There is a huge difference in being productive or just being busy. We all have 24 hours in the day, but it's about how we implement our time in those 24 hours, and how we can use them with intention. Some days, my to-do list can be suffocating and endless, but by being productive with it and my time, I'm not just scuttling about, trying to complete all my tasks in a busy manner. Busy does not equal success, remember!
Below are a few tips for living productively, and for managing your time:
Create a routine
Even if you have a different schedule every day, finding a routine that works for you is paramount to being productive. Create a routine that helps you manage your time, stay productive, and keeps you energised throughout the day. Mornings are my favourite time of the day, just because I can use them to establish how good the rest of the day will be. Create a morning routine that is going to get in the right mindset for your working day, and it's going to get you excited to sit at your desk! I tend to schedule in the least favourite task for the beginning of the day. For instance, I do accounts on a Monday morning, just so it's out of the way, and I don't have to think about it for the rest of the week. I always have lunch at 12.30 for an hour, with twenty minute breaks dotted around. I also tend to work in Batch Days (more to come on this) where I'll work on LH design on Monday, OGB marketing and event planning on Tuesdays, Client days on Wednesdays, content day on Thursdays and branding clients on Fridays. This is so I don't have to flit between different routines, and I stay in the correct mindset for that. This is flexible though, like any routine, and it can change at the drop of the hat when someone urgent comes up. Just make sure your days follow a similar routine, with the same breaks, lunch and finish times.
Clean up and declutter
I can't work in a productive state if my studio is messy. If I know there's washing up downstairs in the kitchen, I'll feel that stress somewhere in my mind. Part of my morning routine is cleaning up from the night before, and I've done it that way so I have a small amount of time to get it done, meaning I will actually do it. Remove that physical clutter to remove the distractions. Say no to things that don't really matter. If there are an excess of things on your to-do list that are causing stress and overwhelm, and aren't even that urgent, don't do them. Get rid of the clutter mentally and physically by removing it from your list. If it isn't something that is important and necessary for that day, cross it off the list and save it for later. Clear your mind by doing a brain dump and getting it all out on paper. I live by this, and will do it every evening before finishing up for the day. By making space for clear thinking, you will find that you are more ready to take on the day and stay productive. All of that stuff can be a big distraction from staying on task.
I'm the queen of multitasking (aren't we all!?), but it's a productivity killer. It can stunt your workflow, and won't help when it comes to focusing on what you need to do. I do Batch days because instead of trying to do everything at once, I can focus on one thing at a time and devote my full attention to it. I am able to get that task done faster and do it better. Making use of time blocking, batching, and delegating will help you greatly in this area. By batching your tasks into groups and setting time blocks to work on them, you can get more done in that allotted time. Delegating smaller tasks to others will also help free your time for more important things that require more of your attention. I'll be honest, I still need to work on my delegating skills. I remember when I first started LH design, I had a full-on cry/screaming match because I didn't leave myself enough time to order some postal envelopes for a sale I was doing. Cue my parents lovingly running to Staples for me, buying a 20-pack of envelopes and telling me I need to delegate more. I now get my partner to help me on large wholesale orders, and I ask my mum to have the dog if I need to focus on something important that day.
Life happens, just let it
Make time for distractions. Things come up. Sometimes nothing goes as planned. But that's ok. One of the best things I have done for staying productive is to plan ahead for those distractions. If I have 4 hours of work I need to do, I know I'm only going to be 100% focussed and productive for 3 of those hours, with a few 20 minute breaks thrown in. I have a little section on my weekly planner for that time, where I can look at social media, play with the dog, make a cup of tea or just get off the computer in general. I build time into my schedule for things to come up. Knowing that some days I just won't feel 100% up to it, I still have the freedom to be flexible with my schedule.
Create a workflow
I'm a geek when it comes to systems and processes. Even by creating them for your daily tasks, you'll spend less time working out what to do next and more time actually doing. Create checklists for everything. Every time you're about to post a blog article, have a checklist for what you need to go over before you hit publish. The same with social media; have a checklist. Does this picture you're about to post fit with your cohesive theme? Does it respond to your brand's message? In addition, creating editorial calendars and scheduling your social media and blog posts can be a big time saver. This also goes back to batching your tasks. Remember awhile back I gave you that free social media planner? Use it. Every Sunday evening or Monday morning, know what you're going to be talking about this week.
Use a planner/to-do list
Of course, I'm a huge planner lover. Last year, I had a grand total of FIVE planners. One 'Weekly notes' for my desk, a large monthly planner for the wall, a small diary, Google calendar and Ical. Just way too many! Now, I just have two. The 'Weekly Notes' on my desk and Google Calendar. Keeping a planner and to-do list on my desk at all times allows me to keep track of events and projects in one place. I'm able to see what's ahead for my week and plan my time accordingly. Find what works for you to keep yourself organised.
My favourite planning + productivity tools
Google Calendar- You can create numerous calendars on one account (one for social media, one for content marketing, another for personal...). I like to use different colours for each calendar so I can see what I'm spending my week doing. If there isn't enough blue in there, I'm not getting a lot of personal time in and that means my work/life balance is off.
The Weekly Times Desk Planner- I'm a sucker for anything with a minimal design (of course), so I jumped at the chance to buy this when it was finally back in stock. I love that there is enough room on each day to write your AM and PM tasks, and with it on your desk, you can look directly at it and know what you should be doing.