Now that the season is on us (NaNo season, that is) you may well have noticed that there are simply not enough hours in the day to get everything done. You start the day full of great intentions, but, somehow, you blink and it’s already gone.
So, what can you do to make sure that you get through the work you have set for yourself (without working yourself into the ground)? First and foremost, you can learn to effectively manage your time and workload; when you can do this you will find that your days become significantly less stressful.
Prioritisation And Planning
The first step in any time management endeavour is to be aware of what you need to do. After all, if you don’t know what needs to be done you’ll never finish it. Sit down, take a deep breath and list everything you need to do today; once you have put a star next to things that have to be done by the end of the day.
You might be tempted to tell yourself that it all needs done today, but the truth is there will always be things which can be put to the bottom of the list.
Make a numbered list; the top three should be your most urgent tasks, those which absolutely must be done, the next two are the ones that should be done today. Anything after that should be items of low priority; things which you would like to get done, but which are not necessary.
Putting The Plan Into Action
When it comes to managing your time you should view your task list as a living document; your to do list should evolve as the day goes by. Focus on the most important tasks first, of course, and try to limit multi-tasking. Logic might tell you that if you’re doing two things at once you’ll make progress faster, but the truth is that you’re only going to be distracted, at best, and overwhelmed at worst.
Start with the most urgent task and work your way through the list.
Half way through the day stop and take stock of the progress you have made; cross of tasks you have finished, leave notes beside any that you can’t finish for any reason, and re-prioritise the remaining tasks.
Ideally, by the time you have made it to this point you should have finished your top two or three tasks so consider what you have left and mark the next most urgent. When you reach the end of the day, do the same once more; cross off completed tasks, leave notes next to any partially completed ones, and mark the next most urgent if any are left.
The marked tasks should be first on the list you make the next day.
Maintaining Your Energy Levels
When you have a lot on your plate, it can be tempting to work at break-neck pace until you… well, break. This isn’t the way; burnout is very real, and very debilitating. If you burnout you will quickly find that your productivity, your mental health, and your workload suffer.
If you want to avoid burnout and maintain your productivity throughout the day, and week, there are a few things you should do;
- Eat regularly; have breakfast and have dinner. If you’re not a lunch person don’t force it, but be sure to snack so that you can keep your focus.
- Drink enough water; stay hydrated to ensure that you don’t get headaches or begin to feel sick.
- Work in bursts; work for an hour or two before taking a quick break of five minutes or so. Stand, stretch, have a drink, and walk around before you sit down and start working again.
- Set working hours; and stick to them! When you work for yourself, or you’re a full-time student, this is particularly important. Working twelve hours a day may seem like a good way to get work done, but you’ll make yourself sick in the long run.
- Draw a line; define your work and private lives, and make sure that they don’t bleed into each other. One way to do this is by having “work” clothes. It may seem silly when you work at home, but something as simple as washing your face and changing your clothes can help your body and mind to change into a more relaxed gear.
If you’ve already managed to burnout you should start the process of beating it.