‘Tis the season to work smarter, not harder. With the sun setting at practically 4 pm each day here on the northeast, working into the evening can feel like pulling an all-nighter. Yet, with the dreary weather and holidays in full swing, this time of year is the hardest to stay on track. Leaving us less productive and sitting at our desks longer than we’d anticipated.
Over the summer I got my hands on a notebook from Shine that has the phrase “Go Big and Go Home” written on the cover. Never have truer words been shared. Often times we feel the need to sit on the clock to make face, despite our better judgment. Or, tasks pile up throughout the day and we find ourselves stuck.
Since no one likes to be held captive in the workplace, regardless of season, here are some productivity hacks to make going big and going home your new norm.
Slay Your Goliath, Early
One of the key factors delaying your productivity may be that you’re leaving the most daunting task til the end. By conquering what is seemingly the most difficult first, you’ll feel accomplished and more enthusiastic about tackling your other projects.
Identify your Goliath: the most important and difficult or intimidating thing to get done. Prioritize working on that first above things like checking e-mails, or doing research that we often get caught up in to bide time. Sometimes we spend more energy fixated on the difficulty of a task instead of actually completing it. Once you’re done, you’ll realize it wasn’t that bad after all.
Create An ‘A’ and ‘B’ To-Do List
Keeping with the theme of prioritizing, sort your to-do list by ‘A’ items and ‘B’ items. You can even add a ‘C’ section to the mix.
Put your most important tasks: the things that are time-sensitive, most difficult, and most likely to help advance your work in section A. This should be a tight list with no more than three top items, it can even be one thing (your Goliath).
In section B, you can add the items that are important but don’t necessarily make the biggest impact. So, replying to e-mails, pitching/outreach, research, etc. Keep this to no more than 5 items. If you must exceed 5, then create a tier C list. This includes the minute time suck activities we like to do before actually accomplishing the big stuff–so think planning and organizing.
Work through the day by handling tier A, then tier B, and after that tier C. It helps keep you on track. And as long as you complete everything on tier A, you can count it as a successful day.
Race The Clock
The Pomodoro Technique is one of my favorite productivity hacks, maybe it’s my competitive nature, ha! It’s like interval training, where you essentially set time limits to complete each task.
You determine (realistically) how long a task should take you, set an actual timer and lock in to complete it. What makes this effective is the locking in portion. Challenge yourself to eliminate all distractions: close all other windows, turn off notifications (aside from the alarm) and get to work.
You can even break it up if it’s a longer task. If it’s something that’ll take two hours, work in 30-minute intervals. Lock in for those 30-minutes, take a 5-minute break, and then set the alarm for another 30-minutes. Before you know it, time will be up and you’ll have gotten a significant amount of work done.
A common killer of productivity is our inability to simply say no. Though you may think it’ll put you in good graces with your co-workers or boss, it can actually do the opposite. Repeatedly saying yes to time-consuming tasks that others don’t want to do will have you sitting at your desk while they’re all enjoying happy hour. They’ll look to you as the fallback person and take advantage of your time and energy.
So, the next time someone asks you to do something that you know is actually theirs to handle, politely reply back letting them know that you aren’t able to work on it at this time. No need to make up an excuse or try to overcompensate, stand firm in your reply.
If you still don’t feel confident saying no, try pushing back and asking them if the task is urgent and when it absolutely needs to be done. If you get an e-mail at 5 pm asking you to work on a project, think to yourself–will the client actually be in the office to receive it by the time you’re done tonight? Will your boss even be there to check it over? More than likely, the answer is no and by politely asking if you can work on it first thing the next day, it can save you from missing yet another after-work Class Pass session.
Going big, and going home is integral for not only your sanity but your ability to function at work. Avoid burnout and give yourself permission to complete tasks and leave when you’re supposed to. You’ll earn more respect from your peers, feel more accomplished, and have the energy and willingness to put your all into each new day.