When it comes to getting things done, there’s often a large disparity between what we think we have accomplished and what we have actually completed. Often we find ourselves doing things that keep us “busy,” but may not be actually getting us any step closer to being truly productive. So how do we fix this? Well, the first step is recognizing that you’re simply not accomplishing as much in a given day or week as you could. Once you’ve come to terms with that fact and are ready to begin taking steps to improve, try some of these tips:
1. Stay Organized
One of the easiest “busywork” traps to fall into is cleaning. You have a client deadline, but your desk is dirty. That report is due by the end of the day, but these files really need to be alphabetized. Before you know it, the workday is almost over and you’ve spent the day being your own assistant instead of knocking out meaningful tasks. To fix this issue, try to put things back where they go as soon as you’re done using them, or to organize files and papers as you get them. Alternatively, make it a point to clean your office or workspace at the end of the day, so you’re not wasting valuable work time
2. Get Rid Of Distractions
Distraction is the ultimate enemy of productivity. Once a distraction grabs your attention, not only have you stopped producing, but your work will suffer long after you get back on task. It takes somewhere in the area of 20 minutes to get back to peak productivity after a distraction, so just three interruptions an hour would mean that your work suffers the entire day. To help avoid this problem, schedule your work in blocks of time, and do your best to eliminate all distractions during those blocks.
3. Pick One Thing On Your List And Do It
In today’s world, the ability to multitask is seen by some as the greatest asset one can have. The truth, however, is that for most people, multitasking simply means that three things get done with mediocre results, instead of one thing getting done well. While your to-do list may have ten things on it, single out one task and work on it until it’s done. That way, you avoid the problems that come with starting and stopping multiple projects, and you eliminate the stress of having a to-do list filled with half-completed tasks.
4. Look At The Big Picture
Speaking of to-do lists – are you trying to cram a week’s worth of work into a day or two of lists? If you’re finding yourself overwhelmed, you may need to step back and take a different approach to your organization. If those two days of work are getting done over a week anyway, but are constantly marked as “late,” maybe you should simply spread the work out over the course of a week to begin with. You’ll get the same amount of work done in the end, and the stress that comes with “late” projects will be gone, letting you focus on production instead of worrying about playing catchup.
In the end, it’s actually fairly easy to recognize when we’re replacing truly productive work time with the appearance of being busy. By incorporating the tips above and focusing on getting things done, you may just find yourself working less and getting far more done.
Do you struggle with substituting “busywork” for true productivity? Share your own tips for overcoming this issue with us in the comments section below!