1) Penelope Trunk's succinct explanation of all productivity tips: Do one thing at a time. Do the most important thing first. Start Now.
It's the starting now part that I have the most trouble with. Coffee helps. It also helps to...
2) Break tasks into small pieces and know, realistically, how long each piece will take.
And reward yourself when you finish each piece. Checking my Google Reader index, Facebook, or IsItFunnyToday.com are some of my rewards. I'm also breaking my day into smaller pieces, divided up by 15-min walks around the campus where I work and snacks. Take a look:
3) Aim to complete just three tasks every day. This keeps me from writing huge, all-encompassing to-do lists that are just overwhelming. Three, small tasks are manageable.
- I get to work at 8:00am ish and start working at 8:30.
- Take a break at 10:30
- Work from 10:45 to 12:30, then have lunch.
- Work from 1:30 to 3:30, then take another break.
- Work from 3:45 to 5:15 ish, then you're done!
4) Assign tasks to specific times of the day when you know you are most productive. For example, I write better in the morning than the afternoon, so I always try to finish writing an article before 11am. I schedule interviews after this time so I don't have that distraction. It's also good to have one, small task to do immediately after lunch, like an interview, so I get back into a rythym of work.