In a world full of multi-tasking, several jobs being melded into one position, and everyone needing to be wired in just to keep up with what should have been done, needs to be done, and will need to be done; to say work is overwhelming no longer qualifies as a mere understatement. It’s downright crazy, exhausting, and leaves you so stressed you wonder if those muscles in your neck and shoulders will ever become unknotted. You know there’s no time to slow down because the guy in the cubicle next to you has 7 kids to feed and he’s hungry for a promotion. So what do you do? You regroup and start fresh.
The first thing you have to do is look at your workload with fresh eyes and think about what is most important. Take into consideration your deadlines, items that take priority due to relevance or subject matter, and how long each project will take to finish. Are there some that are ongoing? Those will fit into the list a little differently, even if they have multiple deadlines. Take the time to sort it all out. It may seem like a waste of time while you’re doing it, but try not to fuss over that and just focus on figuring out what is most important, what is second most important, and so on.
Next, you need to prepare your work area. Get rid of piles of papers that need to be filed (is that on your priority list?), trinkets stacked on your computer, and drawings from your kids tacked to the walls. It’s fine to have a couple things to make you feel close to your family but if your workspace looks like a daycare center you’re not doing yourself any favors. Put your phone in a desk drawer, close the chat window on your computer, and shut down Facebook. The less clutter you have, the less clutter your mind has.
Yes, single-task. No more multi-tasking for you! It’s time to focus. By working on a single item at a time you will considerably increase your productivity. Think of it as a horse wearing blinders. If something new comes across your desk, put it to the side. Bring back the in-box! This will definitely take some re-training on your part because you’re so used to doing a million things at once; but you will see the positive results.
Make sure you set goals for yourself. Include short-term and long-term goals, as well as simple and difficult ones. Designate ahead of time what your reward will be for each item and stick to it! Maybe for each simple goal your reward is a chocolate kiss, and for each difficult one it’s an extra 5-minute stretch break complete with coffee. You know yourself better than anyone and you know what will motivate you, so set up your reward system and enjoy your accomplishments.
There are many ways you can incorporate these ideas, and variations of them, into your own workday. The keys are to make sure your mind stays clear and focused, your body is relaxed, and you feel motivated. Even if you have no personal interest in your work you can challenge yourself and reward yourself in your own ways. Prioritize your work and stick to it. Write it down and post it on the wall behind you if that will help. Keep your mind sharp and your desk de-cluttered, letting nothing distract you from your task at hand. Be the horse with blinders…and always reward yourself with a carrot (or chocolate!) when you complete your task.