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While working conditions have certainly improved, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the average American works 8.8 hours per day. Yet research suggests the average worker is only productive for less than three hours during their workday.
From checking social media to texting family and friends to surfing the internet, our workdays are wrought with distractions that impact our ability to focus and use our time effectively and efficiently.
According to more than fifteen years of published research by Statista.com, 41-49% of adults experience stress over not having enough time to do the things they wanted to do. But given how unproductive most of us are with our time, the adage that you can’t buy more time is a bit of a false narrative. Here are some ways you can.
1. Make and track a daily to-do list.
At the beginning of each day check, update and prioritize your task list. As the day goes by, keep the list up-to-date with your accomplishments. At the end of the day, prepare your list for the next day. Keeping a list helps keep you on task. Rather than spending time figuring out what to do next or feeling overwhelmed by so much, you have a roadmap for your day. And the simple act of crossing off items as you complete them is motivating and habit forming.
2. Schedule work time.
Between work meetings, phone calls, answering emails and so many other daily distractions, it is sometimes very hard to get actual work done. Be sure to set aside windows of time each day for you to tackle items on your to-do list.
3. Use tools.
From free meeting scheduling tools to project tracking software, there are so many tools available to help streamline communication and daily tasks. Think about the activities you do every day for work and what tools you can employ to help make your processes more efficient.
4. Invest in your success.
Whether it is a certified high-performance coach, a personal trainer or some other type of external support to optimize your personal or professional life, invest in yourself. The better fit you are mentally and physically, the better you will be at your job.
5. Reward your accomplishments.
Work can feel isolating and accomplishing small tasks can go unnoticed or underappreciated. When you knock items off your daily task list, have a small reward in place to acknowledge the moment. Maybe a small sweet treat, a quick game of Solitaire or even a few minutes cruising on your favorite website. These mini-rewards will be a nice reminder that finishing tasks is a big deal.
6. Take mental and physical breaks.
It is not healthy to sit at your desk or in front of your computer for prolonged periods. In addition to meals or snacks, schedule a few mental and physical breaks for yourself throughout the day. Get outside for some fresh air with a five-minute walk. Talk to someone about anything other than work. Take a 20-minute catnap. Even 10 minutes of quiet meditation will do. Anything to take a mental or physical reprieve from work with help you recharge for better work productivity.
7. Work collaboratively.
Even when your task list does not support the direct participation of others, working in the same room or area as others can be very motivating. Just knowing and feeling others pursuing their tasks can help drive you to stay on task.
Related: 10 Time Management Tips That Work
8. Eat healthy foods.
Try replacing the second or third cup of coffee in your day with a protein shake or glass of water. Instead of sugary foods, bring fresh fruit or vegetables to snack on throughout the day. Your body will respond accordingly to the fuel you put in it.
9. Take measures to stay on task.
It is so easy to get distracted by outside influences and be pulled in other directions away from the task at hand. Whether it is letting calls go to voicemail or not checking your email for the time being, permit yourself the time to complete the task you are working on before being diverted. Remember, if the task is on your list, you have deemed it a priority and you have the right to treat it as such.
10. Say no.
We often say yes for the wrong reasons. We overcommit to work requests because we do not want to disappoint a boss and we want to feel invaluable. But if we take on too much, it is very hard to get things done in a timely fashion or done well. Even if we find a way to do so, it is at the expense of our mental and physical health. The bottom line is that when you take on too much, something suffers. Saying no actually demonstrates a responsible sense of accountability to not overpromise and underperform. It also can serve as a subtle reminder to the requesting party just how much is already on your plate.
Related: Embrace Stress. It’s Good for You.