Productivity is a coveted feeling, and as addictive as it is satisfying. It goes hand in hand with good time management - a phrase that gets flung around a lot with little guidance on how to achieve it as more and more work piles onto our desks. Knowing what to prioritise, and how to do so productively, can be the key to unlocking our battle against time, and if we play our cards right, can give us some time back just for ourselves.
Poor time management is often a slippery slope; as more things fall into our laps, the less motivation we have to do them as we try to tackle where to even begin. Productivity levels drop as we find ourselves procrastinating, and with it our self-esteem and confidence begin to slide down the scale as we question our own abilities. Things can get sticky pretty quickly, so how do we pull ourselves out of it?
Give Yourself Space
Starting your day ahead of schedule does not necessarily mean working extra hours or even working from the get go, but giving yourself 15 minutes before you begin to settle in and look at what you have to do with a clear mind and the rush of a Monday morning put to one side can change the entire mood of your day.
We love lists. Writing down everything you need to do is therapeutic, and ticking it off even more so. By organising your list into categories you can group tasks by the time they will take, the brainpower that is needed, or even how much you anticipate you will enjoy them. And as ever, you should always swallow your frogs (n.b. swallow your frogs = do the most unpleasant tasks first). By prioritising the most difficult activities early on, it will energise you to complete the rest in quick succession as there'll be no monsters at the end of your to-do list to fear.
Use Your Calendar
Once you have your list, take a look at your week. Divide your calendar into the categories you've set your tasks into, making sure to include breaks, and put the most mentally demanding activities at the beginning of the day, and the more administrative ones after lunch. Do the same for meetings; the afternoon lull between 1-3pm is prime time to energise yourself with social interaction, rather than slog through the afternoon on a task you can't muster any motivation for alone. Using your calendar also allows you to visualise how long you think certain tasks will take, and guide you through your day accordingly.
The power of saying no is just as powerful, if not more so, than the power of saying yes. Knowing your limits and setting boundaries is key to ensuring your motivation doesn't become overshadowed by dread at the sheer list of things you need to face, and the best way to know how much is on your plate is with a calendar that shows how much time you've dedicated to your current tasks, and how much you have left over.
Doing two half-assed jobs is worse than one good and one non-existent job. Your manager likely realises you're a human being with finite resources to complete everything they've set you, so instead of trying to people please by doing everything at once, set expectations instead. Call your boss to say X won't be done by Wednesday, but Y will, and by Friday both will be done. And if they insist both be done by Wednesday, don't be afraid to ask for help.
At the end of the day you have to ask yourself; is it really that deep? There are very few tasks in life that require immediate attention and completion (unless you are a neurosurgeon), so you need to ask yourself if it's worth your mental wellbeing to spiral into anxiety about your to-do list. The world will probably keep spinning if you don't quite manage to tick everything off, so give yourself a break, and remember that you're far more likely to find motivation if you're not beating yourself up about not feeling it.