Personal, team-wide, or employee productivity can feel elusive—surely, you’ve complained at least once about there not being enough hours in the day. But here’s a fun secret: You don’t need more time. You just need better time management skills.
For example, studies have shown that, on average, most people spend 147 minutes per day on social media. That’s over two and a half hours of mindless scrolling—as in, not working. When you combine that with hours spent checking emails, unexpected work-from-home interruptions, and too many meetings, how can you do enough? In this article, you’ll learn how to get more done and feel good in the long term.
13 tips on how to get more done
Like most things in life, getting more things done is about balance. Your levels of productivity will only increase temporarily if you push full steam ahead without taking care of your personal needs and mental health. In the long run, you’ll find yourself burnt out—and longing for a nap time and again. The below time management tips can keep you working and thriving for good.
- Work during your own peak hours
- Make your schedule the evening before
- Use a task list
- Eat the frog
- Switch up your habits depending on your work
- Leave some room in your schedule
- Try an earlier wake-up call
- Take breaks
- Sort out your emails
- Turn off your phone
- Don’t multitask
- Say “no” sometimes
- Get outside
1Work during your own peak hours
You might feel pressure to follow a set routine. We’ve all heard the stories of billionaires swearing that waking up at dawn and drinking kale smoothies is the only way to succeed. But people are unique creatures, and everyone has their own optimal working hours, so find what works for you and stick to it.
Consistency matters more than doing things the “right way.” If your schedule is flexible and the best time of day for you is the stroke of midnight, then don’t fight your natural rhythm. Get that big thing done as one day becomes the next instead of first thing in the morning.
Run delightful meetings
Increase meeting engagement and productivity with a collaborative agenda that the whole team can contribute to. Try using a tool like Fellow!
2Make your schedule the evening before
Taking anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes every night to plan your next day is a great way to maximize your productivity. Sure, doing so might mean one fewer episode of that show you’re binging, but it’ll ultimately allow for a smoother workday.
You can try calendar blocking to account for each hour of the workday. This method can help you hold yourself accountable—you’ll know to finish that high-priority task right after your morning walk. Or maybe it works better for you to instead list your biggest priorities—the things you absolutely must get done. Give each task an estimate of how long it’ll take, and there you have it: a schedule.
3Use a task list
There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned to-do list, but sometimes, a big, growing list of scribbled, handwritten tasks can feel overwhelming. A crisp, neat digital task list like Fellow’s Streams tool can be a huge relief. With Streams, you can customize and template your digital notepad so you can see your tasks exactly how you’d like. You can share your task list with others too so you all stay on the same page. You’ll start—and finish—every day with no hassle.
4Eat the frog
No, not literally! Please put the amphibian down. The phrase “eat the frog” references a time management technique that Brian Tracy developed. Eating the frog basically means doing the most unpleasant task first.
Think about it like this: Usually, procrastinators start with the smallest, easiest tasks and work their way up to the bigger assignments. If this sounds like you, then you know that this approach often means you keep kicking the can down the road on the big assignments. Tracy suggests just biting the bullet and swallowing that darn frog. Get the important work done first, and you’ll feel better about the tastier morsels on your plate — no frog looming in the background.
5Switch up your habits depending on your work
Maybe you have a space designated for relaxation where you spend time unwinding after a long day. Whether it’s the couch or a comfy chair by your fireplace, you probably associate that space with comfort. You should do the same thing for work—as in, only work from certain places, and make those places solely for work.
Cal Newport, a Georgetown University professor and the author of Deep Work, keeps separate spaces for separate tasks. Some of these spaces are figurative, such as walks along a common route to clear his head as he brainstorms. Others are literal, such as a comfortable, well-lit desk. He switches up his habits so he can get in the right mindset at the right time.
6Leave some room in your schedule
Jam-packing your schedule is a recipe for disaster, and it completely goes against the unexpected nature of life. When was the last time you had a day go exactly to plan? Overscheduling doesn’t account for these last-moment shifts that demand your attention, and it can just make you feel stressed. Plus, if you have back-to-back meetings or somewhere to be every second of the day, you’ll miss out on all the fun watercooler conversation.
7Try an earlier wake-up call
Look, nobody is saying you should magically become a morning person or schedule anything important before the sun rises. The point here is that it can’t hurt to play around with your schedule. You never know what waking up just 15 minutes earlier could do for your well-being and productivity. Maybe that extra 15 will give you time to leisurely sip your coffee before you head to work. You’ll still get all the hours of sleep you need to feel refreshed while also making your mornings a little easier on yourself.
Breaks can seem counterproductive, but in reality, they can increase your productivity—well, when you do them right. For example, occasional five-minute “microbreaks” can keep you more engaged and less tired throughout the day. So block off time on your calendar for some “me time” to refresh your mind and body. When you return to work, you’ll likely feel way better about the task at hand.
Deb Lee, a digital productivity consultant, has some great advice about breaks. “Perhaps not a hack but *very* helpful: Exercise, take regular breaks, and eat away from your desk,” she says. “Each of these things helps you to reset so you can focus when you get back to work. I also suggest working on a task/project for 10 minutes when motivation is super low. Set a timer and go. When the timer goes off, you can stop. Most times, though, you put in more than 10 min.”
9Sort out your emails
If you let unread emails pile up, you’re basically writing a letter to your future self saying, “Hey, have fun with this!” (Hint: You won’t.) That’s why you should check emails every day.
Consider setting a designated amount of time each day for going through your inbox. It’s one of those simple administrative tasks that makes you feel good about getting something done—and it’s another box to check on your to-do list.
10Turn off your phone
Okay, this advice might seem a bit intense, but really: You don’t need your phone on most of the time. If you’re in the middle of an important task, that call from a colleague can wait, right? Or maybe you truly don’t have the luxury of completely powering off. In that case, you can find other ways to cut down on the screen time that can eat away at your day.
There’s always setting your phone to “do not disturb” to stop notifications or phone calls from making any noise. Another simple solution is logging out of social media accounts that aren’t work-related to eliminate temptation. Or you could schedule social media breaks into your day so you won’t feel guilty about a rush of Instagram-related serotonin. But maybe set a timer! You can get lost in socials if you aren’t careful—and that’s no good for your productivity.
In most cases, attempting to do all of the things results in doing most of the things pretty poorly. When you only partially pay attention to something, mistakes are pretty much inevitable. When you instead give your complete attention to one task at a time, you get into a deeper state of focused work. That means fewer mistakes and no time spent returning to shoddy work to redo it. You’ll ultimately find that multitasking wastes time rather than freeing up your schedule.
12Say “no” sometimes
You can’t do it all, and that’s okay—you can still do a lot and be proud of what you accomplish. Saying “no” manages expectations—both others’ and your own—and keeps your schedule free enough for you to do great work. A little “no” can go a long way.
Ah, fresh air! It’s easy to forget about the great outdoors when you’re constantly glued to your desk. But taking a walk at a local park is another fabulous way to refresh your mind and body. After all, if Cal Newport, who’s arguably the modern-day leading authority of deep work, does it, maybe you should too. Plus, it’s just good for you, and that’s a big takeaway from this list. Invest in yourself, your mind, and your body alongside your work, and the results will astound you.
Work smarter, not harder
Getting more done is a lot easier than you might think with these small tricks. You don’t have to spread yourself as thin as a crepe to do everything—there are so many ways to happily coexist with all your tasks. And with Fellow’s Streams tool, you can create task lists on exactly your own terms and collaborate on them with your whole team. Doing more means working in a way that works for you—and Fellow can help you do exactly that.