Top 10 tips for staying productive

Top Ten Tips for staying productive when you're still in holiday mode

1. Reward yourself You can't be tough on yourself all the time. So if you're struggling to complete your budget submission by the deadline, or write up your team appraisals (painful, right?), then a reward could be the key.

Maybe it's a coffee from the posh place in town once you're done, or leaving half an hour early, it will feel so good that you've earnt your reward AND got rid of that pesky task.

2. Make a list It sounds obvious, but a list is brilliant for keeping those jobs at the forefront of your mind, especially if you tape the list to your monitor! Remember to cross off each thing as you do them, and if you've done something that's not on the list write it in, and cross it off - oooh, that feels great!

3. Forgive yourself Some days it is just not going to happen. Maybe there are rumours of redundancies doing the rounds, or your kids won't sleep, or the mortgage payment has gone up. Occasionally, whatever it is that is causing you problems concentrating, just won't go away.

When this happens, don't panic. Stick to the quick wins, answer emails that are easy, book some meetings to talk to your team about the big ticket items, schedule some time for thinking when your mind is clearer. It is okay to have an off-day, you just need some fab days to balance it out.

4. Establish some (good) habits This is a good one. There are a wide range of things you can do. Perhaps it is starting early, and whacking some emails out, or staying half an hour later, once the phones have stopped ringing to organise your in-tray. Else it could be my favourite - writing notes from meetings up immediately (using the voice recorder on my phone) and sending them out with actions - never fails to impress.

These kinds of habits really help structure your work and get rid of some of the annoying tasks quickly.

5. Be in control of your own time Yes, you are the master of your own time. Even if it sometimes feels like you are most certainly not.

There is no reason you have to meet other people only when it is convenient to them. Your diary is a good place to book in time to spend on specific tasks. By all means move it around to suit your meetings, but it can only add to stress levels if you don't feel like you are in control of what you are doing and when you're doing it.

6. Deal with the quick things now It is always tempting to kick these things to the bottom of the tray, dismissing them as unimportant. Examples are sending a logo to the agency, referring a speculative email to another colleague, dropping a file back into the cabinet ... you know how it goes.

No! We're dealing with these now, and feeling good that they're done.

7. Carve up your tasks Most of the things you need to do will have specific parts, requiring different skills to be used, or software programmes run. Let's say you've got a report to write. Maybe you'll go through your emails and look for related content, do a little online research or you might open Word and draft up a structure for the report, leaving lots of gaps to fill in later. You'll feel better for having made a start, and it will make the other elements easier to fit in.

8. Empty your mailbox If you're like most people, coming back from a break and seeing 181 new emails sitting in your inbox. Lordy, your blood pressure is probably building even just reading this.

Don't let it annoy you, sift through them - any newsletters, move to a folder for later reading, anything from senior colleagues, your boss or your team look at straight away, and flag anything important. The rest you can deal with after your second coffee/tea/wheatgrass infusion!

9. Set yourself day goals Today, I'll be more positive; Tomorrow, I will tackle the filing tray A week next Thursday I will wash that mouldy cup ...

You've got to have a goal!

10. Twin your tasks with your energy levels Maybe you're a Lark, or perhaps you're a Night Owl? It makes absolute sense to match those complex jobs which require concentration to the times when you've got the most energy.

For me it is first thing in the morning, I am zinging from my coffee, and have a bit of energy left following my walk from the bus stop. This is my 'sugar high' so I use it. If, like me, you have a real low at 3pm, take yourself for a walk (always carry a sheet of A4, makes you look like you have purpose) ten minutes should do it, when you get back, you'll have burnt enough calories for half a stick of KitKat. You're good to go!!


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