Time to supercharge your productivity.
Do any of these sound familiar?
I don’t seem to have enough hours in a day.
I’ve got lots of ideas but not enough time to do anything about them.
As a creative entrepreneur I know I have some days that are more productive than others. And I think that’s true of most people. However, I also know that I’ve learnt a thing or two over the years about productivity.
So we’re going to split this into three sections: time management, productivity & working from home.
Make the first hour of your day count
First things first, the way you spend the first hour of your day is critical. Why? Because it will dictate the way the rest of your day will go.
Make that first hour count. Work on something without any interruptions: no email, no social media, no phone calls.
I try to use that time to get an important task done like writing a blog post, which although takes more than an hour, still counts. The key here though is that by having an hour of uninterrupted productivity I’ve started the day on a positive note.
By starting the day with an ACCOMPLISHMENT you’ll start ahead, instead of feeling like you’re playing catch up all day long.
So often we let distractions rule our workflow and instead of starting ahead we’re playing catch up all day long.
Don’t focus on the lack of time think about the things you do have time for. Switch the mindset.
Try starting work promptly. Half an hour or an hour wasted on procrastination or distractions is costly.
Remember if you value your time then other people will do the same. And when things get tough time wise try switching your email off for designated times each day. I do this all the time and it works. Especially if I’m working on something that needs my completely concentration.
There’s nothing worse than being pulled out of your flow because it takes you time to get into that flow in the first place. By switching of emails, or any distraction, and focusing purely on the task at hand you’ll automatically find you’re getting more done.
Stop keeping To Do lists in your head.
Write things down. Give your head some space to breath. I have several lists that I keep on Evernote so I can look at them whenever I need them.
I have one that’s a daily list of all the things I need to tick off for that day. I have a weekly and a monthly one so I can also see the bigger picture.
By writing things down you also stop stressing over things you think you might have forgotten about.
As soon as something pops into my head it goes onto a list so I never forget. This in itself is a great time management hack as we all spend way too much time worrying about what we might have forgotten.
Keep it real and keep it flexible.
Let’s be realistic here… nothing is perfect. Trying to perfectly control your day isn’t going to work any better than having no plan at all.
I’ve lost count of the times I’ve had a day all mapped out only to have something urgent come up that needs my immediate attention.
You WILL have interruptions. You need to have flexibility in your schedule or it won’t work.
Don’t try to pack your days too full. Be realistic with your time.
A packed schedule doesn’t make for a productive schedule.
Plan tomorrow the night before.
It’s that simple. Nothing complicated and no big secret, but you will be amazed how many people don’t do this.
So before you finish off for the day you need to put tomorrow’s plan together. There’s no better time to do this because everything is still fresh in your mind.
You know the things you haven’t got done, you know the things that can come off the list and you’ll know the new things that have come up.
There’s nothing worse than starting a day without knowing ahead of time what the plan is. You’re already an unorganised mess before you start.
I like to plan out every hour of my day so I can be really productive with my time. But that doesn’t work if I try to do that the day it’s supposed to be happening.
I do the same thing with my week. Every Sunday before I go to bed when I’m feeling relaxed after the weekend I sit down with my planner and write out all the things I know I need to achieve for the week.
I like doing this because unlike when I plan my days the night before my mind isn’t focused on work. So I come at things from a different angle and a new perspective. It often gives me clarity on something I might have struggled with the previous week.
I know some people don’t like the idea of doing anything work related on a Sunday and I get that. But believe me when I tell you it will change your work life. You’ll start the week ahead instead of rushing to catch up.
Once I have my weekly list of things I need to achieve I give them priorities and from there I allocate them days of the week.
The trickiest part is the time allocation for each task. It’s never as straightforward as 90 minutes for blog writing, 30 minutes for email, an hour for social media or 45 minutes for a Zoom meeting. However, I can estimate roughly how long these things will take me. Plus, you’ll find it all evens itself out at the end of the day. Often one thing will wrap up quicker than you anticipated, which makes up for the one thing that took way longer.
Now this isn’t a fool proof plan. Every now and again you have a bitch of a day that just blows your plan out of the water. However, what this system does do is give you the best shot at a successful day with a schedule that will keep you on track and hold you accountable.
Is it really possible to do more work in less time?
The short answer is: Yes! It’s very possible.
Each day we waste enormous amounts of time without even realising it. And I’m not just talking about big chunks of time (that you do notice), like time wasted watching TV.
I’m talking about tiny little bits of time you’re constantly wasting every single time you try to work. All those tiny little bits really add up!
First things first you need to simplify your process.
The simpler your routine is, the more efficient you’ll be. Including unnecessary steps distracts you from the task you are trying to focus on. How do you do this? Don’t try to multi-task. As much as possible, focus in on the one specific thing you are trying to accomplish.
My mantra for running my business is, “Focus on one thing at a time.”
Next you need to create routines that will help your efficiency.
In a former life I used to teach kids to play the piano. It was a great way to earn money whilst I was studying.
Time after time I listened to them slowly struggle through the same, simple songs and they never got any better, despite practicing at home. The problem was that the student would read the notes on the sheet music and play them with whichever finger happened to seem convenient at the moment. The problem with that? Well not were they not using the most efficient fingering pattern, but also, by using a different pattern each time, they were effectively having to relearn the song from scratch each time.
The same happens with you and your work. You know what you task is and you know how to do it. However, if you do it differently each time, then your brain is having to figure out so much as you go along.
