Was ‘be more productive’ one of your New Year’s resolutions? With a finite number of hours in the day, there’s a limit to how many tasks you can complete – so ticking off priorities and achieving your goals takes focus and a proactive approach. These simple ways to set up your day and manage your tasks will help you smash your to-do list – and make this year your most productive yet.
Do you spend hours ‘busy’ in multi-tasking mode with little to show for it at the end of the day? The key to getting through your to-do list is having one in the first place. While some people rely on their memory, motivation and focus to get things done, research consistently shows that to-do lists drive productivity. How that list is structured varies from person to person. Some of us are borderline obsessive, organising and scheduling every aspect of our lives, while others prefer a more relaxed approach.
Regardless of your style, most experts agree that even the most basic to-do list will help you achieve your important goals. Richard Branson, entrepreneur and founder of the Virgin Group, once wrote that he has always lived his life by making lists. Branson believes that getting things done relies on writing things down, and his lists include ‘to-dos’, ideas, insights, calls he needs to make and plans he’d like to implement.
Here are our top tips on how to smash your to-do lists this year:
- Prioritise: Writing a to-do list of absolutely everything you’d like to achieve is not productive or helpful. It’s usually just overwhelming. Categorising tasks helps. For example, you might have a home list and a work list, both of which are split into two sub-lists: urgent and non-urgent. The non-urgent list is an ongoing one with stuff that needs to be done but it’s not pressing. The other is tasks that need to be done in the next couple of days. It’s best to start with any items that absolutely must get done today – these are your MITs (most important tasks). Even if you get nothing else done, the MITs will be completed and you can start fresh tomorrow.
- Be realistic: Don’t set yourself up for failure. Instead of brain-dumping a list of everything you need to do and not factoring in how long it actually takes, work out your timeframes. You could block out daily commitments in your diary so you can see at a glance what your day looks like and how much time you’ve got to work with. If that much detail doesn’t appeal, simply look at your to-do list and be sensible about how long each task will take you.
- Schedule the scheduling: Check emails and write your to-do list first thing (or last thing) every day. It’s important to highlight urgent tasks and then plan your day before you start work. Making time for this means you’re working from a place of intention rather than just reacting to whatever comes up.
- Leverage your strengths: Know when you’re at your best and take advantage of it. For example, if your energy levels peak in the morning, schedule your complex tasks for then. Some people like to do their ‘hard’ tasks first and save the mundane tasks for low-energy times. Others prefer to clear all the little things first before focusing on the MITs without any mental distractions.
- Focus: This is one of the most important tips for smashing your to-do list. Instead of multi-tasking your way through the day, focus on one task at a time until it’s complete. Turn your phone off and don’t check emails so you can work uninterrupted. Try this for a day and watch your productivity improve.
- Systemise what you can: Routines, systems and rules are big productivity boosters. If you have regular tasks, try to complete them consistently. Establish work systems so you don’t have to recreate them every time. Implement rules and document naming conventions so you don’t waste time searching for documents. To pinpoint your biggest time-wasters, track your time for a day or a week to record what you actually do – then eliminate anything that isn’t productive, systemise what you can, delegate appropriate tasks or consolidate tasks that overlap.
- Deal with distractions: The best way to deal with all those things you suddenly remember while you’re trying to be productive is to write them down on a brain-dump list straight away and then return to the task at hand. Then set aside time to deal with your brain-dump list each day.
- Switch off: It might feel counter-intuitive these days, but most people don’t need to be contactable 24/7. Turn off your phone and only respond to emails at certain times, so you can work uninterrupted.
- Learn to say no: This can be difficult in a work situation, but setting realistic deadlines, not over promising and managing expectations is an important part of good time management.
- Get up earlier: If all else fails and you really don’t have enough time, set your alarm and get up an hour earlier – you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve with no one else around!
No matter how busy you are, you don’t have to feel overwhelmed. Rethinking your approach to your to-do list is key to achieving your goals. Try implementing some (or all) of these tips and see if they help you smash that to-do list. Make this year your most productive yet!
Do you feel like you spend too much time working through your never-ending to-do list and not enough on building your career? If you’ve been struggling to find time to get your career on track, an expert Career Coach can help. Or maybe you know your next step but you need help developing a tailored Job Search Strategy to secure your future? To find out more, read about our services.
Podcasts can provide great inspiration across a range of areas. These convenient, bite-sized chunks of content are also a good way to up-skill or improve your knowledge about various topics, since they’re usually delivered by people with a passion for, and deep understanding of, what they’re talking about.
