Where Did The Time Go?: Two Simple Hacks to Help You Feel More Productive

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Do you ever feel like the day has slipped by and you haven’t accomplished anything? You honestly don’t know where the time went, or what you’ve done with it, and as a result, you feel completely unproductive. I hate that feeling, and I get it all the time.

I easily lose track of time, and frequently feel like I’ve accomplished nothing. Even when I’ve checked things off my list, I still feel unproductive, because I tend to focus on what remains, instead of what’s finished. To combat this feeling of unproductivity, I’m trying to develop two new habits, both centered on list making. One allows me to be more productive, while the other lets me acknowledge it—something I’ve learned is equally as important as being productive.

I love making lists, and I love checking things off my list. I use the Reminders app on my phone for my list making, so the completed items disappear once you check them off (you can click to see them if you want, but that can look messy so I prefer to keep them hidden). I have several lists for various projects, such as ideas to write about, things that need to be done before Christmas, or particular tasks needed for a given project (like this blog).

Of course, I also make a list of things to accomplish today—but that one in particular can really get out of hand. That’s where these hacks come in.

Feel More Productive Hack 1: Make a Short List

My daily lists become these endless scrolls. I continue to add items as they come to me with no sense of what I’m working on or how to organize it. Literally, they’ll have between 18 and 25 items, which is way too much to accomplish in one day. So I end up checking three or four items off this massive 25-item list, and then adding new ones the next day. Some items stay on there for weeks. No wonder I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished anything.

Instead, I’ve been choosing the three most important tasks that I want or need to do today, and then make sure I get those three done. It forces me to prioritize what needs to be done sooner, and to really focus on those tasks.

Three items may not seem like a lot, but sometimes they’re big tasks. Even if they’re not, that’s still three things I hadn’t done before. If I get others done on top of those, that’s gravy, but at least I know I’ll have those three.

Granted, I often end up putting four, or even sometimes five, things on that list, but I try to make sure the extra items are relatively small, quick tasks, like tweet something or send a follow-up email. But I’m trying to keep it down to three. It feels so great to check them off my list and have a completely blank screen, and a brand new list for the next day.

Feel More Productive Hack 2: Reflect on Your Day

It’s easy to forget what I’ve accomplished in a day, even when I check things off my list. That’s also because there are still so many more things to do, and I don’t allow myself a moment to be proud of what I’ve done.

I’m trying to change that by reflecting back on what I’ve completed, instead of focusing on what remains. Using the Notes app on my phone, I have a running tab of Things I’ve Accomplished, and I add to it every night before I go to bed. Sometimes I’ll add to it at times during the day, just so I don’t forget things. Whether it’s a small task or a big one, I’ll add it to my list. I’ll even sometimes add a break, just so I know what I did with my day.

For example, yesterday looked like this:

Monday, 11/17/14:

  • Checked email
  • Promoted Good Wife recap
  • Followed up with [X] pitch
  • Sent [X] pitch to [Y] publication
  • Updated pitch spreadsheet
  • Skyped with mom
  • Watched an episode of The Newsroom for lunch
  • Read a bunch of articles and blog posts
  • Researched why my gifs are playing too fast
  • Fixed the gifs I made so they’d play correctly
  • Wrote blog post about Refinery29 article I read
  • Posted and promoted blog post
  • Wrote and posted DWTS recap

It may feel like a little more work to write these things out, and perhaps it is, but it doesn’t take too long, and it feeds into my list-making desires. Plus, I love being able to look back. I’m more easily able to say, “Wow, I actually accomplished a lot today! Yay me!”

Anything that allows me to say “yay me” is a really good thing.

Have you ever done either of these to help you feel more productive? Do you have a new productivity hack you’ve been doing lately? Let me know in the comments.

7 thoughts on “Where Did The Time Go?: Two Simple Hacks to Help You Feel More Productive

  1. I think we are possibly the same person. I have about 8 “stickies” on my desktop, with various To Do lists on them (one for writing, one for everything I need to do today, one for books I intend to read, ANOTHER one for writing, etc. etc.). And I also end up with a mile-long daily To Do list full of items that never got done last week and just sit like joy-sucking leeches in my brain. I LOVE your suggestions. Thanks 🙂

    • Thanks Kristin! Joy-sucking leeches, indeed! I’m just glad my lists are on my phone; my desk already has enough loose papers cluttering it up. 🙂

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