By the time you glance up from your computer screen, the clock reads 4pm. Only two hours left in your workday. Damn. There’s no way you are going to finish everything you have to do for the day before you clock out. Sound familiar? There just never seems to be enough time in the day. When you arrived at the office this morning, you were prepared to tackle the day, vowing that you would get everything done before quitting time. So what happened?
When you started your day, there were eight items on your to-do list: three leftover from yesterday, and five new ones for today. Two hours into your day, your list has swelled to ten items, and by noon, 13. At lunchtime you make the dreaded call to your spouse that you are going to be late for dinner-again. As if you weren’t already feeling stressed enough, now you have the pressure of your disappointed partner weighing on your mind.
This pattern is not only reoccurring, but it is gaining steam. Every day that you cannot finish what is on your agenda means another item that is added to your list for the next day. The good news is there are ways to break the cycle, if you are willing to switch your mindset and put in a little extra effort up front. These few changes will help you make the most of your time, and hopefully cut down on that overwhelming feeling that has been piling up.
Keep a short list. One of the biggest reasons that we do not get everything done in the day is because we are setting ourselves up for failure. By stacking your day with 20 items on your to-do list, you are putting an incredible amount of pressure on yourself. That pressure will continue to build throughout the day as unexpected items come up, and eventually render you ineffective. A little stress is good, but a lot is counter-productive, and will slow you down. Keep your list short, usually about three items. It may be difficult for you to visualize how you can possibly have so few items for the day, but it will become easier with practice, as well as incorporating some of the tips below.
Learn to delegate. It can be hard to let go of things, but at some point, you are going to have to relinquish your control to someone else. If you are a business owner that spends countless hours balancing the books each month, consider hiring a part-time bookkeeper. The time that you’ve just freed up will allow you to accomplish much more important items on your agenda.
Know when you’ve reached your limit. Sometimes you just have to say no. If your boss keeps dumping trucks full of tasks on you and you can’t keep up, say something. Let him know that there is currently a lot on your plate with the 47 other things he already gave you this week, and you need a few days to catch up. If you are a hard worker, and produce quality work, your boss will understand. When you constantly say “yes” to everything that people throw your way, they are going to keep throwing. They probably have no clue that you have other projects going on, and staying silent will only disappoint them when you’ve missed your deadline.
Set a timer. Busy days can get away from you if you aren’t paying attention. Set a timer for every two hours to help you keep a pulse on the amount of time you are spending on specific tasks. Similar to when you were in school, when the timer goes off, put your pencil down. It’s time to move on to the next section. You may not want to leave a task unfinished, but this type of conditioning will help you better pace yourself throughout the day, and your speed will increase over time.
By incorporating these tips, you will be flying through your to-do list with time to spare. What to do then? Get started on your list for the next day. The more you can prepare ahead of time, the better off you will be. And handling those unexpected items will become much less daunting, knowing that you have time in your schedule to tackle them.