There’s nothing quite like the great feeling of having been productive, of having gotten something done. I love when I can walk out of the office feeling like I’ve accomplished something with my day … but I don’t always love the process of getting there. Some days, it can be a real struggle to get yourself moving, cut through the clutter of things to do and messages to respond to, and get things done. But with a little organization and a few tweaks to your routine, you can raise the odds of being able to leave at 5 o’clock with a sense of accomplishment.
Plan and Prioritize
Whenever you are given a new task to do or project to work on, add it to your to-do list. I find that it’s best to use good project management software that will let me break down everything I need to do and schedule when it needs to get done. That way, I can just work my way down the list and know that I’m always on track. As soon as I get more work to do, it goes right into my task list, so I know I won’t forget anything or miss a deadline.
Email and Move On
Don’t spend all day hovering over your inbox, but don’t let the deluge of messages pile up too high, either. Instead, schedule a few set times every day to devote to the task of reading and answering your email. Then, give the task your full attention until it’s done. In fact, when you rattle off all of your responses at once, you’ll often find that the work goes more quickly.
Get a Handle on Meetings
Meeting with coworkers can be a great way to keep the lines of communication open and quickly solve issues, but not if you’re spending hours a day sitting in a conference room talking about the work instead of actually doing it. For starters, make sure that every meeting has a purpose: Set an agenda so you know exactly what you’ll need to cover and use it to keep the discussion on track. To add a little time pressure that might help move things along, schedule meetings that are no more than a half-hour long. Even better, pen in your meeting for right before lunch or toward the end of the work day; nobody wants to dilly-dally when it might cut into their free time.
It’s sort of Pavlovian, but giving yourself small rewards to shoot for can help keep you motivated throughout the day. For instance, set a goal to get a certain amount of work done before you can go on lunch break. Or tell yourself that when you finish that difficult report, you’ll go grab a latte. Perhaps once you’ve cleaned out your inbox, you should get up and walk a lap around the office to stretch your legs and take a breather. Of course, rewarding yourself for every single thing you get done will defeat the point pretty quickly, but don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back every once in a while as you cross things off of the to-do list.