Whether you’re looking for your first career, searching for major change, struggling with your current role, interested in starting a business or just need inspiration and motivation, there is something for everyone! Here’s a few of our favourites.
Career Tools: A weekly podcast focused on specific actions you can take to grow and enhance your career – no matter what industry or position you’re in. With topics ranging from communication to meeting performance, productivity, workload, asking for feedback, relationships, changing jobs and everything in between, there is sure to be something of interest.
How did you get into that?: Host Grant Baldwin interviews people from all walks of life who are doing interesting or amazing things to make a living. Each episode includes a story about someone who wanted something more from life and made it happen. You’ll find interviews with entrepreneurs, artists, musicians, speakers, writers, filmmakers, photographers, athletes, venture capitalists, Etsy sellers, comedians, nutritionists and more, across all different industries.
Beyond the To Do list: Struggling to juggle life and work? This award-nominated podcast features actionable tips from highly successful people that can help you choose the right projects, tasks and goals in work and life. Host Erik Fisher talks with real people who implement productivity strategies in their professional and personal lives.
Miss Independent: Focused on a female audience, Natalie Hughes founded Miss Independent in 2017 and launched a podcast that features conversations with women in leadership and business. Natalie talks with a broad range of interesting, diverse and inspiring women in leadership and business. She discusses their successes and setbacks, as well as secrets and tips to inspire you to make your own career decision with confidence.
Flying Solo: This is a podcast for anyone starting or growing a small business. Host Robert Gerrish talks with inspiring soloists and expert guests on all things solo, micro and small business.
The Signal: Sometimes the news can feel overwhelming. This ABC Radio podcast helps to sort the news from the noise. It’s a quick (10-15 minute) dive into current news stories that matter, delivered every morning.
Business Women Australia Podcast: Another one focused on a female audience, this podcast is for ambitious women who are serious about business success and leadership development. It provides tips and ideas for those interested in building their knowledge and skills.
Happen to your career: Created for people who aren’t happy in their job, or need some guidance to find work they really love, this podcast helps people to match their strengths to work they will find interesting and meaningful.
Productivityist: Hosted by productivity expert Mike Vardy, this weekly podcast gives listeners tips, tricks, tactics and tools to improve productivity and time management in order to get things done.
The Good Work Revolution: This podcast looks at how you can feel fulfilled and make a positive impact through your work. Each episode includes reflections from different guests, or the host, Kate McCready, on how we can create ‘good work’. It explores people’s relationships with their work – how it influences fulfilment, wellbeing, engagement and a sense of contribution and connection. It’s also about lifting people up and helping them elevate their personal ability to have an impact – whether small and local or big and world changing.
The Tim Ferris Show: Author and entrepreneur, Tim Ferris – best known for The 4-Hour Workweek (which has been translated into 40+ languages), hosts this podcast. In it, he interviews highly successful people and discovers the keys to their success. Guests provide some great tips and tricks that anyone can use to accelerate their work style.
The Jack Delosa Podcast: Founder of Australia’s largest and most disruptive education institution for entrepreneurs, The Entourage, Jack Delosa also co-founded MBE Education, which helped SMEs raise money from investors. He’s been on the BRW Young Rich List since 2014 and is a two-time bestselling author. In The Jack Delosa Podcast, Jack answers questions about business, start-ups, entrepreneurship and the importance of mindset, and shares exclusive interviews with industry leaders and innovators.
Inspire Nation: A top self-help and spirituality show across 185 countries, this podcast features an inspiring new guest every day. Host Michael Sandler felt a calling to start his life-changing show after surviving two near-death accidents. The broad-ranging topics include how to find more energy, strength, happiness, peace, purpose, confidence, and heart to live your greatest life.
Behind the Media: The Australian’s media diarist Stephen Brook hosts this weekly podcast where he interviews journalists, writers, editors, presenters and other media careerists. This podcast is sometimes casual, sometimes serious but presents a diverse range of guests discussing the state of the media industry and their own careers.
Thought Capital: This is a relatively new podcast created by Monash Business School. Host Michael Pascoe delves into topics you probably won’t read about in the business pages. What’s the link between Big Data and election rigging? How can you identify the true ‘key players’ in an economic meltdown? Is there a ‘tax paradise’ and can you live there?
The Leadership Dojo: Hosted by Alex Barker, this podcast features interviews with some of the greatest and most inspirational leaders, from business CEOs to famous Olympic athletes to best-selling authors. Alex aims to help listeners learn success principles from leaders and how to apply them to daily life.
