People ask me on a weekly — if not daily — basis how it is that I get so much done. Before we dive into the topic of productivity, I want to stress the fact that keeping momentum and intention in my work is a constant battle. It’s something I’m constantly tweaking. For me it’s partially dependent on good, solid structure that I can rely on, and constant change, which keeps me motivated and interested. I’m a little bit competitive, so I am always challenging myself and then rewarding myself afterwards. As you build a system of action, you’ll be able to tell what works best for you based on your unique personality. And, of course, you all know how I feel about accountability as an integral piece of the accomplishment puzzle (read Step 5 here)!
After you have your goals set, creating a workflow that works for you will ensure that you plow through that list. (Read our Goal Setting post if you need help in that area.) Although I have a few trusty methods that I use consistently to keep me stable, I do like to change parts of my workflow up from time to time, just to keep me entertained. So let’s dive in to a few of those tools and methods.
If you have a limited amount of working time in your day or if time management isn’t your strong point, this may be the place to start. Some say this method might be too much—taking too much effort and resulting in far too much structure. But as Cal Newport says, “A 40-hour, time-blocked work week produces the same amount of output as a 60+ hour work week pursued without structure.” That seems like enough benefit to me. And as my creative coach, RaShelle Roberts, says “structure promotes creative freedom.” Adding structure to your workday and removing most of the stress caused by not planning will give your mind the freedom it needs to think creatively.
The way this works is simple. Create blocks of time in your day for different types of activity. This may be client work, meetings, specific projects, lunch, etc. You should also schedule time for reactive work as well, such as answering phone calls and emails. The most important part of this is the structure itself. So be sure to close your social media tabs and put your phone on ‘do not disturb’ until your scheduled time for phone calls and searching the Web. You can also use the Pomodoro Technique, if you need another level of concentration.
There is something about ultra-organization that makes me tick. I work really well with a specific place for everything. I have one small leather journal that I always carry around with me to jot things down. My notes may include blog ideas, questions people ask me that could become potential posts, things I need to do that I don’t want to forget, books/movies that people recommend, grocery lists or other things I need to buy, etc. It really is a complete mess of information.
The key is the organization afterwards, when I take those notes from the messy journal and then put them in their place. I have a larger leather journal with different notebooks inside (I get them from Yellow Paper House on Etsy). In these notebooks, I have a list for work projects/tasks, personal and home to-dos, education or blogs to read…you get the idea. I don’t use every part of the actual Bullet Journal method, but the basics really do help to organize my life. I could explain this in detail, but here’s a great video to make it easier to understand. I started with doing it exactly as the video says, but now I use about 80% of it, and that works great for me.
If an analog method doesn’t work for you, Trello is a great and simple app for organizing your to-dos. I keep part of my list on there so that if I’m away from my journal and have a few minutes (like right now), I can work on something from the list. I have those lists set up as “Today”, “This Week”, and “Soon”. I usually keep my daily list on Trello so I can stay focused without looking at the big list from the journal.
Studies show that meditation can increase your concentration power and lead to more productivity. In addition, quieting the mind on a regular basis allows your creative side to become more active, creating new and interesting ideas for your business. I have an alarm set so that I ensure that I get 10-15 minutes of meditation per day using my Headspace app. It is very easy to tell the days that I don’t allow myself this time. My concentration is poorer and my brain just feels foggy. That can lead to bad decision-making and lower productivity. And we just can’t have that.
So, what do you think about these methods and productivity hacks? Please share your ideas or tools with us. We’d be happy to highlight them. Good luck getting things done!