Written by: Christina Metcalf
According to the American Institute of Stress (yes, that’s a thing) and its Attitudes in the American Workplace VII Report, 80% of workers feel stress on the job and nearly half say they need help handling that stress. If you’re one of those nearly 50%, we have a few productivity hacks that may help you tame an otherwise stressful situation.
These hacks will assist you in prioritizing workload and streamlining processes. But there are some jobs that are just inherently stressful like bartending on payday or selling Cabbage Patch Dolls in the early 80s.
But for the rest of you, these things should help.
Faster First or Frogs First
This hack is a personal preference and something you should learn about yourself quickly. You are either a list checker or a frog eater. Let me explain. I make to-do lists and I love to check things off. Doing so provides momentum and energy for me. I prefer to organize my to-do list with a couple of small quick wins early on. I do a couple of small tasks first that I know I can knock out fast. I feel good about that and am energized by my sense of accomplishment.
On the other hand, if I start a large dreaded project that takes me the better part of the day, by 4 I feel unproductive. Even if I know when I finish I can knock the other pieces out quickly, I spend most of my day feeling completely unaccomplished and drained.
But that’s me. And you, if you’re a fast list checker.
Believers in the two-minute rule (if it takes two minutes or less, tackle it right away) agree with me but not everyone does.
If you’re a “frog eater,” on the other hand, you believe in tackling your most dreaded task first while you’re fresh. The term comes from Mark Twain who allegedly said, eat a live frog in the morning and you can go through the rest of your day knowing the worst is behind you. People who like to do this say that they’re sharpest in the morning and they want to use that against their toughest task.
Figure out which one you are and organize your day accordingly.
Create Six To-do Lists (but not all at once)
Speaking of which, spend Sunday night (or whatever day starts your week) creating a weekly to-do list. Lay it all out on a calendar so you’re not just seeing your current day’s to-dos but the whole week. This allows you to move things around if necessary and helps to see where you can steal time from, if needed.
Next, create a to-do list for the next day. You’ll do this every day, Sunday-Thursday assuming you work Monday through Friday. Every night, create and examine your next day’s to-do list as well as what remains on your week’s to-do list. Are you on target for completing tasks? What needs to change? If your day is light, you know you can go back to your weekly to-do list and pull something off of tomorrow to work on.
Select a Preferred Media
When it comes to to-do lists, find a format or media that pleases you. Some people like electronic formats with a reward component. Some apps like Asana present bonus graphics when you check something off. Those types of rewards provide people with a quick release of dopamine that not only feels good but energizes the task performer.
I like a white erase board. There’s something about erasing (and not just checking off) that feels very cathartic to me. Maybe that will work for you or maybe you’ll want to try using sticky notes or other removable messaging functionality to track tasks.
It’s up to you which you use but find something you get a kick out of. It goes a long way to keeping you engaged and working away.
Co-workers are great but they are a large distraction with questions about lunch and what happened on the Bachelor last night. If you want to get more done, work virtually. Maybe that’s not possible every day but if you have a deadline looming see if you can do so temporarily.
Keep a Swipe File
Where do you do your best thinking? In the shower? On your drive into work? Don’t let those brilliant ideas escape you. Keep track of them in a notebook, on DropBox, through Google Keep, or recording your ideas on your phone. Any of these formats work fine. Just select the one you know you will use and never worry about losing your best ideas again.
Use Your TV Time
You’ve likely seen some version of this image quote on the internet:
My friend the fitness instructor says this to me all the time. And let me assure you, I am very skilled at finding an excuse because in the realm of things I find important, sleep outranks exercise any day. But that excuse is a decision. And I know this.
If you spend any time at all in front of the TV at night, you have time to do something else. The importance of your television watching outranks whatever you should be doing (like that to-do list I suggested).
I get that you’re exhausted and you just want to unwind, but then stop complaining about not having the time. You’re in charge of television time and you’re making it more important than other activities. I’m not saying that’s wrong but it’s your choice. Recognize the power behind that and you’ll regain some productivity.