FlickrCC/markus spiske Image by: FlickrCC/markus spiske
Manage your energy
"To manage your time, you have to manage your energy," says Kumar, "and that means getting consistently good-quality sleep." A lack of sleep will erode your ability to focus and perform your best. "Learn how to power nap for 20 minutes," she says. "Don't work through a wall!" And don't forget about the other components of a fully energized day—nutrition, hydration and activity. Eating well, drinking water and working movement into your day will optimize your energy, giving you the focus and clarity you need.
Organize your time
Making the most efficient use of your time is key to a productive work lifestyle. Kumar recommends four steps she calls PLAN: prioritize, liberate, arrange and nurture.
- Prioritize: "Capture tasks in two ways," she says, "a master list to capture what you need to do and a ‘focused five' list of what you're going to do today."
- Liberate: Determine what tasks you can let go of.
- Arrange: "Schedule thoughtfully," says Kumar. Allow time in your calendar to respond to both emergencies and opportunities.
- Nuture: Find tools and habits that work for you. "There is no one way that works for everyone," she says. "Tools must be accessible, easy to update and hold your interest."
Protect your time
Beware of that smartphone! "Stop notifications," says Kumar. "No flashing lights, pop-ups and other reminders that you set for yourself. Commit to your agenda." As part of that commitment, set boundaries to guard against unnecessary interruptions; let colleagues know via voice mail and email when you have open office hours. And don't forget to schedule downtime. "You need some non-doing to regain clarity," says Kumar. "A mid-afternoon walk in nature actually boosts focus and cognitive performance." Think of it as rebooting your brain; your thinking will be refreshed.
"Most of us focus well for between 20 and 90 minutes," says Kumar. Determine how long you can be truly engaged and work your schedule around that. Don't forget to get breaks between meetings to recharge. Consider your own temperament, too, reminds Kumar. "Are you a morning person or a night owl? Highest energy times vary per person," she says, "but generally it's not mid-afternoon." You'll want to do your most important tasks when your energy is highest.
Your messy desk may be preventing you from thinking clearly. "It can be competing for your attention," says Kumar. "You'll know if it is." Schedule tidy-up time once a day or once a week—whatever is necessary. And if you need a little motivation, Kumar says to remember that your colleagues and supervisors see your desk, too. "Consider the effect on your personal brand," she says. To quickly clean up your act, create homes for your projects and tools. "Think about making it easy to find things and to put them away," she advises, "and that will help guide you."
For more tips on decluttering you work lifestyle, check out how these 10 simple ways to get organized at work.