Before we step into Christmas panic and New Year guilt, it can often be really helpful to start establishing simple new habits that can make the 'New Year New You' transition so much easier to handle. I have three really easy organisation tips that I wanted to share that will make a real difference to your productivity and the way you view work in general.
If you’re looking for more support on how to get organised and feel great in the process, get in touch for a free 20 minute 1-1, and keep an eye out for my next weekly to-do list blog post.
Start with your most uncomfortable task
Mark Twain said “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you for the rest of the day”. The idea is that if you’ve done something ‘awful’ first thing then you can enjoy your day with the confidence that everything will be an improvement.
Leading on from this idea, motivational speaker and self-development author Brian Tracy, elaborates on the basics of eating metaphorical frogs.
“Your frog is your biggest, most important task, the one you are most likely to procrastinate on if you don’t do something about”.
The point of getting your biggest, most important task done first, means that you’re taking action on the things that really matter, and clearing them off your to-do list in the process. The sooner you do the tasks that matter the most, the sooner you’ can see the positive results and changes that you’re aiming for.
When we’ve completed tasks and can cross them off a list, we get a nice little hit of dopamine – the feel-good hormone. The bigger or harder the task, the greater the hit and the resulting surge of happiness. Getting into a habit of completing difficult tasks first of all, can chemically set us up for happier and more productive days, as you ride off the positive feelings from the start of the day.
As well as this, knowing that you were disciplined and strong enough to complete the task that you might have been dreading the most can give you the confidence to tackle other things that might make you uncomfortable. Other daily challenges can seem so much more achievable if you know that you have already done the biggest thing you needed to do that day.
Write your to-do list on a weekly basis
Stephen Covey talks about this approach in his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and David Allen, author of ‘Getting Things Done’ also shares that doing this “will sharpen your intuitive focus on your important projects as you deal with the flood of new input and potential distractions coming at you the rest of the week.”
A to-do list that covers the week is effective because it enables you to realistically determine how much time you have available to you. Have you noticed that with a daily to-do list you tend to re-write some of your tasks for the next day and the next day and the next? And that one task that you set yourself on a Monday is still waiting to be done on a Friday?
In general, it’s actually quite difficult to assign ourselves realistic time-frames to complete work in. This is often because we have unrealistically high expectations of ourselves. We can also be caught out on a day to day basis by unplanned tasks that crop up, meaning that we run out of time to do the things that we’d set out to do.
By taking a step back and planning your entire week before you start it, you can segment your time much more effectively than a daily to-do list. When you look at your whole week, and especially if you segment your time into 30-minute increments, you can really see how much is achievable.
Practically, if you work a standard 9-5 and remove an hour for lunch, you have 14 30 minute slots in your working day. A surprising amount of the tasks that lots of us have to complete are not likely to take longer than 30 minutes at a time, but they can be allocated a 30 minute window to ensure they’re done well. Similarly, for 30 concentrated minutes, it can be surprising to see what can be achieved.
Many of us are in a position where we need to respond to things at very short notice that we can’t necessarily plan for at the start of the week. Keeping a few 30 minute slots free every day helps ensure you have that time to deal with last-minute changes and can still schedule in all the other tasks that you need to complete within a week.
Check my next weeks’ blog post for a full breakdown of how to setup the most effective weekly to-do list, as well as get access to a free to-do list resource that will completely change the way you plan and deal with your week!
At the end of the week, go through your ‘Have Done’ list
This is hands-down one of my favourite things to do at the end of the working week. Even if I feel like I’ve had a really productive week, there are always things that I’ve inevitably missed. Reminding myself of these, especially if I wanted the satisfaction of crossing them off, can often be quite demoralising. I don’t want to finish my working week panicking about what I haven’t been able to fit in!
A weekly have-done list counterbalances that demoralising feeling that can come from not completing everything you thought you might. I can also guarantee that your have-done list will always be longer than your weekly to-do list. We don’t give ourselves enough credit for all the things we manage to do in a day or week. For example, while you might not have completed everything on your work schedule, you may have organised a birthday present for someone; sorted out new car insurance; or had an overdue catch up with a friend who needed some support. These kind of mini wins are often forgotten about because they blend into our day to day tasks. But they’re just as important as the work we’ve assigned ourselves.
Recognising everything that we’ve done in a week, and respecting the time that has gone into all the things we’ve done is a really great way to boost how effective you feel, and positively wrap up your working week.