Tips for Accomplishing More in a Day

by Tisha Tolar on 2 September 2011 7 comments
Photo: Adam Moore

Take a look online, and you’ll no doubt find a gazillion methods for staying on task and getting things done. Many methodologies are available but accompanied by a price tag. From affordable e-books to costly professional help, there are a lot of options for getting more done.

Beyond the obvious problem of not getting things done, wasting time goes hand in hand with wasting money. If you are not making the most of your time, you are likely in a rush. Being in a hurry generally translates to making financial mistakes. If you are not planning out a chunk of time to take care of bills and balance the checkbook, your finances can go downhill fast.

For consumers who are busy, there is a tendency to look for the "easy button," no matter what the price. However, there is no need to spend a small fortune to get yourself in gear and actually accomplish what you set out to do in a day. Here is some free advice for getting more done without forking over the cash. (See also: 10 Ways to Save Time by Spending Time)

Preplan in the Evenings

A written visual of all you need to do is the core of getting things done. Commit to sitting down for at least 20-30 minutes each evening with a blank sheet of paper and list all of the things you need to get done the following day. Transfer tasks to a daily planner sheet, allocating times for each task. This will allow you to clearly see what you can expect to complete during the hours you are awake.

Break It Down

For the big jobs you face, create an outline that breaks down tasks involved in getting the job done. For instance, cleaning out the garage involves many tasks that can be done over time and still result in one larger, accomplished goal.

Stop the Distractions

During those blocks of time you have scheduled for certain tasks that need your undivided attention, including those at work, stop the distractions in their tracks by turning off your cell phone, avoiding email, and asking unexpected visitors to your home or your desk to come back at a more convenient time for you. If your goal is to accomplish more in a day, you have to stick to your guns about interruptions and your desire to stay focused.

Use a Timer

You can use your cell phone, set the timer on the microwave, or buy a portable timer and literally set time limitations on the tasks you need to do. The time may serve as a strong motivator to get moving and not sit down for "just a minute" while you are in the middle of a job. Timers are also a great introduction for teaching children time management skills.

Get Others Involved

When you take on more than is necessary, it is no surprise you can’t handle the load. Learn to ask for help on the job. At home, hash out responsibilities to family members by creating a visual chart of responsibilities you can no longer handle on your own. For everything else, learn to say no when you are short on time.

Expect the Unexpected

Realize from the get-go that no matter how well you plan, things will not always go as envisioned. Don’t let that ruin your day or your motivation. Remember to stay flexible but focused and find ways to work around the unexpected.

Time management does not come naturally to many people and efforts need to be made to ensure you stay organized and acknowledge just how much you can actually accomplish in a period of one day. Having too many unrealistic expectations of yourself gets old fast and probably won’t produce the desired results.

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Meg Favreau's picture

Eliminating distractions is huge. One thing that helped me a lot was downloading more than one browser on my computer. Chrome is my "home" browser, where I do things like check my personal email and Facebook, and I use Firefox for work. I only open Chrome during break times, and it's helped me cut back on random clicking around so much.

Does anybody have any other suggestions for ways to eliminate distractions, or get more done in general?

Guest's picture
Ralph

One of the things that helped increase my focus and "time management" was to commit to the process. I made a commitment to learn how to master myself instead of my time. Once I made that commitment, even if I got off track for a short period of time, I would always bounce back. Now I can execute even the largest task much more effectively than before.

Guest's picture

I definately feel that when I get up earlier in the day to start my day- I of course don't feel like the day has just been poofed away and I can get much more accomplished.

Meg Favreau's picture

Me too! I try to wake up two hours before work to do yoga, write, and get other things accomplished. I feel much more balanced when I do that.

Guest's picture

I find that the more I am a stickler to the plan, the more frazzled I become. That's why I leave an hour unplanned to cater for those things I have to play catch up on - I'm happy that I have a reserve hour and this allows me to finish up my to-do-list most of the time...

Guest's picture
Charles

My new habit, which I'm starting to love, is jot down notes that come to me during the evening on my ipad, then before bed, sending that off to my work email. this gives me a nice to-do list first thing in the morning when i get in the office, and cuts back on any downtime I would normally use to get up and going and into the swing of things.

Guest's picture

These are some good suggestions. I agree with Meg that the getting rid of distractions is a huge thing, at least for me personally. I can get a lot of things done at once if I need to, but outside distractions can kill my concentration and get me out of my work zone. I'm not sure if I would ever necessarily need to use the timer trick since I am already habitually a time saver and always early to things, but it's not a bad idea. And I definitely already do the pre-planning in the evenings. I know myself well enough to know that I have a horrible memory, so whenever I think of anything I need to do or buy later I make a memo of it in my phone. It has been extremely helpful to me since I started a few months ago.
Do you have any extra suggestions about how to stay on task when you are in an unfamiliar environment, like traveling? I find that is the hardest time for me to stay on task.