Let’s face it: getting back to work after the holidays can be such a struggle, right? It’d be so much easier if we could stay on vacation and ignore our to-do lists and the emails flooding into our inboxes. Think of the new year as an opportunity to really shine at work, to kick your routine into high gear, and to feel totally on top of your day…instead of under it.
I’ve been working at my current job, my first job, for just under six months, but in that time, I’ve learned a few things about workplace productivity. I’ve developed a daily system that has me leaving the office each day knowing that I’ve accomplished something, and that I can actually leave work and come back the next day, with nothing urgent left undone.
Here’s how it works:
1. Write it out.
Each night before I go to bed, I take out my Passion Planner and make my plan for the next day. My planner is broken up into half-hour increments, so I break my day up into chunks of tasks. This way, I’m not just sitting at my desk all day working on a few things here and there, but not really feeling as though I’m getting things done, and so I make sure my priorities are accomplished when they need to be accomplished.
I write out all of my meetings, in addition to my own tasks, so I can plan my day around where I need to be, when I need to be there. This way, I have a visual plan of what my day is going to look like before I even go into work, so there are no surprises and I’m getting work done.
In the morning, for example, when I’m still waking up (waiting for the green tea to kick in, am I right?), I make it a goal to email 20-25 students by 9:45am. After that, I know that I’m a little more awake, so I make the next few hours time for these three specific data reports I need to do. By mid-day, I work on a few other projects, take lunch, and spend the rest of the afternoon making calls.
It’s a powerful feeling when you cross off a task from your to-do list, and I guarantee that it’ll make your day go by much faster, and you’ll feel much more productive. The key is to be specific: 25 emails, this specific report, call x number of people, email this person, etc. This way, you can monitor your progress towards meeting a specific goal.
2. Type it out.
I use both my paper planner and my Outlook calendar to schedule my day. While it’s helpful to have a visual representation of what my day will look like while I’m working, it’s very easy to get into a groove and completely lose track of time. Suddenly, it’s 11:45 and I had a meeting that started 15 minutes ago, but I was on a total email grind and didn’t look over at my planner. All of my meetings go into my Outlook calendar and I’ll get a little reminder on my laptop 15 minutes before the meeting and when the meeting is supposed to start.
Most companies use Outlook, Gmail, or another email-for-business platform that comes with a calendar, so make it a habit to plug important dates and times into your digital calendar so you’ll be reminded of where you need to be, when you need to be there. This way, you’ll have plenty of time to get there, center yourself, and be ready to go so things actually get accomplished.
3. Inbox Zero.
I know, I know, the elusive term. In school, I was never one of those people who organized their inbox; I would just respond to emails, make lists, and hope they all got taken care of. Now, however, I get emails from students, emails about upcoming travel, meeting requests, updates on projects I’m working on, and so much more. It can get overwhelming and when things aren’t organized, they can easily slip through the cracks. I started managing my email inbox and organizing it and it is a game changer.
Here’s how it works: every email that comes in goes to my inbox. If I need to respond to it, the email stays in my inbox until it’s done. Any email that does not need a response, or has been taken care of, goes into my “Done” folder. I have other folders for ongoing projects, my travel plans for this upcoming semester, and important company policy emails, but for the most part, an email is either in my inbox or in the done-box. My inbox, now, acts like a to-do list, and my type-A personality helps a ton here, because those few emails that are preventing me from reaching a clean, empty inbox are nagging me every time I open up Outlook. Give it a try, and you’ll be amazed at how much easier it is to manage and prioritize emails.
Remember, our New Year’s resolution? New Year, More You. With these tips, I guarantee you’ll take on the work day feeling like so much more of you.