WICT has assembled thirty tips to help you identify and prioritize elements that are crucial to the success of your projects and your career.
1. Use the Pareto Principle. This is the same as the 80/20 rule. Recognize that 20% of your activities give you 80% of the value. So focus on the high impact tasks.
2. Determine the future impact. Ask yourself, “What is the future impact of a current action?” High priority items will have a big future impact. Low priority items will have no (or negligible) future impact.
3. Set “posteriorities.” If you are embarking on something new, identify low priority taks that can be delegated or give up.
4. Separate the urgent from the important. Once you’ve separated your “to do list” into urgent and important, you should focus your energy on the important tasks. Urgent issues are rarely important in the big scheme of things. Don’t let poor planning or execution from someone else become your problem unless it is absolutely necessary.
5. As you go throughout your day, repeatedly ask yourself, “Am I currently making the best possible use of my time?”
6. Don’t multitask. Research has shown that multitasking is not productive. For optimum productivity, focus on one thing at a time.
7. Find out what time of the day is for productivity and optimize your work schedule accordingly.
4. Complete your most dreaded tasks first thing in the morning. Whichever activity you are dreading the most is probably the one you need to complete first thing in the morning.
8. Take a break. You can’t always be working at optimum productivity. Instead, you should shoot for working in short bursts at your most productive times.
9. Eliminate all distractions. This includes the phone, email notifications, and having multiple web browsers open on the desktop.
10. Learn to say “no.” Learning to say “no” can be difficult, but it is a necessary skill to stay focused on the things that are most important. Ask yourself, does the activity align with your overall goals? If the answer is “no,” then decline the temptation to get involved.
11. Use the A, B, C; 1, 2, 3 system. Go through your “To Do” list and identify items that absolutely have to get done today (A) then prioritize by marking your most important item as “A1” and your next most important item as “A2,” etc. Once you’ve identified your “A” items, mark your “B” items and “C” items. To keep your prioritizing from being derailed during the day, prioritize any new items added that day.
12. Set a timer for each of your tasks.
13. Setup filters in your email. This allows you to sort out what’s urgent from emails that can wait. Instead of a single Inbox with hundreds of unread emails, there are smaller folders categorized by project, priority and context.
14. Just start. Often times, starting is the hardest part. Once you get going, you will quickly get into a rhythm that could last for hours.
15. Outsource or delegate. If you have the ability to outsource or delegate, do so with tasks that can be easily handled by others. This will free you up to work on more important priorities.
17. Write out a to-list for each day.
18. Get plenty of sleep so that your working hours can be as productive as possible.
19. Exercise. Research has shown that midday exercise boosts productivity and morale in the workplace. Take a short walk at lunch to maximize your productivity.
20. Go on an information diet. Stop reading three different newspapers a day and checking your RSS feeds multiple times a day. Limit yourself only to information that you can immediately take action on.
21. Organize your office. The piles of paper around your desk can be a huge barrier on your productivity.
22. Outsource as much as possible. Here are just a few of the companies that will help you outsource your everyday tasks:
23. Allocate time slots colleagues can interrupt you. In a busy work place, people are moving and talking all the time. If you play a role in a team where others need to interact with you, try allocating a time slot they can interrupt you.
24. Find a mentor. By modeling after those who have already achieved success, you will save yourself a lot of time and energy.
25. Apply time boxing instead of working at something till it is finished. Try working on it for a limited period, say 30 minutes, to keep your work fresh and engaging throughout the entire working day.
26. Step away from the computer. The Internet has become one of the number one distractions. To increase your productivity, try to do as much of your work offline as possible.
27. Do not check personal email in the morning. Instead of checking your personal email as soon as you get in, try starting work straight away. This will build up some momentum as you ease into your work day.
28. Clean up your desk. That doesn’t mean having an empty desk, it just means having neat stacks of paper, all filed in the correct location.
29. Use shortcuts on your computer. If you find you do the same thing with your computer more than once throughout the day, you might find it helpful to look for ways in which you can do them without too much manual repetition.
30. Reward yourself for finishing a big task.