January always feels like a month of hustle, whether we're ready for it or not. Personally, I plan on having a slower season [more to come on that] but of course, I still need to work hard. But instead of working harder, I want to work smarter and switch up some of my habits. Often I find I've had days, where I will work all day yet I still don't find myself ticking things off my to-do list. So here, are some of the ways that I think can result in a smarter work day instead of a longer one.
SET YOURSELF TIME BRACKETS
One of the worst habits I've got into since being self-employed is not setting myself strict enough time brackets to work in. Working to a set time is a hard but great practice to get into. When putting together my to-do lists I write time slots next to the tasks, this way I don't get too sucked into one thing and neglect another. Having a cut off point is vital, again it's hard to get into the habit of doing so but it's important for somewhat of a healthy work-life balance.
WRITE YOURSELF A FUNCTIONAL TO-DO LIST
There is nothing worse than looking at your to-do list and feeling absolutely terrified. You're the only person who knows what you're capable of achieving in one day and constantly overexerting yourself is dangerous. My lists are what guide me through the day and I use them to my advantage. Like I mentioned, I like to split them into time slots and then prioritise the most important tasks at the top. An important lesson I learnt last year was to not overload my list when there are too many items it suddenly becomes overwhelming and counter-productive.
GET RID OFF ANY DISTRACTIONS
It's all too easy to find yourself being pulled away from work by other things. For me, my phone and inbox are two of my biggest distractions. E-mails are a large part of my workday but I like to have two dedicated time slots where I answer them, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. By doing that, I'm not getting pulled away in the middle of the day. To stop myself getting distracted by my phone, I either put it on the other side of the room or take it out completely. If it's not close to hand then I'm not tempted to pointlessly scroll.
TAKE REGULAR BREAKS
Making sure you take regular dedicated breaks from work is something that I cannot stress the importance of enough. It might sound like a good idea to just plough your to-do list like a steam train but you're never going to deliver your best work unless you give your mind time to switch off and rest. Even something as small as getting up and having a wander round can really help to give you a fresh perspective on something.
There are certain areas in life where multitasking is wonderful, like doing the washing up and listening to a podcast. In a work day, however, it's not. Again, it seems like a great idea to try and get more than one thing done at once but it's never going to be your best work when you're flitting between projects. By staying dedicated to one task at a time, it narrows down your focus so you can give that one thing your all. As well as single-tasking I also like to work by the rule of no more than one internet tab at a time, having twenty plus tabs open is not only confusing but it leaves your brain feeling scattered too.