Get More Done Every Day!
Break down your tasks.
Productive people divide their bigger projects into chunks that suit their
attention span. For some it's 10 minutes and for others it's 20 or 30, or even
an hour. Not sure how long you're good for? "Give yourself a to do, a task
that's challenging or one you don't particularly enjoy doing — like your
expense report, a memo, paying the monthly bills, or drafting a letter — and
see how long you stay focused," suggests Morgenstern. "Then break all
your tasks down, as needed, to match the duration of your
There's a subtle but powerful benefit that comes with segmenting your
projects. "You're effectively saying to yourself, 'What can I finish in
this block of time?' as opposed to 'What can I start?'" says Morgenstern.
That just get it done mindset will help you power through even your most
Ninety percent of American adults attempt to juggle more than one task at a
time, according to a poll commissioned by the publication Scientific
American Mind. Yet six out of 10 of them say that despite being busier,
they're getting less done.
"While it's true that employers value people who can handle a lot of
things being thrown at them at the same time," says Morgenstern,
"you'll be much more efficient if you do them in an orderly way."
But how are you supposed to stay focused on just one thing when everyone
always seems to need everything "right now"? Here's how: Ask yourself,
Is banging out a memo or talking to Stephanie from accounting worth making the
task that I'm working on now take even longer than it needs to? says
Morgenstern. Or, remind yourself how good you'll feel when you finish the work
in front of you. And whenever you're about to get distracted, say to yourself,
"Focus on the joy of completion" (or come up with your own
Protect your productive time.
"The number one complaint I hear is, 'I don't have time to focus during
the day because people are always interrupting me,' " says Morgenstern.
When you say, "Sure, I've got a minute" to someone, you're effectively
saying, "No, I don't have time" to the project on your desk.
And behind every project you're late on is a person you're letting down.
"People hold up whole departments because they cannot control the flow of
interruptions and focus on their work," says Morgenstern.
How can you say, "Not now" without sounding uncaring or rude? Tape a
note to your cubicle: "Can it wait? Under deadline." When someone calls
or stops by and says, "Do you have a minute?" you can say, for
instance, "I'm in the middle of something that I need to finish in about 20
minutes." Then defer that person to a later time. Morgenstern suggests that
you set aside certain parts of each day when you can give people your undivided
attention. That way, if you say, "Can we talk at 3 o'clock?" you know
you'll actually be available at that time. Work in some body language cues to
reinforce your I-can't-talk-right-now message. "I wear headphones at work
and when someone pops their head in my door, I only uncover one ear so they
know I'm not going to kick back with them," says Megan Thome, a 31 year old
publicity coordinator in Kansas City, MO. Other ways to keep a visitor from
lingering: Stand up just as the person stops by your office, as if you're on
your way to a meeting, to lunch, or to the bathroom.
Or keep your hands on your keyboard and turn your head just enough to make