Everyone has had one of those days – where you feel like you didn’t get anything accomplished at work.I’ve been there myself. You went to work, you talked to people, you wrote emails — but you didn’t really get anything finished.
Here’s a list of ways to rethink your workday so you’ll be more productive:
1. Make a list: You saw this one coming, didn’t you? I sound like a broken record because it works. Everyday before I leave work I make a list. Even if I’m dying to get out of there or I’m running late – I make time to make my list for the next day.
I look at my calendar and run through the following day in my head. I write out everything that I need to do – emails I need to write, phone calls I need to return, appointments I need to keep, shoots I need to go on, etc. I usually make two columns – one for work and one for personal stuff. Then the next day when I come in – I don’t even have to think about what needs to get done – I just follow my list and cross out tasks as I finish them.
2. Add to the list: Throughout the day I write down other things I need to do that I might forget. If I get sidetracked…I write down what I was in the middle of doing so I make sure to finish it later. It seems neurotic – but it’s incredibly effective. It’s so easy to forget what you’re in the middle of doing. How many times have you said, “Now, what was I doing?” You waste time and energy trying to remember and get back on task if you don’t leave yourself a note.
3. Leave yourself reminders: My Outlook calendar is ridiculously filled with appointments. Not because I’m so popular – but because I use it as a tool to remember what I need to do. When I leave work and I remember something I need to do but didn’t put on my list – I make a meeting maker for it. That way a reminder will pop up at some point the next day and I’ll get that task accomplished. You can also write notes or use Post-its but I tend to lose track of those. If it’s in my phone and it pops up – I can’t lose it. Oh it’s also easy to ignore the pop-up alerts – so just add the tasks to your list when they first appear.
4. Use different folders: This is something I started doing early on. For each shoot I’m working on I make a folder in Outlook. Then every time I get an email related to that project – I put it in the appropriate folder. It’s so easy to mix things up if you don’t have a place for each project. This is much easier than relying on searching through old emails, which wastes time and effort.
5. Bribe yourself: I’m serious – do it! Make deals with yourself. “If I finish this and this then I can go on Twitter for 20 minutes,” or “When I finally cross this item off my to-do list, I’ll reward myself with a manicure.” That one works for me every time! If you have a goal or a deadline that you set – you are more likely to finish the job.
6. Unplug: If you have trouble getting work done because you are inundated with phone calls and emails — shut off your phone ringer and close your email. You don’t have to do it for the entire day – that would be crazy. But just for a little while until you catch up. Seeing that you have a new email will throw your focus off and you might get pulled onto another project. Same goes for the phone. Just give yourself a little alone time to finish what you need to do first. Believe me – it’s empowering!
7. Put on headphones: When I’m not out on a shoot, I work in a loud newsroom with a lot of people. I’ve mastered tuning out people, TVs and loud sounds. But it’s not that easy for some people – and sometimes I have trouble myself. My solution? Put on headphones – listen to music or whatever will drown out the sounds around me. It also sends a visual message to people around you that you’re “busy.” It takes a little practice to not actually listen to the words of the song and just hear it as background noise – but try it. It might help you get into the zone.