Recently, Buzz Feed journalist Fabiana Buontempo posed this question:
“I’m writing a story on tips to stay focused and be productive throughout the workday. I’m looking for detailed answers that are not the typical “write a to-do list” or “make your office a zen space.”
Here was my recommendation for how to stay focused and productive at work:
You are right on the mark when you note that writing a to-do list is so typical. Many people do a daily brain dump at different times of the day with everything they need to do. Not only do they create a to-do list, but they keep adding to it throughout the day and struggle to get even one item completed.
What is not typical is implementing these four steps when creating those to-do lists:
- Determine tomorrow’s priorities.
- Estimate task times.
- Consult your schedule.
- Schedule appointments.
When I ask my clients to show me their to-do lists, they never have time estimations listed. Whether they use paper templates, digital platforms, scraps of paper or white boards, their lists consist of a jumble of tasks. That’s great that they get these thoughts out of their heads to clear space for important critical thinking, but without time estimations, they can’t create a realistic to-do list. It’s important that you estimate how long each task will take, so you know what you can reasonably accomplish within your open slots of time the next day. Furthermore, if you haven’t narrowed down which one, two or three tasks are absolutely critical to complete, your brain will lose focus throughout the day when it tries to figure out what to work on next out of the hundred tasks on your list. We tend to go after low-hanging fruit or head off into the black hole of self-distractions when we hit these points during the day. That’s not very productive.
If you implement these four steps when creating and working through your to-do list, you’ll definitely up your levels of staying focused and productive at work.
If my quick summary above wasn’t enough for you to help you stay focused and productive at work, be sure to check out next week’s post when we dive into the details!
For a step-by-step guide on how to stay focused and productive at work, check out The Inefficiency Assassin: Time Management Tactics for Working Smarter, Not Longer.