In Career, Discussions

How to be more productive at work when you feel like you’re drowning in it

Have you ever heard of the Ivy Lee Method? The basic idea is as follows:

At the end of each work day, write down 6 items you need to get done.

The next day, concentrate on Task #1, and then Task #2 until it is all finished.

If there is anything left on your list, move it on to the next day’s list, and add the next few items to bring it up to 6 total again.

That’s it. Simple right?

It’s easy to remember and easy to do.

6 tasks, complete the items and you will make so much more progress without getting sidetracked by these tiny little distractions that come up during the day.

The other method (no name) is the 3-a-day rule.

Every morning if I feel like I am drowning in work I use this often.

Grab a post-it.

Write down 3 CONCRETE items to accomplish today.

All day, circle back to these 3 items until they’re done.

By “concrete” items, I mean things that aren’t too vague like: “Finish Project X”. That is not going to work.

You need to write something like: “Complete Task 12 in Project X”.

More methods might include things like spending 20 minutes on a task then taking a break.


I have a friend who does this and finds it very therapeutic because she works with the utmost concentration on the task at hand, and when the timer goes off, she takes a break (a walk, gets water, goes to a meeting) and then comes back for another 20 minutes of intense concentration.

This works best if you have an office (I do not), and I am stuck in an open office concept that doesn’t help me because I am completely distracted by conversations ALL AROUND ME.

Not only that, instant messaging kills me, emails…. it doesn’t really let up in my world.

You could also try and take your notebook into a quiet corner of a cafeteria to concentrate, or you can see if you can work from home (I get SO MUCH more done when I work at home).

Learn how to say no.

I have serious trouble with this.

I need to learn how to say “no” to taking on tasks, getting involved, and offering help when I don’t have time at all to do this.

I find that I just want everything done well, done a certain way, and it bothers me when people don’t take the same amount of care into something that I do.

The worst is when someone does something badly and then I have to FIX IT. I have to figure out how to fix this mess and it takes even more time than if they had just designed it well in the first place.

Long hours are not indicative of results.

I absolutely do not believe in staying late. The longer you stay, and the more hours that you spend, the less productive you become.

If we could have 3-day work weeks, we would get everything done in 3 days.

If we could have 5-hour work days instead of 8, we would get a far lot more done and do a lot less chitchatting if we knew we had a short amount of time to cover.

40 hours for me, is the maximum. Any more and you are on the way to burn out.

How do you stay productive?

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Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

Millionaire at 36 after getting out of $60K of student debt in 18 months, a little over a decade earlier, using TheBudgetingTool.com. Since then, I have paid my $600K home in cash (my half was $300K), my $180K casr in cash, worked 50% of my career (taking 1-2 year breaks), and quadrupled my income within 2 years of graduating, going from $65K to $260K with an average lifetime savings rate of 50%. I could retire today if I wanted, but love my work-life balance as a freelancing consultant in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). I am all about balance - between time and money, and also enjoying my money. I also post daily on Instagram @saverspender.

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4 Comments

  1. Gail

    When in school or at work I learned to do the most dreaded task first while fresh, if possible, and to take hourly breaks. Productivity does decrease as you work on.

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      I do the same, the same way that I eat the worst / unliked part of my plate of food first, and leave the best for last.

      Reply
  2. Lori S

    I just tried the 20 minute focused work time and love it! I usually get up and re-set mentally about every 45 minutes but the 20 minutes felt better physically. Great idea. I’ve been making lists at the end of the day for years. I also add an estimation of time it will take because that gives some context to the task. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      Since I have been at home more, I have been taking yoga breaks — just stretching or one or two sun salutations…

      Reply

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