Now, I could give you 4,683,592 ways to be more productive, but I think we should just start with 44. Your homework: pick 5 you want to start implementing in the next week and focus on those first. Once you master them you can always add more.
ARE YOU READY TO BECOME THE MOST PRODUCTIVE PERSON YOU KNOW?
1. Create goals.
Goals help you focus. Goals help you know where you are headed. They ground you in direction and give you a map to start on. Studies have shown that the more ambitious our goals, the happier we are. By deciding our own goals, our happiness is not reliant on others (source). Start with setting just one goal for this week. As you practice, you can jump into more long-term goal planning.
2. Organize your priorities & to dos in advance.
I used to waste literally HOURS every week trying to remember every little thing I was supposed to be doing. By planning well in advance and being clear on priorities, I now jump into every day with a clear plan of attack. (P.S. this is exactly how I do that.)
3. Continue learning.
You do not have the ability to know everything. But, by continuing to learn every day, you become a greater asset not only in your own business, but to every client and customer you interact with. You also have the opportunity to learn better and more efficient ways to run your company. Dedicate at least 20 minutes a day to learning something new, whether that’s by listening to a podcast, reading a book, or checking in on your favorite blog. Heck, just by reading this you are already getting your daily dose of learning.
4. Get rid of distractions.
What pulls you away? Is it a loud environment? Is it who else is at home? Find a way to cut out distractions. That might mean getting a decent pair of noise canceling headphones or having a little self-control and turning off your Gilmore Girls marathon while you are trying to work.
5. Cut the crap.
Know when what you are working on just isn’t worth your time or attention. If it isn’t ultimately saving you time, energy or money, then why are you doing it? What’s the motivation? Is it just because everyone else tells you to do it? Cut out the crap that just isn’t working and move on.
6. Turn off notifications.
I can’t even express to you how freeing it is to turn these tiny little distractions off. They buzz, beep, blink, bounce, and every other annoying movement or noise you can think of. Notifications are meant to grab your attention, hence why they distract you. But no one really needs to know every time they get a new email, a new like on their latest Instagram post, or when their sister finally gets around to posting pictures of her new puppy. Turn these suckers off and then when you actually have time to dedicate to social media and email, you can look into them.
7. Batch your tasks.
Ok, before your eyeballs roll in the back of your head, stop for a minute. I too used to think that batching was stupid. I thought it was what organized cool kids did (which I thought I could never be, btw). But, ‘tis true. This hack does, in fact, work. Now, I am not suggesting you batch write an entire month’s worth of blog posts in a day (that would be insane), but I am saying you should batch how your mind works. So put all your writing together. Put all your design or graphic tasks together. Email everybody at the same time instead of sporadically throughout the entire day. You will find some batches can be done for longer periods and some just can’t. For instance, writing — I am good for a solid 2 to 3 hours, but then I am fried and you better not ask me to write again for 2 days. In that time I may be able to knock out 2 or 3 blog posts and a handful of Instagram posts, but that’s it.
Your mom probably did this to you growing up and you didn’t even notice. She was the master of delegation. Not all delegation means hiring team members. It may mean you need to put your partner in charge of taking the trash out or your kids need to do their own laundry. I know, I know. You like everything done a certain way — life and business — and you are afraid that if someone else does it, they won’t do it “your way”. I challenge you to think, “What if they can do it better?”. Delegate what you are the least efficient in, hate most, or what ties up the most unnecessary time. And then have someone smarter than you do it. You are the boss, but find someone who’s brilliant at that specific thing and then just let it go.
9. Assign yourself a maintenance day.
We get so busy in the day to day of our business that we tend to forget about the things that just need to be done as part of a routine. Once or twice a month, schedule a “maintenance” day. Dedicate your entire day to things like updating your social profiles / settings, website maintenance / changes, running reports, analyzing analytics, etc.
10. Plan to assess results.
You would be surprised by how much making the time to just step back and see what’s already happening or working in your business allows you to refocus and have even better clarity on your day-to-day.
