Productivity tips for extremely busy people

You run from meeting to meeting. Your inbox is up to the rafters (and you’re about up to here with it). You spend hours checking and double-checking documents, and as soon as you pull into your driveway at 7:30 p.m., your phone rings – again. You spend hours and hours working every day and still don’t feel like you’ve made a dent in your to-do list.

We get it. We’ve been there. And we know that there will never be enough hours in the day. But we compiled our Local Biz team’s favorite productivity hacks to help you make the most of the time you have. 

From planning your attack on the day to keeping email from getting you down, to dealing with those distractions that always seem to pop up, these tips will help you get everything done as efficiently as possible so that you finally have time for other things (like, you know, sleep). 

Planning your to-dos

Don’t overestimate the number of things you can do in one day. Even if you take 20 phone calls, plan a month’s worth of content and wrap up that report by 4:30, not completing that last thing on your list before the clock strikes 5 still can be deflating. Instead of creating a massive list of to-dos (and feeling frustrated when you don’t finish it), try making a 1-3-5 to-do list: plan to get one large task, three medium-sized tasks and five small tasks done every day. 

Use apps to stay off your phone

Yes, you read that right. Everyone struggles to stay productive when their phone is right there, especially if their job revolves around social media management or Slack messages, but there are apps to help you cut down your screen time or stay off Instagram. We love Flora (which plants a tree when you want to stay off your phone, and the tree dies if you leave the app – cute, but effective), Moment for tracking screen time throughout the day and Flipd for locking apps that distract you (hello, TikTok). Want more productivity apps? See page 40.

Dealing with your inbox

Sometimes wading through a sea of emails can be more counterproductive than answering them. Only check your email at specific times during the day and try to limit it to only four or five times a day. And if you don’t have nearly this much self-control, try using a tool like Inbox Pause to keep emails from showing up until you’re ready for them. Once you have a schedule you can stick with, approach your emails in terms of how long it will take you to reply to them. If it will take less than three minutes to answer, just get it done now. If it will take more than that, set it aside. And then, when you have a large chunk of time, tackle those first. If you need to answer emails in a hurry, try adding the “Sent from my iPhone” line to your signature, even if you’re emailing from your computer. It’s a quick way to send out one-sentence replies without seeming rude. 

Use a paper planner 

No more searching for that list you made in a random notebook or figuring out which calendar you put that meeting on. A paper planner will be the one-stop shop for all your due-dates, lists and agenda items. Writing everything down by hand also will force you to be more intentional with your time. It’s easy to type a series of tasks into your phone, but seeing everything organized in that day’s date box will prompt you to evaluate whether you really have time for that coffee date. Paper planners are also a great way to visualize the coming months. Plug in all the dates you’ll be out of office, any holidays or days off, company events, business projects and more into your calendar and daily sections. You won’t have to check your company calendar every week to make sure, and you can plan — especially for vacations or events where you or someone crucial on your team might be out.

Take breaks 

You can only coast on fumes for so long. Getting up from your desk a few times a day is key to keeping your motivation high and your focus sharp. Whether an extended lunch break is your reward for finishing a major project or you’re grabbing a much-needed cup of coffee, giving yourself breaks throughout the day will help you achieve the clarity you need to produce your best work.

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