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Tips to Stay on Task and Get Things Done

October 7, 2010

Image courtesy of Rawich/ 

Let’s face it, everyone out there has griped (at least once) that there are too few hours in a day. Sometimes life gets so overwhelming you feel like there is never enough time to meet all of your demands and complete all of the tasks on your never ending to-do’s. But maybe if we made better use of our time, we could get more done. It is in this vein that we’ve compiled a list of what we believe to be some of the best advice out there to become a productivity powerhouse.

Make a to-do list AND a done list

To-do lists are great because they provide us with a way to free our minds and focus on what is really important, instead of what just pops into our heads. But what happens when we get off track and start completing the tasks that just come up? You know, those interruptions you can’t ignore?  Without a done list, those tasks we complete that weren’t originally accounted for may go unnoticed. We might be left wondering, “what did I do with my day?” and “where did the time go?” When this happens, we often feel unaccomplished and unproductive – feelings which are completely unwarranted. It’s not that we didn’t get anything done, it’s just that we didn’t finish the items on our to-do list. By creating a done list, all that you have accomplished throughout the day will be accounted for, allowing you to gain greater insight into what tasks you complete instinctively and which you avoid, what you can realistically accomplish in a day (distractions included), and allow you to keep track of what you really spend your time on so that you can become the most productive being possible. (Mark Shead, The Have Done List, Productivity 501, 2009)

Have a Power Question/Alert

When your mind begins to wander and you find yourself getting sucked into one of the many distractions that abound on the Internet, it often helps to post a power question or alert at your desk which will help you ward off temptation and remind you that there is probably a better use of your time than Farmville. Power questions or alerts to help you stay focused can range from very formal postings such as, “Am I making the most of my time right now?” to creating a very gaudy homepage, like the example below from Dan Wahlin, to remind you to stay on track. Hey, whatever works for you!

Turn Off Automatic Receipt of Email Messages

Now I know that we all get excited when that little notice at the bottom right hand corner of the screen says we have a new message in our inbox, and more often than not we can’t (and don’t) ignore the urge to click on it. But by opening every email as we receive it, we are not only letting our minds get off task, we have to refocus our attention once we‘re finished, causing us to waste valuable time and hindering our productivity. Timothy Ferriss, author of the 4 hour work week, suggest that by turning off the automatic receipt of email, we are effectively making a conscious decision to check and reply to messages at a time of day that is best suited to our schedule, energy, and mindset, allowing us to stay focused on one set task at each particular point in the day, enabling us to make the most of our time (Dan Wahlin, Tips for Being More Productive,January 22, 2009).

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