10 Ways to Simplify Your Work Day

clean-officeA simplified work day is much more effective. It’s the law of productivity – the more focused you are, the more you will accomplish important projects.

The hard part is simplifying your life so you do get those important projects completed.

“‘Think simple,’ as my old master used to say – meaning reduce the whole of its parts into the simplest terms, getting back to first principles.”
– Frank Lloyd Wright

Let’s look at 10 techniques I use to simplify my work day:

1. Clear away clutter

When you have a big project that you need to focus on, the quickest way to get focused is to clear away the junk around you. There may be papers, mugs, notes, browser tabs open, and many other useless distractions. Clear all this away. Anything you don’t need, get it out of your line of sight.

2. Use the Pomodoro Technique.

One of my favorite ways to stay focused on one task and not let my mind wander is the Pomodoro Technique.

Here are the basics:

1. Work for 25 minutes.

2. Take a 5 minute break.

3. Repeat.

4. After 2 hours take a longer break. (15-30 minutes)

Using a timer is a must. The idea is to focus your thoughts. If you only have 25 minutes to get a task done, you have to be focused.

3. Create a short list

Write out a short list of the things you need to do. I suggest no more than five things. The longer the list, the more likely you will procrastinate.

4. Give in early

Some days we just don’t have the Zen mojo, so don’t be afraid to put your work aside and enjoy some time relaxing with family or by yourself.

5. Single-task

I don’t know anyone who can do two projects at the same time, at least not very well. Try single-tasking throughout a whole day; don’t be tempted to move to that next task until you are finished.

6. Say “no”

Too often we are interrupted by a co-worker, boss, or friend who needs our help. I understand your desire to help them, but there must be limits. Tell them “no” as gently as you can. Explain that you need to finish what you are doing and only after you are done can you help them.

7. Start your day with a cup of tea

You must set the tone for a simplified day. I like to do a simple tea meditation. When I feel a little frazzled, I boil some water, pour it over my organic green tea and do nothing except enjoy that cup of tea for fifteen minutes. It helps set my mood and I’m ready to take on the day.

8. Don’t check your email (at all)

Email the biggest time suck ever created. Facebook and Twitter are catching up fast, but they are not quite there yet, at least for me. It’s so tempting because our email often makes us laugh and helps us connect with friends, it’s just oh so tempting. Don’t give in. Do not check your email at all. If you must check your email, wait until the end of the day. Notice how much you get accomplished.

9. Limit your goals

Goals are so tempting because they are an extension of your dreams. You want to accomplish more and test your limits, but sometimes your goals can hinder you. If you have too many goals, you lose confidence. So set your limit at a more reasonable level so you can improve your confidence and happiness.

10. Repeat the same phrase every day

I’ve been repeating the same phrase at the end of each day to help me relax at the end of the day. Instead of worrying about what I didn’t accomplish, I repeat “Today I’m proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish.” I do this 5 times and then I think about my accomplishments. I actually list one accomplishment after each time I repeat the phrase. It’s a great way to end my day.

How about You

What do you do to simplify your day to make it more productive.

* Need a boost to your work happiness? Then check out the Happy at Work Project and start one yourself.

* Adam Baker of Man vs. Debt just put out a really cool guide called Unautomate Your Finances. I haven’t read it, but after reading Adam’s blog then meeting him at SXSW. I know it will be good.

If you enjoyed this post then you will probably like this one too:

> 1 Simple Tip on How to be More Productive

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Image courtesy of jinkazamah

Comments

  1. Hi Karl. I think you have made some excellent points here. My number one favourite method has to be clearing the clutter. I believe that if your clear the clutter from your physical world you clear your clutter in your mental world. I’ve noticed, over the years, that people who are really busy all the time, late for appointments, always seem to be going at 100 MPH are the ones who are the messiest and have the most clutter. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

  2. Hi Karl

    Great points indeed!
    I find that nothing beats the productivity I have when things around me are simplified. I have always worked with neat surroundings and this allows me to keep a clear focus and get things done.
    I have had co-workers in the past, whose desks looked like someone pulled out all the papers and than scrambled them all over their desk, in other words the environment was cluttered and unorganized and I always saw them frazzled, stressed and rushed when it came to getting anything done. I had to assume their work space had something to do with that.

    I know that different people work differently, but nothing beats being organized or making things simple, no matter what area of life we are talking about.

  3. Hi Karl,

    Being able to say “no” politely and firmly is probably one of the best ways to stay focused and not get derailed. Most people understand that the “no” or “I’d love to talk to you about this in more detail,and right now I’m on really tight deadline/in the midst of a really complex task so I honestly can’t give you the attention you deserve. How about if we agree to meet at “x” time?” is not meant personally or to be difficult and will honour your need to work undisturbed. If you know you have an attention consuming project or task and you don’t have access to a private office, asking to work from home for a day (if you really do have less distractions there) might help in getting the project done more effectively and more efficiently.

  4. I thought I posted but it didn’t show…#4 is my favorite. It’s often the most challenging but I find it works the best when I actually take that break and relax my mind.

    • Hi Stacey, I have trouble giving in too. We are taught to persevere. I have had two friends in the last two months tell me that they had a panic attack. They didn’t listen to their bodies and make the choice to just give in and relax.

  5. I love the Pomodoro Technique, and think I’ll try it next time I have a big project. Actually, I could probably use it to help me write my book!
    Thanks, Karl!

  6. I love the Pomodoro Technique as well. And the Frank Lloyd Wright quote. I’m actually a friend of Franks’ photographer. He is 92 years old and doesn’t live far from me. I have all his books and they autographed as well. What a fun little surprise to know him and have him in my life.

  7. Karl, I took your list and created my own, reflecting upon what I already do and how I’m going to put your suggestions into better practice. I put it on my blog, here is the link:

    http://donnaengborg.blogspot.com/2010/03/simplify.html

    Thank you again for such a great list!
    Donna

  8. I think that a lot of people suffer from the “eager to please” syndrome, which may be why they can’t say no to new work.

    The problem is, you can say yes and be helpful to everyone, but sometimes, you need to decide what must get done now, and leave the rest for another time.

    • Hi Derek, I know that I suffer from the “eager to please” syndrome. Most of us are raised to please our parents, friends, and co-workers. It a cycle that’s hard to break. You are right, if we did say yes to everything, we wouldn’t accomplish amazing work.

  9. Hi Karl,

    I have been working since I was a teenager and am now in my thirties. I have to tell you the single thing that has really made a difference in simplifying my work day was that I started a new career that is based on my passion. That one thing has changed my entire work day.

    I do work much longer hours now than before but I am having so much fun, it does not feel like work. I am having the time of my life and getting through the day and what needs to be done has never been easier.

    So I think it is really important to do what we love. :)

  10. Getting rid of clutter always helps me set the stage for success. I make it a habit to clear up any mess before I dive in … and if the mess is too big, I simply timebox it.

  11. Karl
    I love this article. I feel like it was exactly what I needed to hear this week. Thank you! I would put it in the category of a “swift kick in the pants”–Thank you Karl!

    You are an inspiration to me to keep being mindful as I grow my business about thinking not about the WHAT I want it to be but HOW I want it to be.

    You rock! Katie
    PS It is sooo good to be back int he blogosphere as I was gone for a bit!

    • Hi Katie, Any time you need a kick in the pants I would be glad to oblige. Hehehe. Seriously, we do need to be mindful as we grow our lives. The more good habits we can bring to our work and even our relationships, the easier life becomes.

  12. Cool tips, simplifying your day is a great help.
    I personally take a small break after every 30-40 minutes or so. And I always set very few, but powerful goals.

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