It’s a crazy day at the office. You’ve just completed an important task, but rather than bask in the glory, you need to complete the next 20. Sound familiar? Tracy Foulkes, owner of Get Organised, an international professional organising and productivity company, shares tips and strategies for managing a busy workday.

How can you break a heavy workload into manageable daily tasks?
Heavy workloads tend to leave you feeling overwhelmed, which is typically where procrastination sets in. To guard against this, work with a list. Throughout the day and then again before you leave the office for home, dump the information, ideas and tasks out of your brain into one place – the rule: one life, one list. From this running list you can prioritise based on revenue/value.

Ask yourself what task on your list is closest to:
– bringing in money for you or your company
– allowing you to perform at your peak
– taking you closer to your goals.
Allocate either a one, two or three to each item on your list (“one” being the highest-value tasks). Looking at your number ones, ask what is the deadline, how long will this task take and what is the return on investment. This simple filter system will help you do the most important things first.

Then create a weekly blueprint on an Excel spreadsheet. This gives you an overview of what type of task you should be doing when. The easiest way to do this is to open an Excel spreadsheet and use the rows for the days of the week and the vertical cells to indicate the time you are in the office (let it increase by half-hour increments). Then allocate pockets of time to certain tasks eg: Monday, Wednesday and Friday between 10:00 and 12:30 is allocated for meetings, 12:30-13:00 is dedicated to communication, and so on.

What are four essential steps to take to plan your workday?
1. Throughout the day, jot down tasks, projects and ideas on your running list.
2. Review this list at the end of the day – tick off any task you’ve completed and apply the one, two, three priority scaling again.
3. Before you leave the office, choose your most important number one to focus on first thing in the morning, when productivity is high.
4. On arriving at the office in the morning, resist the temptation to dive into email (a time sapper) and instead dedicate the first hour to focusing on your number ones.

How do you develop the discipline to stick to your daily plan?
Changing a habit is difficult, so give yourself time to dive into your new system by focusing on the pleasure of the outcome and not the pain of the transition. Ask a colleague to become your accountability buddy to help you stay on track. If you slip back into old habits, instead of beating yourself up, reintroduce the productive habits and you’ll soon feel a sense of accomplishment.

If you do not complete your tasks for the day, how can you prevent a snowball effect?
Productivity is not about crossing everything off your list every day, it’s about doing the important things first. Provided you are doing something every day towards ticking off the number ones, you will be moving forward. Constantly ask if the task you are doing adds value to your organisation and to yourself. We tend to focus on the fast, quick and easy things first, but if they are not number ones, we are not adding the greatest value to our day – that’s how you can have a busy day without having actually achieved anything.

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