Learning something new takes a lot more time and effort then doing something that you already know how to do well. By creating routines, you can become much more efficient in your work!
Complete your tasks in the same order each day.
For example, I always do my creative work (writing blogs, creating new copy, etc.), first thing in the morning from 6 a. m. to 9 a. m., because I know that’s when I’ll be the most efficient at it.
I write a rough outline of what I’m creating, then I research, then I refine my outline, then I write in intervals. That’s just one example of a routine I’ve created to help me be more efficient with my time and way more productive.
Have you ever heard of Parkinson’s Law?
In simple terms it says that any task expands to fill the time available. So if you give yourself all day to clean the house then it will take all day. If you give yourself an hour it will get done in that hour.
Parkinson’s law goes hand in hand with deadlines. I know that if there’s something that doesn’t have a deadline attached to it then it gets pushed to the bottom of the list. In fact, it might not get done at all. Deadlines help us to supercharge our productivity.
Why do deadlines work? Because they help you to focus. Distractions really slow you down! If your attention is being pulled in too many ways then it slows you down. When you introduce a deadline your brain knows it needs to focus on that one task in order to meet the deadline.
Deadlines make you more efficient, but they also can be stressful.
Telling yourself, “I have to schedule all my social media for the month by 5pm today” can set you up for failure. This is where the pomodoro technique comes in.
What’s the pomodoro technique?
Its named after the Italian word for “tomato.” Little piece of trivia. Apparently, in Italy it’s really common for kitchen timers to be shaped like tomatoes. In the 1980’s a man called Francesco Cirillo invented a time management technique utilising these cute little kitchen timers.
So how does it work? Set the timer for 25 minutes, focus on your work until the timer goes off, take a short break, then rinse and repeat. It’s such a great way to knock deadline stress on the head. When you use Poms you’re setting small, achievable deadlines.
Each Pom becomes a mini deadline. You’re just committing to “Focus on one thing at a time” for 25 minutes. Honestly, it’s a gamechanger. Look it up. Google it. You’ll find loads of information on it and how to apply it but I’m telling you it works.
So finally, I wanted to touch on staying motivated when working from home. Let’s face it most of us have our office at home as wedding pros, especially right now. But, and this is a big but, getting yourself motivated everyday can be an absolute nightmare.
Motivation for me is about state of mind and mindset. How I feel about myself has a direct relationship to how I perform.
So I want to share five really simple motivation tips that keep me focused, productive and motivated working from home. And bonus they’re so easy for everyone to implement.
No 1 – Get dressed in the morning
Yep you heard me right GET DRESSED. Stop spending the day hanging around in your trackies or your PJs. This is the number one reason that stops people performing and staying motivated.
I know we’ve all suddenly developed a Covid wardrobe but I’m telling you now it’s killing your productivity.
Would you have gone to work in your PJs?
Think back to those days before lockdown? Did you have a work wardrobe and a weekend wardrobe? The chances are you did. And there’s a reason for that.
The way you dress directly affects the way you feel about yourself and that in turn affects your productivity.
As I said it is all about your state of mind. I know because I’ve tested this theory. The difference in my productivity on the days I have a shower early and get dressed is so much better than when I spend the day in my track pants. Or worse still, don’t even bother to get out of my PJs.
No 2 – Exercise
There’s no way to sugar coat this one. Get off your backside and do some exercise. Now it doesn’t have to be a marathon just something that gets your heart pumping.
Take the dog for a walk, do some sit ups, go for a bike ride, whatever it is, exercise is one of the best ways to stimulate your mind.
I know running your business, home schooling your kids and dealing with lockdown takes all of your energy and focus. You’re a busy person who doesn’t have any time for working out. Or you just hate exercise. Trust me I hear you.
But exercise not only releases endorphins it’s great for relieving stress. It helps you sleep better and it boosts your overall mood. So stop being a couch potato and build in 30 minutes of exercise as many days as you can manage and watch how your motivation levels soar.
No 3 – step away from the housework
I know it’s tempting to unload the dishwasher, put the washing on, pull out the hoover, tidy the lounge, prepare dinner or whatever else it is that gets your attention.
Stop it. Set some boundaries. Work time is work time and home time is home time.
Nobody is going to notice if you don’t tidy up and start dusting.
Would you have whipped out the hoover when you were in the office? No you wouldn’t so don’t do it now.
No 4 – know when to walk away
Some days it just isn’t going to happen, and that’s fine. So don’t force it. Give yourself permission to leave your desk. We all have those days when it just doesn’t work. The more aggravated you become, the less motivated you’ll be.
It’s ok to take breaks. Lie down to read a book or take a nap if you have to. Sometimes a bit of rest is all we need to stay motivated.
No 5 – create consistency.
Kids thrive on routine and we’re no different as adults. So, create some consistency and routine to your working day.
Start each day off the same. For me, that’s getting up, going through my morning coffee ritual, reading my overnight emails, checking social media, exercising, showering and then going into my home office.
The same applies to the end of the day. Create a ritual that helps you to switch from work mode. That might be spending time with your kids, cooking the dinner, taking a bath, having a glass of wine, whatever it is this will send a message to your brain that the working day is over. It creates a clear boundary between your work and home life.
And always remember to close the door to your office so you can’t see your desk. Don’t let work overflow into your lounge and definitely not your bedroom. I know it’s tempting to work from your bed and be snug. Try not to do it. It’s not productive and it’s teaching you to always be at work as there’s no boundaries between work and home.