There are countless ways to be more productive. Making “to-do” listsand working in 30-minute increments are two common approaches. However, some productivity methods work better than others and can save you time in the process. 

“These days, we feel like we have less time than ever and in some very real ways, we do,” Erica Keswin, a workplace strategist, former executive coach, and author of the book “ Bring Your Human to Work,” told Business Insider in an email. “Because of 24/7 technology and the barrage of ‘to-dos’ that come at us via email and text, it’s hard to keep our priorities straight.” 

Keswin said the key is being more careful about what you want to pay attention to. “Otherwise, we’re very likely to get sucked into the wrong — or most immediate — things,” she said. “I always tell people to start by asking yourself this one important question: ‘Does your calendar reflect your values?'” 

Here, career experts share their 15 favorite tips on how to be more productive and manage your time better. (Responses have been condensed and edited for clarity.) 

1. Plan the night before

Before going to bed, I always take time to prepare for tomorrow. I look at my schedule and see what appointments I have or deadlines I need to meet. I prep the coffee maker and sometimes make my “to-do” list the night before. A little planning goes a long way. 

 Marcos Jacober, CEO of Life Hacks Wealth and expert on real estate investment

2. Wake up earlier

When you wake up early, you have more time to plan and get organized for the day ahead. Completing tasks on your “to-do” list early on frees up time later in your day. By the time I get to the office at 7:30 a.m., I’ve already looked at my schedule, grabbed Starbucks, and attended a fitness class. 

—Ben Gold, president of QuickBridge, a privately-held financial services firm

3. Figure out your main goal or objective

Decide what your main goal or objective is — think long-term. The main reason people lose track of their time and day is because they don’t have a clear objective or goal. So if something comes across your desk that doesn’t jive with your goals, it’s a pretty firm and easy, “No,” “Not right now,” or “Someone else is better suited to handle this.”

 Tom Murry, the retired CEO of Calvin Klein

4. Choose three to five “to-do” list tasks per day

What I always come back to — and always recommend to others — is the simple “to-do” list and not letting it get too long. Then select three to five of those things each day to accomplish. You’ll stay productive without getting overwhelmed.

 Brie Reynolds, senior career specialist at FlexJobs

5. Keep color-coded lists

I keep lots of color-coded lists in Google Keep, which syncs beautifully between mobile and laptop. They’re a great touchpoint for organizing random “to-do”s, including: people I need to meet on upcoming trips; ideas for writing topics; and services and apps I want to check out. Bonus: It’s a great feeling to delete a completed list.

—Karen Wickre, a former editorial leader at both Google and Twitter, and the author of the book “ Taking the Work Out of Networking: An Introvert’s Guide to Making Connections That Count

6. Create a calendar system that works for you

Create a calendar system that works for you — then use it and check it several times a day! It’s impossible to stay organized and on top of your game if you’re unsure about the date, time, and place of your deadlines, meetings, and other work responsibilities. As the old saying goes, “If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail.”

 Teague Simoncic, career and lifestyle coach with Ama La Vida

7. Prioritize your objectives

Make a list of all of your goals and objectives, then put a value on them. Order your goals accordingly and do the biggest, hardest, most important tasks first. As Mark Twain once said, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

 Tom Murry, the retired CEO of Calvin Klein

8. Break down your tasks into smaller steps

Break down your goals into smaller, daily action steps. Say one of your objectives is to increase your sales by a certain amount in a year. Break that number down — into months, weeks, and then days. Once you do that, you know exactly how much you need to make on a daily basis and you can plan your day accordingly. 

 Tom Murry, the retired CEO of Calvin Klein

9. Set aside time to answer emails

Productivity requires staying focused, so have a set time to answer emails. If you answer an email every time it pops up, you will never get anything else done. Answering emails a few set times a day will make a huge difference in productivity. 

—Sara Bliss, freelance writer, New York Times bestselling author, and author of the book “ Take the Leap: Change Your Career, Change Your Life

10. Limit distractions

Limit distractions so you can stay focused on the task at hand. This means not just limiting your use of social media, but also not having 15-minute conversations in the break room as a form of procrastination; even close your door if people often just pop in to have a chat.

 Teague Simoncic, career and lifestyle coach with Ama La Vida

11. Take small breaks throughout the day

I encourage my clients to take small breaks throughout the day to avoid getting completely burned out. My favorite strategy is the Pomodoro Technique, which means setting a timer so you can take small breaks (five minutes or so) in between longer stretches of work (traditionally 25 minutes). 

 Teague Simoncic, career and lifestyle coach with Ama La Vida

12. Do an email detox

I used to get so many spam emails, notifications, and updates. Deleting an email may take only a millisecond, but fellow entrepreneurs know — time is precious — and the brain power could be better used somewhere else. I did an email detox and unsubscribed to unnecessary spam and now only the important messages get through.

 Marcos Jacober, CEO of Life Hacks Wealth and expert on real estate investment

13. Listen to music without words

By listening to music without words — from calm piano music to scores for your favorite movies — you’ll find that you’re able to tune out the world and focus on checking items off your “to-do” list or taking a few moments to de-stress. 

—Sarah Stoddard, Glassdoor career trends expert

14. Work remotely sometimes

One key way to be more productive or a better manager of your time is to work more flexibly. For example, 65% of workers say they’d be more productive working from home; reasons include they’d have fewer distractions and be less stressed from commuting. Ask your boss if you can work remotely, even occasionally, to boost your productivity. 

 Brie Reynolds, senior career specialist at FlexJobs

15. Take all of your allotted vacation time to prevent burnout

Glassdoor survey found that the average American worker has only taken about half of their earned time off, all because people are afraid of getting behind or missing anything at work. This is counterproductive — you will not be as effective if you don’t set time aside to rest and recharge from work every once in a while. 

 Sarah Stoddard, Glassdoor career trends expert

Originally published on Business Insider.

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