Productivity Hacks & Tips
When it comes down to it, your ability to be productive and get work done relies on your ability to focus. In our modern world, this has become ever more difficult to do – as the people in our lives expect us to be available more immediately, and we’ve acclimated to a world dominated by social media and mobile devices — which have trained us to constantly be checking in on apps, people and a current of information that isn’t necessarily a priority.
1. Identify and set aside different times to be in Business Planning vs. Production mode
When building a new business, it is very easy to get lost in the process of trying to figure out what to do next, or what’s the best use of your time. It is very helpful to separate out your work sessions into “business planning” vs. “production mode.” In business planning mode, you’re acting like the CEO of your business, determining what you want the “worker bee you” to do that week. During business planning mode, you are dedicated to creating timelines, deadlines, marketing plans, and task lists for yourself. By creating these kinds of plans, it makes it much easier when you switch over to production mode (“worker bee mode”), to simply move from one activity to the next. You can avoid the sudden feeling of “what should I do next?” if you properly designate your priorities and activities while in planning mode. You will also find that without proper business planning, you may get stuck with time designated for work but lacking the creative feeling to know what to do with your time. Proper planning will have a set list of tasks for you to move forward on whether you have 60, 30 or even just 15 minutes of time to work on your business.
Do you spend enough time planning, so that you know what to execute on when you have time designated to do your work? With the monthly milestones & weekly activity planning we are doing, you should be well on your way to establish plans for yourself. You may simply need to make sure you create a designated time weekly to think about your planning mode, so you can stay on top of your plans on a weekly basis. There is always discovery along the way of any business growth, so you can’t just “set it and forget” when it comes to business planning.
2. Work in focused time blocks
It’s unlikely that all of your work time will be devoted to extreme focused work, but it can be useful to set aside certain time blocks, within your work week, that you do plan to focus. Here’s what you can do: Choose a 30, 60 or 90 minute chunk of time and using it to intently focus on one task, and only one task. During this time, do one or more of the following:
- Pretend you have a meeting to present your work at the end of that time block
- Do not check any social media or email during that time
- Use a timer to tell you when your focused time is up, so you take it seriously.
- Listen to calm music or similar during your focused work time. A couple services to check out for this are coffitivity.com and focusatwill.com. An added benefit of using the same focus music or background noise, is that you train your brain, like Pavlov’s dog, to shift into focus mode after you get acclimated to your focus music.
- Burn a candle (and the same candle) only during your focused work time. A little treat and also provides the Pavlovian response.
- Make sure you have a signal to your family, or anyone who may interrupt you, that you are not to be interrupted during this time. (I close my office door, for example).
- Set a clear goal or intention to try to complete at the end of the focused work time.
- Get away from your home/office and go somewhere more distraction-free, like a coffee shop.
- At the beginning of the time block, post on social media an outcome that you will share at the end of your time block, then turn off social media but share at the end of the time
3. Create boundaries
One of the biggest problems we women have, consistently, is repeatedly putting ourselves in a corner by saying yes to too much. We want to be there for everyone – be it our parents, spouses, children, our children’s school, or for our friends. We put ourselves and our own priorities last, thinking that we can be flexible with our own needs but that others’ needs have a timetable that can’t be ignored.
We all have to make choices about how to use our time and what can and can’t be ignored, but one thing we can be sure of, if we always say yes to others’ priorities and don’t say yes to our own, at the end of the day, we’re going to end up resentful (even if it’s our own doing) and wondering where the years went and why we didn’t make those dreams happen.
We have to say no to some things to make room for others. Usually, we know exactly what those things we need to say no to are, and we just need to get better at actually saying it.
Boundaries are also about when we make ourselves available. Be intentional with when you allow yourself to available to help others as well.
Many women try to work when their kids can be a distraction, or in short spurts here and there. While everyone must work out a balance with their other responsibilities, too much of this can lead us to feeling unproductive and disheartened.
Is there a way you can stay up extra late, or work extra early in the morning, to create a larger chunk of distraction-free time once a week or more? Can your husband, family members or friends take your child(ren) once a week to allow you to invest in your vision? We often are afraid to ask for help. The more we can bring our loved ones into our dreams and plans, the more you will find they are available and willing to offer support and help in this way.
4. Don’t multi-task
Work on one task at a time. Trying to do too much at once only splits your focus.
5. Do your most important work during your most energized, creative time
There are certain times of the day we are most energized and ready for creative work – for most of us, it’s the morning time. Use whatever time you feel most energized to do your most important work. Checking your email first thing in the morning can be a bad way to waste away your most energetic moments responding to other people’s needs.
6. Try the 48-12 rule
One way that some people find they can be more productive is with the 48-12 rule. Simply set a timer for 48 minutes. Close out all distractions and work continuously for 48 minutes. When the timer goes off, use that time to get away from your work completely. You can get up and stretch, get coffee, etc. in the following 12 minutes. Then, repeat through the day.
7. Set a time each day to check your email and prioritize and/or move requests to your task list
In order to focus on your creative tasks at hand, you will find you are best off not checking your email at all times of the day. There are plenty of times where you’ll need to focus or be with a client for 2-4+ hours, so you can’t be expected to respond right away to their communication with you. A turnaround of 4-8 business hours for a non-urgent email is acceptable. It helps you focus on doing your best work, and that’s in the best interest of your clients as well.
When you do check your email, plan to do so actively, rather than passively. That is, you’ll want to quickly move through your email and determine what action is needed for each.