48 days to the work you love: This is a 48-minute weekly podcast hosted by US-based career expert and author Dan Miller, which helps listeners discover their true calling, find work they love, and explore business ideas and opportunities. Dan helps people overcome procrastination with a mission to foster the process of imagining, dreaming and introspection, so they can find purposeful and profitable daily work.
Podcasts are a great distraction during long commutes and there are plenty to choose from across every area of interest. Simply search on a topic and select from a list of top-ranked podcasts. For Australian-specific podcasts, check out the Australian Podcast Awards, an event that brings together podcasters to celebrate the medium’s ability to entertain, inspire and engage audiences worldwide. The site includes a list of annual winners and nominees across different categories to give you some listening inspiration.
Are you happy at work? Career counselling can be an invaluable tool for helping you explore your options and decide on a new career path or course. To find out how we can help, read about our career coaching services.
Getting out the door for work is hard enough without adding one or more little people into the mix. Anyone who has children can relate to how stressful this can be. Even older children often need constant supervision to make sure they get up, get dressed, brush teeth, and collect their belongings. With the right routine in place though, it doesn’t have to be that way.
If you don’t want to feel like you’ve run a marathon by the time you get to work, or spend your morning being the world’s most painful nagger, try incorporating these tips into your day:
- Have a routine: First and foremost, design a routine that works for your family and stick to it. Make sure your children are also aware of the routine and know what’s expected of them. If they’re older – say 8 to 10 plus (depending on their maturity), let them contribute their own ideas on how the morning routine might work better.
- Prepare the night before: Anything that can be done the night before should be. Get clothes out (including yours), pack bags, make lunches, locate homework or projects that might be due, complete permission notes, prepare breakfast items, and set the alarm.
- Put things away as you go: Allocate a dedicated space for kids’ stuff. Use a spot near the door or kitchen that’s handy for everyone. It could be a washing basket, shelf or spot in a corner where everything can be placed – shoes, lunchboxes, backpacks, library books, permission notes, and anything else related to school or daycare. Teach your child to put anything they want to take with them in this spot – things like a news item or a ball for lunchtime games. That way there’s no last minute frantic search, or worse, tears when you arrive at the school gate and they’ve forgotten their special something.
- Create charts: Children, especially little ones, are visual and reward driven. Creating charts to prompt them on what to do (and in what order) is a great idea to help ensure your morning runs smoothly. Your chart should include everything they need to do such as getting dressed, making their bed, tidying their room, eating breakfast, brushing their teeth, doing their hair, putting on their shoes, taking their lunch, and packing/grabbing their bag. You can make your own chart with great ideas available from places like Pinterest, or even purchase one from somewhere like The Organised Housewife. Include a little tick box and trust them to tick it themselves, with the promise of some kind of reward at the end of the week. Consider using a kitchen timer for any areas where your kids dawdle. Most children love to beat the clock and it’s better than your voice urging them to hurry up!
- Make breakfast simple: Instead of offering a variety of options for different tastebuds, make breakfast easy by letting kids help themselves to cereal or offering just one or two options. Save the cooked breakfasts for the weekend, and use faster options for weekdays – cereals, yoghurt, bread, boiled eggs (done the night before), smoothies (again with ingredients prepped the night before), or toast. Get all the items out the night before and have them ready on the kitchen bench – bowls, cutlery, cereal, spreads etc.
- Use rewards: Most kids want to do anything other than getting ready in the morning. Use that to your advantage – whether it’s playing on their device or watching TV – offer that as a reward when everything else has been done.
- Model your desired behaviour: If you want your children to do it – you better be prepared to do it yourself. So that means getting your clothes and bag ready the night before, keeping breakfast simple, and getting ready in the same order you expect your kids to.
- Get up earlier: If you’re really struggling to get out the door on time, consider setting your alarm a little earlier. Even 15 minutes can make all the difference – especially if that time is spent on your own before the children wake up. Use it to get yourself ready and maybe even have a cup of coffee or tea in peace.
- Build in a buffer: If you can, build in some buffer time for when things don’t go according to plan. Allowing extra time in your schedule – even just 5 or 10 minutes – will help you to better handle a toddler’s meltdown, a nappy blow out, or a lost item that must be located to take to school.
Consistency really is the key to success in this area. Working out the best routine for your own family and following through with it every day will help you get out the door for work on time every time!
Are you interested in obtaining some career advice? If so our career advisors are experts in their field and can provide comprehensive career counselling. We also have experienced writers who provide professional resume and LinkedIn profile writing services designed for people who want to make employers sit up and take notice.