11. Hire help.
If you like where you are at, awesome! But if you want to scale your business, like really see a steep incline in growth, revenue, etc., people are key. Systems are awesome all day long, but eventually you simply run out of time to manage all the balls floating in the air. Hiring isn’t usually something I would suggest right out of the gate, but if you are starting to feel like you are simply “in charge” of too many things, you might need to take a step back and see where you can hire help. Hire before you are ready.
12. Say goodbye to trolls.
If there is someone in your life — whether they are someone you know or not — who is putting bad juju on you and your business, then get them out! Unfollow them on social media, stop communicating with them where possible and move on. You do not need anyone telling you that you aren’t capable! You are and you deserve awesome people supporting you every step of the way.
13. Set up canned responses.
If you find yourself writing the same email more than once a week or even just a slight variation of it, then you NEED to set up a canned response. I know it can feel daunting, like one more step, but girlfriend, this alone could save you hours and hours in a normal month. Not sure what it is? Here is a quick tech tutorial.
14. Develop processes and checklists.
Again, I thought this was dumb. I’m starting to think I am more stubborn than anything else, but I too was resistant to processes and checklists. I “thought” that if I could do something enough times I would “know” all the steps. Lordy, I was so wrong. This simple hack has saved me time and time again from sitting straight up in bed, worried I’ve forgotten a step. The stress is literally gone. And some processes that used to take 2 to 3 hours have now been cut down to 15 minutes. Not sure how to get started? You can copy and paste all of ours here.
15. Stop multitasking.
I get it, our brains goes a million miles an hour and we want to be able to watch Netflix, eat a sandwich, and write our first novel at the same time. Hello, we already know this doesn’t work, but we set ourselves up for failure over and over again. Just complete what you were doing, i.e. reading this blog post. And then you can move on to your next task.
16. Plan to launch.
I wish I could count the number of times I have seen people work SO incredibly hard to do the work. To build the product. To create the course. To narrow the service. To write the blog post. And then they never tell anyone about it. And then they lose all this time because they are already on to the next thing before they have gotten the full value out of what they have already created. Give yourself the space to promote. You not only get more traction, but there are so many learned experiences you get from putting in the effort that you can implement on future launches. Do it, my friend. You can thank me later. Here’s our quick-start guide to planning an awesome launch (with a freebie!).
17. Close your tabs.
Are you a victim of 1,000 tabs representing 1,000 tasks that must be followed up? Close them. Go tab bankrupt and start over. If it deserves a place and you aren’t working on it right now, document the page for later in whatever project management system you are using. Generally, you don’t need more than 5 tabs open at any given time to accomplish the task at hand. So just let it go. And if you seriously struggle with “losing” them, then at least put them all in one window and minimize it for later.
18. Continue to stay inspired.
You’ve got to fill your brain to keep it running. It needs more than just food and water to function. It needs a desire to move forward. Stop and read a book. Meet a friend for coffee. Browse Pinterest for pleasure, not work. Spend time AWAY from electronics. I’m giving you permission.
19. Reward yourself.
When we reward ourselves after a job well done, it makes doing it the next time that much sweeter. Take the time to recognize milestones and relish in the present. You can’t always have your head 6 months ahead.
20. Create a morning routine.
Remember the days when you thrived on routine? Think back to grade school. You knew when recess was. You looked forward to lunch. Like clockwork, you knew when basketball practice was. Everyday you got up at the same time and did all the same things before you walked out the door. Yes, I realize life as an adult is a LOT crazier, but I encourage you to at least implement routine into your morning. Get up at the same time. Eat a good breakfast. Have some time to just think. Enjoy a peaceful house before the dogs start howling and everyone else is begging for your attention.
21. Check your email at a dedicated time.
OMG. You guys. This was life changing. The urge never really goes away, but if you can have a dedicated time to respond once or twice a day, it will save you from being interrupted every 20 minutes. Just try it for one week and then you can argue with me.
