As my career develops and my family expands, I keep taking on more and more on my personal and professional plate. Simultaneously, I feel that I have even less time than ever before. It’s a mental thing more than anything else, isn’t it?
So, here are some productivity hacks and ideas that I have discovered and honed through the years that I feel may help you too.
You can’t do it all and I know I certainly don’t want to. So, choose. Simply said but very hard to accomplish. Do the hard yards of figuring out what you want to focus on. Sometimes, it’s hard because it’s stuff you know you ought to do but aren’t interested. Or it’s stuff you know you have to do to avoid pain but can’t find the motivation. Or stuff you really want to get into but there’s too many distractions.
Just sit down and decide. Because everything flows from the moment you do. It’s the failure to decide, the unwillingness to commit that is deadly.
2.Do the hard bits first.
Yea, I know. But it’s only when I actually started doing it, that it finally sank in. When you tackle the crappy bits up front, it frees you up. It frees your time up and more importantly, it frees your mental space and attitude up. Tackling it up front is best because you are at your best.
3. Get up early.
I didn’t start doing this until I had kids and then it just seemed like the best thing in the world to do. You just get so much more accomplished first thing in the morning, with no distractions and with you at your most alert and energetic.
4. Turn your most important goals into habits.
You have to work on turning your goals into habits. So, if your goal is to write well, you need to develop the habit to write daily. That is but one step. If your goal is to lose weight, then you need to ensure you hit the gym three times a week at minimum. You have to convert the goal into actionable, clear steps you can take. Then, begin taking these steps and do them daily to make them into solid habits.
5. Write it down.
I have a daily checklist. I usually spend the first and last parts of my day, planning out what I need to do. I prefer to do this last thing in the day, when your focus areas are still fresh in your mind. In the morning, while you are rested, it’s as if you’ve rebooted and you need to think afresh and that seems to take more time for me.So, I plan the important things I need to get onto, last thing at night.
6. Focus on your checklist.
If you plan your checklist but then get distracted, whether intentionally or not, it’s no use. So plan the list of priorities and then work on it.
Ensure distractions are kept to a minimum. You know what distracts you so do what you need to, to prevent it. Review this list through the day as work piles up, projects get started and developments surface.
7. Have support at hand, whatever that may be.
For me, that’s my phone and my notebook. When I am up and about, I use my phone to write myself notes that I can deal with later. If ideas strike, I write it down in a notebook or put it on my phone. I set reminders for myself for these notes so I remember to pull these from my phone later.
Ideas strike throughout the day, as you meet people, read or just think. You need to ensure you can capture the thoughts you have as you progress through the day as relying on memory tends not to work.
8. Automate where you can.
If you have repetitive tasks, automate it where you can. You want to avoid rethinking it or reminding yourself of what needs to be done.
Create a process. For example, if you need to pay X bill monthly, set up auto-debit on your account to take this off your hands. The bill will get paid on time and you won’t need to worry about bill receipts or all that paperwork. Alternatively, if you don’t want any auto-debit, then create an automated reminder system that will kick in monthly.
9. Outsource the low-level work.
Need I say more?
10. Create white space.
You need enough emptiness in the day – just the right amount – to strike balance between the doing and the thinking. It’s in this white space that you are able to come up with new ideas, take a fresh approach or solve a problem. Without it, you’re just too close to everything.
So build in the white space. It could be physical activity, quiet reading time or the time while you commute. And then embrace it – don’t fill that white space with boring repetitive stuff that seems worthwhile (Facebook checking) but is actually a major time suck. Understand that little time sucks throughout the day add up to a lot of seemingly productive time that well … is not.