Everyone wishes they had more time in a day, but the simple truth is that we have the time we have and need to make due with it. Here are some helpful tips for making the most of what you got.
List out everything you need to accomplish. Everything. It doesn’t matter if it’s an entire course you need to design, a topic you need to research, or just phone call you need to make. Once you have everything written down, look at each task and figure out what needs to happen for you to check it off. Write those down as well. Once you have everything, big or small, organized into a list, figure out which tasks need to be done now and which can wait. Meticulously schedule time for each task and plow forward. Reward yourself when you’re done.
Pay attention to where your time gets wasted
We all have our own set of bad work habits to overcome. They differ from person to person, but it’s important for each of us to know our own weaknesses. Take stock throughout the day of what you’re actually spending your time on. It might surprise you how much of your time is spent on actual work, and how much of it is lost to extraneous activities.
Don’t underestimate how long a task will take
While you’re getting into the swing of things, time yourself. How long did it really take for you lay out that slide? Do you think you can beat that record next time around? What parts of that task slowed you down? How can you avoid or work around those rough spots in the future. Once you know how long it takes to do a specific thing, keep that in mind when you’re planning your schedule. When you can, give yourself a bit of a buffer. Don’t give yourself 10 minutes for a task you know takes half an hour.
On the other hand, don’t take too much time. Pay attention to your slower tasks and look for ways to speed them up. If you get something done sooner than you were expecting, don’t lollygag until it’s time for your next task. Use that time to get a jump on your work and finish sooner than you planned.
Write down ideas immediately
We tend to think that only the really creative folk can innovate and discover, but in actuality, we all have our own gems of thought springing to mind every day.
Carry a pen and small notepad or use note-taking app on your smartphone. Anytime you have an idea worth pursuing—whether it be an improvement to your workflow, a cool theme for a course your designing, or even just an interesting non-work-related idea—take a moment to document it. Set aside a little bit of time each week to look at the ideas you’ve had and use your best judgement to determine if they are still good ideas, or if it just seemed cool in the moment.
Don’t memorize, work!
Calendars, to-do lists, and notepads are your friends. Your brain was never meant to juggle all that information it once. As soon as you hear about a new thing that will require your attention at some point in the future, make a note and focus on the task at hand. For all intents and purposes, your brain is not a hard drive, a tool for memorizing and holding large quantities of information. Your brain is more of a CPU, a tool for thinking things out and doing real, intellectual work.
Set aside some time for housekeeping
Every job, no matter how prestigious, requires a bit of upkeep. You’ve got emails to check, schedules to review and plan, and all manner of busy work that’s required just keep you productive. Don’t try to wing it and figure those things out as you go. When you can, set aside a little time to figure out the little things so you can spend your efforts where it really matters.
There are a lot of activities that feel like they are productive, but are really just a waste of time. Just because you’re in front of a computer doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting things done. A common example is constantly checking your email. Yes, it’s good to keep in touch, especially in business, but do your best not to leave your inbox open while you work. Continuously looking for unread messages is not healthy. You literally become addicted to that feeling of relief you get when you see there are no messages or the rush of seeing an important message that requires quick attention. Since you never know which it’s going to be when you open your mailbox, your brain gets in the habit of checking and rechecking.
Don’t kid yourself. Before continuing, think, “Is this getting me closer to achieving my goals, or am I just wasting time?”
What keeps you on top of things? Share your eLearning productivity tips and tricks in the comments below!