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Ph.D., CSP, CDR, US Navy Ret.,
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Get More Accomplished in Less Time

Identify your most difficult tasks and work on them when you are most productive. If you are a morning person, wake up early and work on the most demanding task. Dedicate 2 hours to the work that really needs to get accomplished and put in your best effort. Focus on nothing else but getting that job accomplished.

The best aspect about setting aside one or two hours each morning before the “normal” workday is that it sets the tone for the rest of the day. If you start your mornings right, you stay motivated and focused, and can more easily manage the challenges of the day.

I have a team member who loves to work late at night. He does creative work, and he starts to focus around 10 PM. He is most productive between 1-4 AM. (This is definitely not me. I have never liked being awake between 1-4 AM.) His circadian rhythm is quite different from mine, and I appreciate our differences. If he gets a task at the end of my workday, around 6 PM, I know he will get it done by the time I get to work around 6 AM. It works out great for both of us.

Knowing when you are most productive and maximizing when you prefer working is the secret is to know your peak hours.

Sprinkle working on easy or manageable tasks as a form of dessert throughout your work time. Some days we all just need to cross things off our to-do list to stay motivated. We need that hormone burst in our brain that we get from crossing off tasks. I tell friends that sometimes when I am working on writing a book, or involved in complicated research, I need to feel a sense of accomplishment. I confess to occasionally writing down “take vitamins” while I am chewing the gummies, just so I can cross it off.

A recent Harvard study indicated that people can only really focus on exceedingly difficult tasks for about 4 hours a day. Scatter in some easy to-do items on your list so you can cross them off throughout the end of the day to stay motivated and avoid procrastination.

If you are a procrastinator, identify the main things that cause you to procrastinate and eliminate them. Are there jobs you just do not like doing? Are there tasks that you do not want to do because you do not think you are good at doing them?

If you are spending too much time browsing the internet or checking emails, and end up starting work an hour late, you might be procrastinating. Try switching off the internet and your phone when working and concentrate on getting the current job done. If your present tasks demand internet usage, close unnecessary browsers and open only the required pages. Turn off notifications, and do not check emails while working. Minimizing distractions is a terrific way to harness productivity.


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