Tips to Increase Productivity
I thought I'd start this Monday off with a few tips for getting $#!t done. Life gets busy for all of us and when that happens it's easy to get overwhelmed. Now I don't know about you but when I'm overwhelmed, I'm not always my most productive. While I won't pretend to be any kind of expert at handling life's stresses or being the most productive person at all times I have definitely learned over the years the methods that make me my most productive. No matter what your job or priorities are or your schedule is like, these tips should help to keep you productive and cross off the items on your "to-do" lists - they do for me anyways!
1. Find Your Scheduler & Stick With It
Whether that means you go electronic through google calendar or evernote or keep it old school with a paper planner like me, find one planner that you like and then actually use it. Like every day. I've always loved paper planners but felt like in this age of technology I should be keeping up with the times so I would try app after app after online calendar only to go back to post it notes and my paper agenda every time. Having too many planning systems on the go got complicated so now, you'll find me with my Danielle Laporte planner pretty much everywhere I go. People will laugh at me when they see me bust it out of my purse but for me, it works. Find what works for you then use it religiously. Being productive means being organized. To organize, you need to know your commitments and schedule so you can plan around it. At the end of every day I always make my list for the following day, taking into account the commitments I already have and making sure I leave enough time to actually get my work done. Which takes me to my next tip......
2. Plan Your Time
Do yourself a favour, spend the $20 and buy this. It will change your life. At least it did for me. I wish I could take full credit for the discovery of this life changing little cube but I owe that to Lauryn of The Skinny Confidential. If you've been reading this blog for a while or if you know me personally you know that I am the QUEEN of the lists. I make lists for EVERYTHING. The truth is, I just don't trust my brain haha! With so much going on seemingly at all times, if I don't write down my tasks to do, they'll get forgotten so I'll end up writing myself to do lists that seem neverending. Now, rather than overwhelming myself which too much "to do", I time block my tasks to make sure I set realistic expectations for the day. As I mentioned above, at the end of the day, I write my list to-do for the next. I start with the most important and difficult tasks then get down to the simpler things until I've written down everything I'd like to accomplish. I then start at the top and think about REALISTICALLY (that's key!) how long each task will take. If the less important tasks at the bottom of the list don't make the cut for my time allotment for the day, I don't factor them in. They're just a bonus if I get them done. When the day starts I use my cube to set the timer, I set my phone aside and work through the block of time allotted without allowing in any distractions (or at least I try). In between tasks I allow for a bit of a break for emails or taking a phone call or a coffee break but by blocking out the time it will take to do the tasks it keeps me focussed and motivated, not to mention sets a more realistic expectation for what I can actually accomplish in a day.
3. Minimize Distractions
So that you are able to actually complete the tasks you put on your list, it's helpful to minimize distractions as much as possible. For me that means turning off all social media notifications on my phone. Go into the settings and disable your alerts. It's tough to get your tasks done if your phone keeps beeping that "X person commented on your IG photo" or "so-and-so just liked your fb status". No matter how strong your willpower may be, at some point you'll give in and end up going down the deep black hole that is the internet abyss. For me, I find it helpful to put my phone on silent (or at least vibrate) and place it face down on the desk when I'm working at my more time consuming or difficult tasks. Then once my timer goes off I can check my phone and get back to anyone I've missed. Another great way to minimize distractions is to have a dedicated work space. When I work from home I am definitely the most productive in my actual office space. There are times when my office has been a bit of a disaster so I set up a space in our dining area but it's crazy how distracted I get. I end up cooking or doing the dishes or raiding the pantry rather than focussing on what I need to get done and feeling motivated to work like I do when I'm in my office. Even if you don't have a whole room, set aside a space or a little nook or spot where you know you can be productive then get to it!
4. Take Care of Yourself
This last tip is probably the most important and definitely the one I struggle with the most - self care. If you're overwhelmed or stressed and too frazzled, you're never going to be very productive. I'll go through phases where I feel like I have so much to do that I need to work 12+ hour days and it's not usually until James steps in and forces me to take a break that I realize that I'm going into "zombie work mode". You might think you're being more productive if you work through your lunch and don't take breaks but in reality, you need that time to rest. I'm at my best when I take the time to get enough sleep, eat well, exercise and make time for family and friends. While there are certainly occasions when a few extra hours are needed, it shouldn't become the norm. I know that when I go non-stop my focus starts to go, I get sloppy and it takes me longer to do my tasks because I spend twice the amount of time necessary checking them over and fixing errors. Take a break. Run a bath. Sit and enjoy a cup of coffee or read a magazine for a few minutes and slow down. Your body, your mind and your work will thank you for it.
How do you handle stress and remain productive? Any tips you'd like to share? Let me know in the comments below!
PS - HUGE thank you to the lovely Carling Stiksma Photo for these photos! XO