22. Have an ergonomic working situation.
True confessions. I slouched my way into 3 months of physical therapy. And I want you to take WAY better care of yourself. They say sitting is the new smoking. We are a more sedentary society than ever. The least you can do is make sure you set up a workspace that is decent for your health. Have your monitor at eye height. Sit in a chair with back support that is high enough that your elbows can lay lightly on the desktop. Your shoulders should be back. And if your feet don’t touch the floor (I so feel you), then you NEED a foot stool. I don’t care if looks a little less insta-worthy — your health comes first.
23. Use music to your advantage.
I personally MUST work in silence, but if music helps you focus, then by all means. I’ve got two awesome suggestions. Harry Potter white noise and scientifically proven productivity music. Yes, I know I’m awesome, but you can tell me again anyway.
24. Know when you are most productive.
Seems pretty simple, but I’ve been surprised by how many people ignore their own body’s signs of productivity. Some people are naturally more creative in the morning. Some people rock it at 2:00 a.m. I am not going to argue that one is better than the other. I want you to embrace your own body and utilize that time to conquer the most important parts of your day! Deal?
25. Drink more water.
This one seems a bit obvious. Recently, I’ve read that we might actually be over-hydrating. Personally, I know I ignore my own signs of thirst. Literally, as we speak I should be taking a sip of water, but I keep writing anyway. I won’t tell you to drink 8 cups or the equivalent in oz. to your weight in pounds. But what I will tell you to do is listen. If your body needs something, it tells you. If you smell, shower. If you’re hungry, eat. If your mouth feels like the desert, go get a damn cup of water.
26. Exercise regularly.
I could go all science geek on you, but I won’t. You sit a LOT. Me too. Whatever your normal activity level is, I encourage you to try and do a bit more. I get it, right now it’s freezing outside and every plant is dead as a doornail. But do something. Even if it is just taking an extra set of stairs or parking further away every time you go to the grocery store. Baby steps.
27. Tackle the BIG stuff before lunch.
For some of you, this may be the opposite of what I’ve just told you. I just said that you should listen to your body and do the big stuff when you are most creative. BUT, I also want you to be mindful of your overall schedule. For me — creativity = morning. So I NEED to put the big stuff in before lunch. For you, it may mean shifting your schedule, but I would always try to keep that high productivity time first in your work day, whether you start at 7 a.m. or 7 p.m.
28. Take more breaks.
Your mind needs breaks. Take them. Embrace them. And then limit them from taking over. Maybe you know you can handle a 45 minute sprint, but at the end of each one you get a 5 minute social media binge. Totes fine, you just need to make sure you get back to work and you don’t let that break rule you.
29. Celebrate milestones.
Whoop! You just did this awesome huge thing. And before you can say, “I’m so awesome I just BLANK!” you are already 10 steps down the, “What do I do next?” road. Stop, take a breather, and give yourself a pat on the back. You are doing awesome things, so take a minute to notice.
30. Follow the 80/20 rule.
Only 20% of what you do each day produces 80% of your results. So how can you find your ROI? Where do you see the biggest bang for your buck? Put your focus on what is already working and again, cut out what just isn’t.
31. Brain dump daily.
I’ve found the #1 distraction for me is my own brain. I am so focused, setting myself up for success and then this random thought happens, as if my own brain is taking me captive. Generally, this is because we just let these meaningless thoughts float around. “Take out the trash. Give the dog a bath. Email Sarah back. Set up that ad….” It can go on for days like a never ending to do list. Instead of storing all of this in your brain — dump it. Put it on your Trello board. Write it down, whatever it is that you need to do. Then focus on the task at hand. Once a day, go through the “dump” and see if there is anything that needs to be addressed or turned into a task with a deadline. And trash anything that is left over. You got this.
32. Clean your work environment.
You can tell me if you want that living in the mess “helps you”. But it doesn’t. It’s distracting. It takes up physical space. Heck, it might even start to smell if you aren’t careful. Take 5 minutes at the end of every day and give your space a little sprucing up. Take the dishes to the dishwasher. Throw away the trash. Get rid of the sticky notes. You got this.
