than if you'd just focused all your attention on one thing.
To really focus and increase your efficiency and the quality of your work, you need to cut out other distractions. Close your internet browser, close your email, and let the phone go to voicemail. Blackberries and other devices that keep you "on call" at all times are productivity destroyers.You lose focus when you keep switching from task to email and back again, and everything ends up taking longer. Instead, return emails and phone calls after you finish the task at hand. If you find yourself spending most of your time returning emails, only check your emails and reply to them at two or three set times per day. The amount of time you'll free up to complete real work is astounding.
You can take advantage of these tips to become more productive at home too. Only check email at set times; when you have a task to do such as paying bills or helping a child with a school project, give it your full attention; and don't let yourself get overwhelmed with self-imposed tasks on your "to do" list -- no one is going to notice if you don't get a chance to clean out the closet this week, no matter how important you may think it is. As you cross completed tasks off your list, congratulate yourself on being more productive and getting things done.
Carissa Doshi is a business writer and the president of Gen Y Media Group. She gives career advice and blogs about her experiences on www.carissadoshi.com. You can also follow @CarissaDoshi on Twitter.