How to stay on top of things: 15 tips that will change your life

Author: Karolina Matyska

A common question for those who care about productivity is “How to stay on top of things?“.

Being productive is a challenge, we can all agree on that. It seems that no matter the apps, task automation tools, to-do lists, task lists, time tracking apps, and so on, so many of us still struggle to stay focused and beat procrastination. 

However, even though it’s not easy, we want to help you as much as possible. Therefore, we came up with a list of 15 hacks to help you stay on top of things by planning your day productively.

Free eBook: How to work smart, not hard

Get your copy of the eBook and learn top productivity tips for teams and their leaders

How to stay on top of things in 15 steps

  1. Track your time!
  2. Plan your day
  3. Do the most difficult tasks first
  4. Set time blocks for your tasks
  5. Don’t multitask
  6. Know when to say no
  7. Don’t overwhelm yourself and take breaks!
  8. Keep your workspace clean
  9. Keep most of your work in just one place
  10. Set goals and celebrate your accomplishments  
  11. Get enough sleep 
  12. Avoid all distractions 
  13. Minimize meetings
  14. Don’t check your e-mail consistently
  15. Take care of yourself

1. Track your time!

Lastly, one of the most important tips for those who want to stay on top of things is time tracking.

If you don’t know what time tracking is, it will allow you to not only know exactly how much time you’re spending working every day but also how much time you spend on each task specifically. 

Time tracking allows you to have a better notion of your time when making your to-do lists and organizing your schedule.

Timeular time tracking app is a great solution to help you quantify your distractions, increase your focus, and transform how you spend your time.

Save some time and stay on top of things with Timeular!

Time tracking is one of the best ways to stay on top of things

Timeular makes time tracking easy. Join for 30 days for free and build your time tracking habit with ease

2. Plan your day 

Do you want to know how to stay on top of things? Start by creating a time management plan and you can plan your day, or week if you prefer. Make a task list and sort the tasks by priority and importance.

Prioritization is the process of determining the level of importance of your tasks. We believe that smart prioritization is essential to be more productive and successful in your workday.

Look at your to-do list, mark what’s important for that day, and prioritize it. This way you can for sure stay more focused on what matters, and you can more easily be productive during the daytime.

Get to know the best prioritization techniques that will increase your productivity.

3. Do the most difficult tasks first  

Once you’ve planned your day and made your task list, take a good look at it, and start by eating a frog which means selecting the most difficult/demanding task you have for the day.

Knowing that you’ve got the hardest part done will make you feel much better the rest of the day and will allow you to complete your remaining responsibilities a lot more motivated.

4. Set time blocks for your tasks 

How annoying is it when you have finally prepared your to-do list for the day but one of the tasks is consuming most of your time? In that kind of circumstance, the best technique to use is for sure time blocking. 

If you don’t know how time block works, you have the right opportunity to know everything about this time management technique.

Time blocking is like breaking your daily to-do list into chunks of time, or what we’d call timed slots, to work on tasks or projects. 

Have you ever heard about the “Elon Musk 5-minute rule“? Yes, it’s said that the billionaire founder and CEO of Tesla and SpaceX is a huge fan of time blocking.

The idea behind time blocking is that we can get more done if we focus on individual tasks rather than trying to work on multiple things at once.

  • Free resources:

Time blocking templates: Google Sheets, Excel and Printable
Download Elon Musk’s 5-minute rule template here.

5. Don’t multitask 

Sometimes we just have too much on our plate. But to be productive and correctly manage your time, make sure you keep your to-do list manageable and don’t try to do many things all at once. 

We sometimes think that multitasking is a timesaver, but most of the time it just doesn’t allow us to fully commit to each project. In short, most of the time multitasking is unproductive.

So, stay focused, follow your to-do list, and set timelines.

Did you know that multitasking is one of the main reasons why people are unproductive?

6. Know when to say no 

It’s normal for us to always feel the need to say yes to everything: new projects, new responsibilities, new tasks, you name it.

Even when we know that it’s going to be bad both for our work and ourselves, we just decide to take the bullet. Truth is, we don’t have to, at all. 

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the work that you have, don’t think that by saying no you’re not being a good professional or a good colleague. 

If you’re feeling like you can’t take any more work, try to explain the reasons why to your co-workers or boss and they’ll for sure understand.

7. Don’t overwhelm yourself and take breaks!  

Balance is key, always. Make sure you’re not pressuring yourself too hard: don’t pack work on top of work just to look good to others. Also, take breaks during the day!

