Working to Deadlines: 12 Ways to Be More Focused and Productive

If you find yourself struggling with distractions when working to deadlines, you’re not alone. Here are 12 valuable tips to help keep you focused and increase your productivity.

One of the defining characteristics of thriving small business owners is their ability to set their own productivity pace. It’s a hidden skill that you won’t understand until you find yourself alone with your computer, your deadlines, and the itch to check Twitter or email just one more time before you get down to business.

Most entrepreneurs will confess they’ve had to learn the hard way when it comes to shutting out distractions and getting work done.

You don’t have to. Instead, we’ve put together 12 distraction-busting strategies to help you be as productive as possible, making meeting deadlines a breeze.

1. Create an Ideal Workspace

While your couch, bed, kitchen table or the floor of your biggest closet are all acceptable places to work in a pinch, they’re not ideal. If you want to be more productive and avoid the aches and pains that inevitably come from bad ergonomics, it’s helpful to create a workspace that is as pleasing to the mind as it is to the body.

That usually means a cleared surface, a sturdy chair, no distractions and all the right resources at your fingertips. Gretchen Rubin, author of Outer Order, Inner Calm, says that when we clear our lives and spaces of the stuff we don’t need, our minds are freer, and we feel calmer and more energetic.

That’s the kind of headspace to be in when you’re trying to meet the deadlines that matter!

2. Make a Manageable To-Do List—and Stick to It

Create a to-do list every week—then commit to completing it. Here’s a two-step process to help you tackle time management and stick to the plan.

Step 1: Use the ABCDE Method to Meet Deadlines

Prioritize each item by:
A. Work that must be complete within the next day or so to avoid consequences
B. Work that should be done but isn’t as time-sensitive
C. Work that would be nice to finish, but isn’t urgent
D. Work that can be delegated
E. Work that can be eliminated

Step 2: Pick One Big Thing (or Two Small Things) to Complete Each Day

Set yourself up for success by tackling one or two items. It’s realistic and manageable. Plus, you’ll have the satisfaction of crossing them off the list instead of pushing them out—and invariably bumping an item on tomorrow’s to-do list.

3. Map Your Day

Once you’ve been working in your chosen trade long enough, you’ll have a rough idea of how much time each task takes. Use that knowledge to fuel your productivity by mapping out your day, hour-by-hour. You’ll be less likely to waste time if you know you need to crank out that report by 2 p.m. in order to be ready for a client meeting at 3 p.m.

Make sure to schedule work breaks throughout the day to clear your head and fuel your body!

4. Build in Time for a Crisis

You wake up with a scratchy sore throat. Your dog/kid/parent has an emergency and they need you right away. Your computer completely malfunctions. There are myriad ways that life can get in the way of your to-do list. That’s why it’s critical to

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