Stress doesn’t come from simply having a lot to do. Stress comes from having a lot to do and not doing it – or at least not doing it efficiently. Going from stress queen to productivity ninja requires training, but before you know it, you’ll be a warrior in the army of efficiency. And what better to ambush first than that pesky procrastination habit?
Break it down. Even if you’re not normally a list-maker, a plan of action is a ninja non-negotiable. Start by writing down everything you need to accomplish, big or small. Seeing a full list laid out in front of you should immediately clarify what ought to take top priority and what can afford to wait. Recopy your list in its ideal order of completion, with less involved items toward the top.
Chop it up. Create tiers composed of several tasks each, with planned breaks in between. Dividing your time into chunks will immediately make a long list seem less overwhelming, which will leave you less likely to quit before you’ve even started. Commit to each tier fully before you begin it. With built-in breaks to look forward to, you’ll be less tempted to allow your focus to wander during a productivity spurt.
Be a one-strike wonder. You know that annoying but easy stuff (like paying bills and scheduling doctor’s appointments) that sits on your to-do list forever? There’s often a temptation to put off everyday tasks, but force yourself to deal with the nitty-gritties first. Make a rule that these items can only appear on your to-do list once, and get them out of the way immediately. You’ll feel less harried, and the momentum will propel you toward tackling larger goals.
Don’t split your time. Multitasking is the enemy of efficiency. When you try to juggle multiple items at once, it’s easy to fool yourself into thinking you’re doing more work than you actually are. Give your full attention to one task at a time for a faster finish and a better quality result, and complete each item in its entirety before moving on to the next. If you’re a person who works best in short bursts, make a clean break when you shift focus so that each task still has your undivided attention.
Assemble a band. Self-motivation is important, but sometimes we all need a swift kick in the pants from a fellow ninja! Hang your list in a visible place for increased accountability, and mention a few of your goals in conversation to help them set. In dire situations, ask a friend to babysit your phone or change your Facebook password until you’ve reached a certain benchmark. Then reward both of you with a stress-free outing to celebrate your accomplishments. Hiya-llujah!
Why should ninjas get all the glory? Perhaps one of these other mythical creatures can act as your productivity spirit animal.
Productivity dragon. For those who prefer quick bursts of fire to long-form stealth missions. Blow ‘em away with your fast pace and take-no-prisoners attitude. Talk about burning through a workload!
Productivity werewolf. Can you morph from sloth to superwoman in five seconds flat? Your ability to transform a leisurely morning into a hair-raising afternoon can work in your favor if you plan accordingly.
Productivity zombie. For those days when you’re really, really sleep-deprived. If you can continue to power through your work on empty, more power to you. Just please refrain from eating your coworker’s brain.