Whatever your occupation, it pays to be productive.

 The best way to achieve this is to become an expert in time management.

In this post, we share seven habits that can help transform even the most devoted procrastinator into a reliable workhorse.

These are intended to be complementary. While each may offer something on its own, for best results, you should incorporate all seven habits into your daily routine.

  1. Write a ‘to-do’ list

Start each day by writing a to-do list and prioritising the different tasks.

This is as simple as it sounds. Write out everything you need to achieve for the day in order of priority.

For the uninitiated, lists can be great fun. You will soon experience the satisfaction of ticking off tasks as the day progresses, giving you a little spurt of motivation each time.

  1. Make a schedule

Once you have your ‘to do’ list, the next step is to write up a schedule.

Do this at the start of the week and then at the beginning of each day, or the night before.

While you should do your best to keep to your schedule, chances are that as new tasks crop up, you will need to revise it.

  1. Do the hard things first

Aside from the obvious need to tackle the most urgent matters first, the other rule to live by when scheduling tasks, is to always do the hardest ones first.

Which ones are ‘the hardest’?

The answer is twofold. It can be the things you dread doing the most, or those that require the greatest concentration.

Why do them first?

Most of us are at our intellectual peak at the start of the day, so that’s the best time for jobs that require high levels of concentration.

Then there are the jobs you would rather avoid. If you leave these for later, by the time you get to them, your motivation is likely to be flagging. In a moment of weakness, you may put them off until tomorrow. This can quickly become an unwanted daily ritual.

  1. Keep track of your time

Time everything you do throughout the workday and write it down.

Use a timer or simply note what time you start each task and when you stop.

This applies not just to the jobs on your to-do list, but everything you do during work hours. The intention is to get an idea of how long scheduled tasks take, while also identifying distractions.

  1. Set challenging, but achievable, deadlines

Once you have an idea of how long certain tasks normally take, use this information to set deadlines.

Make sure these are realistic, but don’t pad them out too much. Challenge yourself and always push hard to meet the deadlines you have set for yourself.

  1. Identify and eliminate distractions

Another benefit of timing yourself is that you will soon work out where you waste time. Whether it’s social media, browsing the headlines or re-checking the fridge for snacks, we all have our weakness.

The best way to eliminate distractions from your workday is to allocate time for them outside work hours. It doesn’t really matter whether this is during a break or after hours, so long as they are strictly confined to these times.

Another way to improve productivity is to reduce the time you spend on activities that, while not completely frivolous, are time wasters all the same. Things like replying to e-mails may feel productive, but in reality, they can be productivity killers. Decide how much time you want to spend on these tasks, then allocate a window in your schedule. Don’t go beyond the time allocated and you will get more done each day.

  1. Don’t be too hard on yourself and keep at it

Finally, it is worth remembering that no matter how good your time management skills, sometimes life gets in the way. Also, being human, you will have the odd day when you simply cannot be bothered.

If it comes to the end of the day and you have not achieved your goals, don’t let it get you down. As you go through your to-do list, focus on what you have achieved. Schedule everything else for the following day – hardest tasks first – and commit to putting in your best effort the next morning.

Stick to these seven rules and over time, they will become ingrained habits, helping increase your daily productivity.