In the Zone: Getting on Task and Staying There

by Beth Rifkin

2 min read

Whether you’re a small business owner, freelancer, or other independent professional, half the daily battle is showing up. The other half is staying on task. Here are some quick tips you can use to boost your productivity and stay on task.

Make Lists and Prioritize Tasks

It might seem simplistic, but an old-fashioned, handwritten to-do list can keep you on task throughout your workday. If you’re a stickler for presentation, you might buy a pre-printed to-do list pad to jot down your daily tasks. You can also use a to-do list app to sync your completed tasks with your electronic calendar and email. It’s important to organize you to-do list from most important tasks to least important tasks. For example, if you need to prepare a hard-copy report for a client, sourcing your facts and figures and writing up the content — the more difficult part of the task — should take priority over running out to your local office supply store to find the perfect binder for the report.

Set Deadlines

You may get sidetracked when you feel like you have all the time in the world to complete your tasks. Instead, set arbitrary deadlines even if the actual deadlines for projects are far off in the distance. Setting deadlines for yourself and finishing tasks early relieves stress, and the sense of accomplishment that goes along with getting things done ahead of schedule provides a self-esteem boost. For example, if you’re a freelance writer, you might consider setting a deadline to complete article research and another deadline for writing and editing the article. Your goal should be to finish ahead of schedule.

Avoid Multitasking

Some employers sell the merits of multitasking in their job ads, but trying doing more than you can realistically accomplish in a day leads to work backlogs, errors, frustration, and even burn out. Instead of trying to complete all of your daily tasks at once, tackle them one at a time. For example, if you have to fill in as your business’s receptionist during your assistant’s lunch hour, avoid trying to send invoices and answer important emails during this time. Instead, set your work aside, take a breather, and pick up where you left off when your assistant returns to the office.

Schedule Communications

Social media alerts, email, text messages, and phone calls can be a big distraction that keeps you from staying on task. As challenging at it might be, you might consider putting your smart device on silent, turning off the screen, and closing your email application until you get your work done. You can also schedule times in the day when you check and respond to work-related communications. For example, you might consider initiating and responding to communications when you arrive at work, before you go to lunch, and sometime in the afternoon. Most business people understand that you’re busy and don’t expect immediate replies.

References & Resources

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