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productivity tips

Plan Your Goals, Bird by Bird.

I have a confession to make: I’m a bit of a daydreamer. In the course of writing this post, I guarantee I would have spent several minutes gazing out the window and wondering what life would be like if we were required to scuttle sideways, like a crab. Would we drive differently? What would the blueprints of our homes look like? I can also guarantee I would have checked Facebook and my blog roll about twenty thousand times. Time management is not my strong point, is what I’m getting at.

Luckily for me, the human brain has remarkable plasticity. It’s a very trainable organ. We are not doomed with the habits and traits we have. With a little effort and a few tools in my utility belt, I’ve been able to shift my routine into some semblance of efficient productivity. Here are three productivity tips for work that I’ve found useful:

List it

In her book Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott describes the inspiration behind her title. Faced with the task of an exhaustive report on birds, a mountain of never-opened books, a one-night deadline, and regrets from months of procrastination, Anne’s little brother was almost in tears. His father sat down next to him and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.” I start each day listing my birds. Big tasks get broken down into small manageable pieces. No fancy app needed, just a simple word doc or a google doc will do.

Prioritize it

Being easily distracted brain means I skip around from task to task often. New to-dos get added to my plate while others get shoved to the side, and finally, nothing gets done! Here’s how I avoid that: I prioritize everything. Urgent big tasks are highlighted red and somewhat important tasks are yellow. The rest are standard black. I take it bird by bird and don’t move on to the yellow tasks until the red are completed.

Time it

While focusing on a large project can be overwhelming, I know I can give continuous attention to a single task that’s timed between 15 to 25 minutes. If I break up 25-minute blocks of focused work with 5-minute breaks, the need to look up my favorite movie’s IMDB page feels suddenly less urgent while working on any project. Any distractions that arise, I simply write that down for my next break.

These three tips have turned me from a person who operates at a basic level of panic to someone who looks at their to-dos for the day and rolls up her sleeves. I admit that I spent several minutes gazing out the window, and every status update on my Facebook page has been perused, but my task list has never looked better.

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