Go outside, chat with someone, listen to some music, and enjoy your free time.

Don’t hurt yourself, make sure you have time for work, for your social life, for hobbies, for friends and family, and, finally, for yourself.

Find a balance. Remember that success should never come at the expense of physical or mental health.

If you’re feeling tired, read our blog and learn how to stay organized at work when overwhelmed.

Productivity work station

8. Keep your workspace clean

Normally, your work area gets a little cluttered during the day: those coffee mugs that help you stay awake, the glasses of water that keep you hydrated, or even the packages of snacks you ate during the day to stay energized!

To help maintain a cleaner and tidier desk, make sure you take time to clean it and take everything to the bin. 

And to keep it pretty, you can even make use of things such as desk organizers, pen holders, paper trays, bookshelves, and drawer dividers.

Make your work area super cute and tidy to stay focused and keep a clean mind.

9. Keep most of your work in just one place  

Having a clean workspace is, as we’ve already said, super important. But keeping your tasks and work planned and tidy is also key for productivity. 

The idea is to have a method that allows you to organize your work and have everything in the same place.

For example, you can use cloud storage (Google Drive or iCloud) to store your work files. There you can organize them in a way that will avoid wasting time when you need them. Who likes to spend time looking for documents?

The idea is to avoid spending time jumping between different apps, tools, or documents to find what you need.

If you deal with different files, apps, or tools and you don’t have a method, we have a tip for you: Track the time that you spend looking for files or notes that you need. Do it for a week, and you’ll how productive would be to have a method.

10. Set goals and celebrate your accomplishments  

It doesn’t matter if your work goals are big or small, all accomplishments deserve to be celebrated! If you feel like you made good progress on your work, reward yourself. 

You can use fun materials like cute pens or notebooks, reward yourself with a snack or candy when you complete a task, or just simply have your favorite music playing. 

Whatever you decide to choose as your reward system, make sure you do it to value yourself and your job well done!

11. Get enough sleep 

This is quite literally the most important tip you’ll read. Sleeping enough hours is necessary to have a clear mind and be ready to take the day off! 

Don’t pull all-nighters, you’re no longer a teenager… It won’t help you, in the long run, to achieve your goals and be productive. 

Sleep at least 8 hours daily and be consistent with your sleeping schedules. There are many apps and tools that you can follow to help you rest the amount of time your body needs to be the best it can be.

12. Avoid all distractions 

Sometimes it can be hard not to get distracted by notifications during the day. Emails, messages, social media, you name it. 

One of the best ways to stay focused on your work and avoid distractions, also known as time wasters, is by turning notifications off during the day. Set a time to put all notifications silenced and try to be as productive as possible. 

You can also do this with time-blocking apps. Define specific times during the day to use your phone and check social media, it will for sure help you!

13. Minimize meetings  

We can all agree that meetings are useless most of the time. How many times have we been stuck in meetings just thinking that we could have been using that time to do some actual work? 

Even for meetings that were previously scheduled and planned, sometimes we just lose the purpose of it in the middle and spend more time rambling about random things.

Even though sometimes is super hard to just skip meetings, especially when you’re not responsible, try to avoid them as much as possible or try to keep them short.

How much time do you spend on meetings?

Track time spent on meetings to find more billable hours. With Timeular you can simply integrate your Calendar to track time automatically

14. Don’t check your e-mail consistently 

Once again, you can use time blocking for this. Rather than checking your inbox several times a day, block a specific time of the day to go check it.

Don’t let your inbox manage your day when you already have your tasks! Mark certain times of the day to go check it out and don’t let it define your day.

15. Take care of yourself

It can be easy to forget to take care of yourself when life gets hectic at work. You can sometimes believe that multitasking will help your productivity and that taking breaks will only slow you down. That is not true, it’s quite the opposite. 

If you incorporate some healthy habits into your routine, you’ll probably feel a lot more productive throughout the day. 

Do your best to get those 8 hours of sleep each night, spend some time outdoors, try to exercise during the week to feel more energized, and eat as healthy as possible.

Read also: What is context switching?

What is the best way to stay on top of things?

It depends on your preferences!

But if you didn’t know how to stay on top of things, now you have a list of tips that will help you to stay on top of things and be more productive.

In short, implementing these tips in your life will help you become more productive than ever.

Remember that you do not need to implement all 15 tips!

See which one better works for you and your profession. Soon enough you’ll see positive results both in your professional and personal life.

With time, organizing your agenda and to-do list will be much easier and you’ll be able to enjoy work a lot more!