Do you start your day looking at your to-do list and immediately become filled with dread?
Do you get a sinking feeling in your tummy about all the tasks you need to complete?
Do you feel like your to-do list is never ending and you never seem to make any progress?
Well you are not alone. It is very easy to feel suffocated by the endless day to day duties that divert our attention and demand our time. Here at Selective Recruitment we have come up with some helpful tips that will allow you to take back control of your schedule and feel confident and proud of the work you produce.
The 4 Ds
One of the main problems with a to-do-list is that it can lack structure and as such seem overwhelming. The 4 D’s is a simple strategy that will help you focus on the tasks that matter most, and ensure you become more productive and efficient. The 4 D’s stand for ‘Do, Delay, Delegate, Delete’. By analysing your tasks and placing them into one of these four categories you can manage them more effectively and ensure that those featured on the ‘Do’ list are given the time, attention and commitment they deserve. You may also be surprised by how many tasks you can ‘delete’ or ‘delegate’ to others, thus freeing up your time to hone your focus. By applying this system, your to-do-list should become instantly less daunting and more manageable.
Now that you have worked out which items on your to-do-list need to take priority, you should address how long each will take and when is the best time to complete them. By allocating a specific time period to an activity you will give structure to your day. Moreover, there is evidence to suggest that by setting a completion deadline one becomes more motivated and focused to deliver on time. That said, many of us work in jobs that require us to be responsive and as such it is important to allow for a degree of flexibility and not get stressed if you have to amend your workflow.
Another key factor to think about when scheduling your tasks is when you are personally most productive. We all work differently; some of us are highly energetic first thing in the morning, whereas others need at least 3 cups of coffee before we can get the wheels in motion. When looking at your daily schedule think about aligning the more challenging or time-consuming tasks to when you feel most switched on and have the most energy. In so doing you will find that the challenging tasks don’t seem as formidable. A classic mistake many people make is putting things off to the end of a day when energy stores are low. This often results in extended hours in the office and tasks taking longer to complete.
Break down big tasks
More often than not there are tasks on our to do lists that seem impossible. You may not know where to start or how you are ever going to reach the finish line. You end up procrastinating and put off starting due to sheer fear, and then you reach that point of no escape and it all comes tumbling down. Stop! Take a breath and pull back for a second. When presented with such a scenario you need to break it down; divide it up into smaller, more digestible and realistic activities that you can achieve. This is often referred to as ‘chunking down’ and will enable you to reframe your thinking; instead of being focused on the final outcome (which is the bit that seems impossible) you will be able to look at each component task as a stepping stone towards your final goal. Also, by taking this approach you will often find that a logical order presents itself and instead of feeling swamped you will feel in control.
Ask for help
If you are struggling to complete one of the tasks on your to-do-list, then it may be beneficial to look to others for help. Do you have a work colleague or a manager who could give you a different perspective? Many people see asking for help as a sign of weakness or worry that they will be shunned. This is not the case; a supportive workplace should always allow for colleagues to work together and pull on resources. It is important to remember that we are all individuals and have distinct problem-solving abilities; depending on our personality type and experience we see things differently. So instead of letting that difficult task consume you, or not doing it for fear of getting it wrong, reach out to someone who may be able to support you in taking it forwards. The likelihood is that you will be able to return the favour at a later date and ‘two heads are always better than one’!
Sometimes even simple tasks can cause no end of problems, but, as the well known saying goes “if at first you don’t succeed, then try and try again” However, what this doesn’t make clear is that if something isn’t working it may be time to take a different approach. When tasked with an assignment that doesn’t seem to be going to plan it may not be best to plough on regardless. The likelihood is that even if you complete it you will not be totally happy with the results. Instead, you may need to readdress your approach and think outside the box. Try grabbing a sheet of paper and brainstorming some ideas – it doesn’t matter if they seem far fetched, this will help get the creative juices flowing. By allowing yourself to find an innovative approach, it is likely that you will become more engaged in the task and produce better results.
Acknowledge your accomplishments.
In our day to day working lives it’s very easy to complete one task and move straight onto the next without taking a moment to stop and take stock of what you have done. Even the simple activity of ticking off, or crossing out, something you have completed will have a beneficial effect on your psyche and give you a moment to note your accomplishments. Equally, taking some time to evaluate the success of a task will allow you to think about areas for improvement and you can apply these moving forwards. It is even more important to celebrate ‘the win’ when you have finished a significant piece of work. Give yourself permission to feel proud of what you have achieved. After all, success at work is likely to be one of the driving forces behind why you do what you do.
Is it time for you to re-evaluate your to-do-list? If you apply these techniques not only will you be able to become more effective in managing your workload, but you will be able to deliver ‘ta-da’ results that you can feel proud of.