Staying on task can often be a little difficult whether you are at home or at work. At home, errands and personal goals can easily stack up, and at work, different tasks and assignments can sometimes become overwhelming. I researched this topic because improving efficiency and reducing wasted time are always things I’m looking to improve. After researching a bit, I wasn’t surprised to find that there is no perfect solution, however I did find some simple strategies and ideas that can help anyone trying to stay on task.

Starting the Day

First and foremost, the beginning of the day is very important. How you kick off the day will often determine your efficiency and focus for the rest of day. The development team at gap has a morning daily “standup” largely due to that reason. They touch base and review what their day will look like.  For that first hour of the day, try to stay on task and push through whatever obstacles you may face. This doesn’t have to start at work either — this could begin at home.  However you can arrange it, set yourself up for success early on in the day.

Handling Multiple Tasks

If you have a list of five tasks you know you need to get done, but maybe three of those tasks will only take a couple minutes to perform, just quickly get those tasks done first. In the back of our minds if we have lots of little tasks looming, it can make focusing on other bigger tasks a little harder. This is a good strategy at work and something I did all the time when I was in school. Rather than immediately starting to work on a big project, I could often greatly reduce my stress by checking off a couple small 30 minute assignments from my list.

Workspace Clutter

Clutter in the workspace is definitely in the eyes of the beholder, so maybe I’ll call it “controlled clutter.” If I have a ton of little fidgety objects around me, it’s easy to get distracted and start messing around with them. On the contrary, some people feel more at home and comfortable if they have lots of personal or special things around them. At gap, there are plenty of little culture related objects on people’s desks such as holiday cards, gap branded poker chips, and much more. But if you feel like you’re messing around with an object at your desk too much, then maybe it’s time to get rid of it. Just make sure to identify what works well for you. My mind feels a little more relaxed and focused if I’m spinning a pen in my hand for certain tasks like reading. I’d say the goal is all about being conscious of how objects in the workspace affect your productivity.

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Best Times of the Day

Know the most efficient times of the day to perform certain tasks. There’s a ton of research available about which times are best to get certain tasks done, and if you want a more detailed look, take a peak at this article.

For now though, I’ll spare you the TLDR (too long, didn’t read) version and give you my own breakdown. In general, it seems that the morning is the time to get the more complicated or difficult tasks that require more brain power out of the way. We are generally at our sharpest and most alert during that time. The late morning, in the 10am-12pm zone, is when our moods are at our peak, so scheduling client calls during that time might be a good idea. Within my work team, we had daily standups around 10:30am when we were in the launch phase of our product. The afternoon, which probably doesn’t come as a surprise to most people, is when we lose some energy and enthusiasm. However, there are still two types of activities that can be done efficiently during this time. The first one might be surprising, but it’s something that involves some creative free thinking. When we’re tired, our minds can often drift a bit, but if we are able to control that drift into a creative direction it can help us think through some things. The second type of work to get done during this time are mundane tasks, so if you’ve got some, saving them for the afternoon might be a good call.

At the end of the day we’re all a bit different in how we work, but hopefully this list can make at least a small impact on your productivity in the workplace or at home. Good luck!

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