Procrastination. Motivation. Those two words I am ever so familiar with.
I am always in awe of those people who have a business that just ticks along with them only working 3 hours a day and earns them a bucketload of cash. How the hell do they freakin’ do it? Are they running some shady business behind the scenes? Are they big fibbers? I feel like I work my ass off and for nothing (Albeit I don’t work my ass off as much as I used to – I’ve reclaimed my weekends and nights).
So recently I’ve been tracking every single second of my time using HARVEST – a time tracking app. It’s great it syncs with my accounting software Xero and there is even a chrome extension to use with my collaboration software Basecamp.
So after a month of time tracking it was brought to my attention that I am not as productive as I thought.
My day pretty much used to go a little like this…
So I admitted it. I had a problem.
Accepting I had a problem was the first step to my recovery. I then started devouring as many resources on getting productive as I could. Blogs, books, web casts whatever I could get my hands on. Knowledge is power.
I now think I have a successful strategy. I’ll be honest it doesn’t work every day as some things are just unavoidable but it’s been a good plan and has increased my productivity exponentially. Here it goes…
Working from home is an easy excuse to roll out of bed right in front of the computer, I know I did it for 3 years. This is a guaranteed invitation straight into the internet suck hole. I now have a routine that involves zero technology and it goes a little like this:-
- Walk the dog
- Have a coffee with Nathan before he heads off to work
- Water the garden
- Shower, get dressed & brush my teeth like I am going to work!
- Green Juice or Smoothie
Missing this routine puts me in a funk and it’s a guaranteed bad start to the day.
The biggest productivity killer is checking your emails first thing. It’s the easiest way to lose your day. Be more disciplined with how you approach emails. I use Basecamp for projects and make that my key point of contact for project work – that way when I am focused on a specific project any communication that I need to make occurs in there and I am not tempted by other emails, it has cut my email time by half.
There is nothing more overwhelming than a list of 50 things to do! I try to keep my to do list to 3 items per day. Obviously if you’re dealing with loads of small projects this may not be affective but give it a go, you can always add an extra item if you still have time.
Turn off distractions
Ah the internet. The biggest time suck there is. The best way to get productive is turn off facebook, get out of your emails and just freaking do the work. If you have no self control you should check out the Rescue Time App.
A daily run sheet
I sat down and worked out my most productive hours of the day. I know I am most productive when my brain is fresh and I haven’t got any distractions. When coding I burn out quite quickly, my brain goes a little mush so there are only a certain number of hours I can do per day on this. Often my projects go for weeks on end, but some little jobs can be only half an hour. So I decided to work on a run sheet that no matter what the task I have a plan. It looks a little like this:
- 8.00 – Creative Work
- 9.30 – Break
- 9.45 – Email check in
- 10.00 – Creative Work
- 11.30 – Break
- 11.45 – Creative Work
- 1.15 – Break
- 2.00 – Reactive Work
- 3.30 – Break
- 3.45 – Marketing
- 4.00 – Email check in
- 4.15 – to do list for tomorrow
- 4.30 – DONE
Here is how it works:-
This is where I focus on specific projects – I could either fit 3 small projects into a 90 minute sprint or dedicate the time to one project. I initially started with 2 hour sprints but found I was never actually making it to the 2 hour point before I needed to take a break. I read somewhere that 90 minutes is the maximum focus so I switched to that and it seems to be working.
Email check in
This is just basically checking to see if there is anything that is urgent and respond to anything quickly. If an email is going to take longer than 1 minute to respond I will quickly send an acknowledgement email saying I received your email and I will look into it further in the afternoon and goes into my ‘reactive time’ pile.
Breaks are super important to reset the brain. This is my quick Facebook check in, make a coffee and a possibly a snack. I always need to get up and walk away from my desk and for my lunch time break I do not eat lunch at my desk!
Reactive work is the time where I try to schedule meetings, respond to those tricky emails, invoicing, quoting, accounting and returning phone calls. It’s where I switch off from project work.
So terribly important to not lose momentum here as when you stop marketing the work stops too. My marketing time slot is allocated to blog posts, email marketing or scheduling social media posts.
To do list for tomorrow
Being organised for the next day is super important. It allows you to get stuck in straight away, no excuse for fluffing around trying to get organised. Clean your desk as well so there is zero roadblocks for starting off the day.
Take a me day
Give yourself permission to take a day to work on new skills, work on projects that get you pumped, go on outings to get inspiration or just time to recharge the batteries. This is so important to avoid burn out and keep your creative soul super happy. Fridays is my ‘me’ day and I mostly work on the business, on side projects or spend it in my garden.
Gaining control over my productivity is an evolution, I am always adjusting and working on my strategies, being 100% accountable for how you spend your time is the key to owning it.
How do you get focus and get things done?