Do you constantly feel like there are not enough hours in a day?
Our childhood never quite prepared us for playing catch up the rest of our lives. For running around until it feels like a year flew past, right as you were getting around to working on your resolutions.
We’re constantly stuck in a whirlwind where every email, message, ping, or Slack notification is there to remind us that we have more on our plate. We are yet to eat our broccoli. We have more things to bite than we can possibly chew.
It sounds exhausting because we’ve all lived this life. If you feel frazzled at the end of each day without spending time on your physical or mental wellbeing, this is for you.
The tips mentioned here would not help you out overnight because, unfortunately, we’re not prescribing a wine glass or two to slow down time. Instead, if followed right, they will help you free up a few hours, bit by bit, till you find some semblance of control.
1. Work towards keeping your days off as free as possible
I will refrain from saying that you should not work during the weekends. Sometimes, work piles up and in between meetings and office distractions, it is hard to get everything done from Monday to Friday.
Instead here’s my proposition: During your weekdays, work as if you have a trip planned on your days off. This will help you reign in your habit of procrastination and eliminate distractions while you focus on getting everything done in the five days earmarked for the tasks.
Keeping weekends pious and just to yourself helps relieve stress (the way they are meant to) and allows you to focus on things that are as important - your personal and family life. Keep that intention primary and work towards it.
2. Become an early riser
From Tim Cook, Michelle Obama to Richard Branson, all of them have one thing in common. They all wake up earlier than the world to get extra hours which they use to workout, check emails, study, or get a headstart on their to-do list.
This habit is one of the top pieces of advice you will likely hear from the well-known. Waking up early definitely has a set of incredible perks.
It helps you start work without people around to bother you. It helps you sleep only as much as is required by your body and not waste time lazing around on the bed until you absolutely have to get up to attend the first standup call in your pajamas (yes, we’re all guilty of that).
Try waking up an hour earlier, and then some more until you find the routine that allows you to be free early each day.
3. Learn to say no
Not everyone is guilty of our third point here but I, for one, was. I used to say yes to a bunch of requests, orders, cries for help, and any call for a social outing.
I did that because in my head I was being nice. And while that may be a gesture borne out of sweet intentions, it does take a toll. If you are free, by all means, you should help everyone you can. But if you already are neck-deep in obligations, picking on some more is not what you’d want to be doing.
A good way to start here is instead of saying yes to a request instantly, take some time, ponder over it, and then make your decision.
So the next time someone says: Hey can you help me out with my applications? Reply with: Please give me some time to get back.
Just the way people end up spewing hurtful things in the heat of an argument, saying yes instantly too is a reflex. One that we can learn to control.
4. Kill distractions while you work
Of course, you know you need to get a grip on everything that distracts you easily. Social media, phone calls, a good series, a great book, your dog cutely waiting for you to play with it all day - all of them.
Yes, the list goes beyond social media that has been touted as the single worst thing to happen to productivity.
The best way to get your work done while the distractions co-exist is to use an application or an alarm clock that would keep you on track.
I love using Forest. I set the time to 60-mins and finish my work in batches. If I use my phone during that time, it kills the (virtual) plant I can grow in my forest that translates to a real one. And boy, that hurts!
5. Make changes to your workplace
Here are a few things that have worked out very well for me at work.
- Specify one task or a group of (related) tasks you’d like to accomplish in a block of time. And do only these things in the specified hours.
E.g.: I will write my blog posts between 11 am and 2 pm every day. And answer all emails between 3 and 4 pm.
🗓️ A good practice we find useful at OSlash is to actually block our calendars as per these schedules so that we leave little room for getting sidetracked.
- Don’t overpromise, instead do the task you promise to do thoroughly and well. To appear productive, a lot of employees overpromise and end up under-delivering. This is contrary to what they wanted to accomplish as they were starting out. Always underpromise and overdeliver - the only sure-shot way of accomplishing more while not burning out.
- Don’t do everything by yourself. At work, it can be tremendously helpful to have people you can rely on. This will help you free up time from tasks that don’t necessarily need your oversight. To empower your team, invest and educate them first so they make fewer mistakes.
- Use OSlash with your team so you don’t have to waste time hunting down a link or wondering where the heck is a document that is important for your work.
- Have a specific time to reply to all your emails. And never conduct a meeting/or entertain one that can easily be an email/Slack message.
6. Create a routine that is predictable
Embarrassingly, we spend a lot of our time wondering what we have to do next. One of the big reasons we had more energy as children was because we all had a routine to follow. A set of activities we performed one after the next, almost on intuition.
Without a routine, most adults simply “wing” their day without any idea what they’ll do once they wake up till they feel too tired to stay awake. This is bad for productivity, health, sleep, stress, and as the title of the blog would suggest our time.
Having a set routine that you could follow almost intuitively every day makes us a lot more productive and healthy.
Plus, it is the only way to accomplish something big while you continue to take care of the other (often neglected) aspects of your wellbeing.