With so many stimuli in our faces and so many tasks on our plates, it can be hard to figure out how to juggle everything while making sure we’re as productive as we need to be.
The good news is that there’s a quick fix to this common conundrum. No matter how organized you are, there’s a good chance you could do better. And the more organized you are, the more able you are to toggle between an ever-increasing number of tasks, completing them all to the best of your abilities.
Believe it or not, you can become more organized simply by dwelling on five lessons your parents taught you however many moons ago. Turns out they were right, after all.
1. Make your bed
Though I never met the man, my grandfather had a saying I’ve grown to love over the years: Clutter causes fatigue.
Think about it: Would you be more inclined to do the dishes if there was a single plate sitting in the bottom of the sink or if you just had 20 guests over for Thanksgiving dinner?
So just as your mother told you to make your bed each morning, so too should you work to keep your workspace clean each night. You’re bound to be more productive at a desk that’s free from clutter than at one that’s covered in heaps of papers, a three-day-old cup of coffee and yesterday’s newspaper.
2. Life’s not fair
You might have the same job title as your coworkers, but no two workloads are exact carbon copies of one another. If you begin to obsess over what you’re doing that your coworker isn’t, you’ll be distracted. You won’t be able to give your full attention to the job you have to do, and your productivity will suffer as a result.
You can’t control the workload your coworkers have, and you can’t control what your bosses expect of them, either. So focus on what you can control: your own productivity.
Life isn’t fair, and it’ll never be fair. Get over it.
Once you learn this axiom, you’ll be able to invest your energies more effectively.
3. Look both ways before you cross the road
At work, it seems like we have a new job description every day. There’s no more sense in complaining about it: That’s just how it is.
It might seem overwhelming if you’ve got a lot on your to-do list. But rather than moving full steam ahead on projects you’re not so sure on, it’s worth your while to do your due diligence beforehand to make sure you’re moving in the right direction. In other words, do it right the first time. Trust me: It sure as hell beats spending five hours on a project before realizing you overlooked some of its specs.
To ensure your safety, your parents told you to look both ways before crossing the road, gathering all necessary information before making a decision. When you approach work that way, you’ll reduce your mistakes. And you’ll be able to produce more.
4. You can’t have dessert until you finish your broccoli
In life, there are things you’re going to want to do more than other things; there are parts of your job you’ll like more than other parts.
Still, in order to be able to do that which you’re more excited to do, you can’t neglect the tasks you’re not really looking forward to tackling.
Your parents told you that you couldn’t have ice cream until you ate all of your vegetables. In the same vein, you won’t be able to work on the projects you’re most enthusiastic about until you finish the ones you’re dreading first, giving all of your work the same level of care and attention.
5. Go play outside
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
At the end of the day, you have to admit that you’re not Superman. Even if you think you can do more and more and more, you’re human—you’re going to burn out at some point. In other words, if you keep going and going, there will eventually come a time when you won’t be producing your best work.
So when at last the work is done, unplug. Go outside. Recharge. You’ve earned it.