Almost nothing feels better than banging out a bunch of work, but thanks to the ubiquity of modern distractions, getting into a zone of productivity can be challenging. Take some tips from Courtney C.W. Guerra's entertaining and witty book. Is This Working? The Businesslady's Guide to Getting What You Want From Your Career. Here are some tips from her chapter on staying on task.
1. Make a list, and do it on paper.
It sounds simple, but many people do not write down their to-dos. While you might think your brain is capable of keeping track of everything you need to be doing, it's not good at prioritizing and will often allot the same amount of mental energy to a small thing as it does to a huge project. "Once you actually see all the tasks laid out in front of you, it's easy to triage them based on urgency, importance, and your overall workflow," she writes. "When they're all just rattling around in your head every single thing gets counted multiple times, and there's no way to distinguish the minor stuff from what's actually worth worrying about." And do it on paper, which is easier to keep in front of your actual eyeballs. Apps and other tech solutions are fine, unless you forget to look at them.
2. Just start, and get any kind of work done.
Take a look at your to-do list and pick the easiest or least misery-inducing item, and just do it. "Getting motivated is a lot like jump-starting a car," she writes, "once you're doing something, anything, that's vaguely worklike, it's easier to keep on going."
3. If you're going to procrastinate, do it by taking a break.
Don't just waste time online at your desk. Leave the office, do something that recharges you, and come back ready to get things done. "If you spend all afternoon half-assedly reading BuzzFeed and simultaneously feeling guilty and bored, it's not like you get brownie points for remaining at your desk," she writes.
4. Put down your phone.
Lessen the temptation to pick it up by turning off notifications from apps and email. Whether you're at work trying to get things done, or at home trying to recharge, the mini-computer in your hand is full of distractions.
5. Make email wait.
Not every message needs an immediate answer, particularly when you're supposed to be off the clock and recharging--a state that's necessary for optimal productivity. "Most organizations are able to deal with the fact that people go to concerts, spend time with their families, eat uninterrupted meals, fall asleep," she writes. "If it's a true emergency and you're really needed, there's always that 'call' function that most cell phones still have nowadays--and if you're actually unreachable, one of your colleagues can handle things this time around."