33. Stop having so many meetings.
I can’t tell you how many pointless meetings I had in my corporate job. And when I started my own business this habit leaked over. When you’re confused, “Let’s have a meeting.” When you need to delegate something, “Let’s have a meeting.” When you have something to say, “Let’s have a meeting.” You know exactly what I am talking about. I would venture to guess that 90% or more of your meetings could be scrapped in exchange for well thought out communication channels, whether they are with team members, friends, family, or even clients. Yes, some meetings are 100% warranted and need to happen, but have an agenda, get through it, and move on. Communicate better. Period.
34. Create a caffeine curfew.
My whole life changed when I stopped drinking caffeine after 3 p.m. In college, I was invincible (or so I thought) and caffeine “didn’t affect me”. But as you age your body changes. Put a curfew on it 6 to 8 hours before you plan to go to sleep and you will be shocked not only by how much easier it is to hit the hay, but by how much more rested you are the next day.
35. Don’t watch TV in bed.
So I feel a bit like a hypocrite saying this, as I am fully aware that I have a TV in full view of my bed. That said, since separating sleep and entertainment (like, in a different room) I’ve slept so much better. I literally spent years “falling asleep” to TV. And I know I was more tired, irritable and frustrated than I ever needed to be. I just needed more restful sleep.
36. Set up night settings on your phone.
Did you know your iPhone (sorry, I know nothing about Androids) has night settings? You can set up a certain time of day to not only control the type of light (warmer and less blue), but also a sleep schedule. Your iPhone will remind you to go to sleep so you have enough time to be well rested before you start again. Well worth setting up.
37. Get a good night’s sleep.
Can you tell I think you need some sleep? Do it, babe. 8 full hours. You might even need 9. I used to think I was better with 4. And yes, I do full well know I need less than my husband. But I was seriously kidding myself with 4. I needed more. And I am going to guess that if you are still reading this, you need more too. Make it a priority. Your health and your business depend on you being at your best!
38. Do not scare yourself awake.
Do you have a crazy alarm that sounds like a bomb detonating every time it goes off? Did you know you literally might be scaring yourself awake? This practice sucks. Your body was never meant to be jolted into morning. At the bare minimum, pick a different tone, a softer, gentler way to wake up. At best, never set an alarm and work on creating rhythm. I swear, I wake up on the dot within 5 minutes every day without an alarm. Now, if that just seems totally bonkers, try this app. This app will pay attention to your sleep cycle and wake you up during light sleep. Waking up during light sleep feels like waking up naturally rested without an alarm clock.
39. Visualize your results.
I believe amazing things happen if you want them to happen. I believe visualizing what you want is so incredibly important. As a Christian, I have had to strike a balance between when to call on prayer and when to literally just see myself in the future in this new and exciting place. No matter what your religion or beliefs, take some time to see what you want, so you know what you are working towards.
Girl, this is SO hard. Sure, I can sit and think all day long. Thinking is not the problem. But with meditating, I want you to clear your mind. This takes practice. The only way I have been successful is flat on my back, staring at a white ceiling. Too much popcorn and you start counting. A crack and you’re down a trail. A spider on the ceiling and it’s all over. Just lay there. Focus on your breathing and try and try again to completely clear your mind. Even well practiced yogis still struggle. It’s ok, no one expects you to bang this out on your first session. But oh, the relief. It’s amazing how much we hold on to. If we can just let it go, crazy things happen.
41. Get a little woo-woo.
Still following me? Yes. Awesome. Try some new things. Be open. Don’t judge until you’ve done it. Here are just a few of our favorites.
42. Show gratitude.
Every day, as a part of your routine, write one thing you are thankful for. Reflect on your results, accomplishments and even how other people have influenced you. Perhaps throw a hand written card into the mail to thank someone.
43. Set affirmations.
In the same way you might visualize, write down what you want. Tell the world as if it were a statement of truth. Document it in the same place every day. My favorite way is inside My Week in Trello.
44. Just say NO.
Did someone just ask you to do one more thing? What if you said no? What if you said that wasn’t necessary? What if you thanked them and moved on? You can and do have the power to say NO.