We’ve all been there - the horrible, sluggish, dirge of work that is 1pm after a morning of admin and clearing your inbox. In fact, you haven’t gotten anything done since you took a break at noon.
Why? Because you didn’t set your priorities properly.
Instead of dealing with your biggest, most important task while you had the energy to do so, you do what everyone does when faced with a task they don’t want to do. You procrastinated, telling yourself that you’d clear your schedule of your smaller tasks so that you would have a clear head to tackle the main event.
And, as we all know, procrastination leads to cramming work into less time, which means way higher stress levels.
To avoid doing this again, here are a few pieces of advice I’ve learned the hard way over the last two and a half years of working remotely. After all, you could be an expert in business process management, but if you’re not taking the right approach to your workday, you’ll be dead in the water by lunchtime.
Deal with your ugliest task first
You’re at your most productive when you start work, so it only makes sense to prioritize your tasks and deal with the biggest, ugliest one as the first item of your day.
I know it sounds horrible, but it’s like jumping in the deep end of a swimming pool - the initial shock isn’t pleasant, but in no time at all you’re used to the water. By taking care of your ugliest task first, not only are you (usually) dealing with the thing most playing on your mind, but everything else you do after that will seem like a walk in the park.
Plan out your day the night before
You won’t know what your ugliest task is until you’ve planned out your day. Unfortunately, if you leave that task management until the morning, you’ll be left with the same problem of wasting mental energy doing that instead of your main task.
Plan out your day of tasks the day before you have to do them. It doesn’t have to take long, but even 5 minutes of planning to create a bare bones task order and time schedule will save you hours upon hours of productive energy in the long run.
Have set times for clearing your inbox
To completely avoid the temptation to fill your morning with small, unimportant tasks, you’ll want to have a set time in which you clear your inbox.
Again, this doesn’t have to be anything complicated, but I’d recommend setting aside 30 minutes to an hour at the end of your day to check your emails, organize any tasks, reply to messages, and so on.
Don’t put off tasks that take less than 20 minutes
Yes, I know I said that you shouldn’t be doing smaller tasks in the morning. I stick by that. However, you also shouldn’t put off tasks which will take you 20 minutes or less to complete.
By putting them off you’re doing one of two things. Either they will play on your mind and affect your performance until you finally clear them from your task list, or you’ll put them to the side and forever forget about them.
Don’t do either - when sorting through your inbox (or as soon as you get the task if it’s not getting in the way of dealing with your main item for the day) make sure that you start and finish anything that will take you less than 20 minutes. Trust me, you’ll feel a lot better if you do.