Here are five suggestions that I think make the biggest difference. All of these techniques are tried-and-tested and have helped me stay productive.
1. Write a to-dont list (and a to-do list)
If you’re anything like me, Im sure youll find it only to easy to work out what you need to do every day. (Whether youve got the time to do it is a different question entirely.)
But not so many of us are aware of the things we do that destroy our productivity. So when I write my to-do list at the beginning of every week, I also write a to-dont list, which reminds me what I shouldnt be focusing too much of my time on like social media, or letting my emails take control of me. (It might not sound serious, but I assure you it is and it really helps.)
2. Set your own priorities
We all know whats really urgent on our to-do list and whats a deadline that someone in the office has created to suit them. But you still need to decide which order to do the tasks in.
I like to get started with the big things straight away and deal with the little things later, but other people can spend the first hour of the day dealing with small tasks to get themselves into the right frame of mind for the big things. (Its entirely up to you: theres never a right way or a wrong way to do these things, but you need to find your own way, and stick to it.)
3. Eat the elephant in chunks
I find that slicing tasks up into smaller and more manageable chunks means I always feel like Im getting somewhere. (If you use the Agile project management approach, youll be more familiar with the idea of scrums and sprints than chunks, but it amounts to the same thing.)
This way, the task seems less intimidating, you can see that you’re making progress, and you can quickly change your approach if you need to.
4. Divide up your time
Some of us can concentrate for longer than others, but no one can concentrate constantly all day on a single project without breaks. We need to divide up our time as well as our tasks in order to stay focused and productive.
I use 25-minute segments with a five-minute pause. (The Italians call this the “Pomodoro” approach, because you slice up time like you would slice up a tomato.)
5. Use your A” time well (and your B” time too)
Everyone has certain times of day when theyre naturally more productive or creative. As you might have guessed, with me, it’s first thing in the morning, so I always try to use that time to do tasks that require a lot of thought. Similarly, Im at my least creative after lunch, so I use that time for admin and clearing my inbox.
Youll instinctively know what your own best times of day are, but you need to make sure the people you work with know them too, so that they can leave you to get on with things.
Steve Purdy is UK managing director at global workspace provider Regus, which has 300 business centres across the UK.