Sharing The Productivity Tips I Swear By
Without a doubt the question I get asked the most on Instagram or in my email inbox is this: “how do you manage to get so much done?”. It always takes me by surprise, because my life feels so much calmer to me know than it ever has done before.
But while I don’t feel like a slave to my to do list anymore, I can appreciate that juggling a full time job, a blog, a podcast, a growing business and a social life is quite a lot. And I can also appreciate that the only way I manage to do all of those things is by firmly implementing some rules and habits that I’ve learned and picked up over the last few years.
And as I always like to share those learnings with you guys, I thought I’d put them all together today in one bumper productivity post. I hope you enjoy it, and I’d love to hear your tips, too!
Sharing The Productivity Tips I Swear By
Let’s start with the least glamorous but, in my opinion, most important step - sleep! It sounds counterintuitive that getting more sleep would make you more productive (especially when we’re consistently sold the same old trope about running the country on 4 hours of shut eye), but I honestly believe that being well rested is the biggest contributor to how much I am able to do and create.
I get at least 8 hours sleep a night (and usually average more like 9 or 9 and a half), and I find that sleeping so solidly helps me to spring out of bed and start working from the get go - I’ve become one of those awfully annoying morning people. Not only that, but being well rested means that I very rarely get sick, and I deal with stress a whole lot better too, meaning I’m less likely to get sidetracked when the pressure is on.
When I think back to the periods of my life when I have felt most stressed and burnt out, I can see that the biggest issue was that I couldn’t prioritise. I was forever chasing my tail, saying yes to every social commitment, taking on more work than I could handle, and being distracted by every new opportunity or idea that popped into my brain or inbox. I wasn’t clear on what I wanted, and so I just said yes to everything in the hope that something would provide the right answer.
Taking some time to figure out the big picture has really helped me to prioritise what is most important to me. Getting clear on what I want to achieve in my work and my life has forced me to focus on the actions that will help move me towards those goals, and helped me to avoid getting distracted by the other stuff that can become such a drain on our resources.
3) Delegate and draw boundaries
Which leads me nicely on to my next point - once you know what your priorities are, it’s so important to learn to delegate and draw boundaries in order to protect those priorities. What this looks like exactly will be different for everyone, but for me, that means accepting that if I want the time and energy to focus on my big goals, I have to accept that some other things will slide. Right now, that means my house is very rarely sparklingly clean, I don’t watch telly all that often, and I have to sometimes say no to certain social commitments.
Another thing that helps is to have some specific boundaries in place in order to protect your own time. Maybe that’s reclaiming your lunch break, refusing to check emails in the evenings, or having one evening a week that you reserve just for you. It might sounds like a small step, but it’s amazing what you can achieve in those little chunks of time when you’re not constantly being distracted or interrupted.
4) Break it all down
Something that has really helped me to become more productive over the past few years is tackling my to do list in a different way. Before, my to do list used to be pretty basic - at the beginning of the week I’d make a note of the 5 or 6 big things I needed to get done, and then off I’d go. The trouble was, I could work all day and never actually tick anything off my list, which was not only demotivating, but also left me wondering where the time was going.
Then I heard Sara Tasker recommend a tip on her podcast that totally transformed both my approach to list making and my overall productivity. She advised that rather than just scribbling down your big goals, you should spend some time breaking those goals down into all of the tiny steps that are required to achieve them. So, instead of adding “write blog post” to my list, I now add brainstorm ideas, write copy, take photos, edit photos, schedule blog post, etc. Breaking it down into those smaller chunks means that even if I’ve only got ten minutes, I can usually find something on the list that I can do in that time, and frequently ticking tasks off helps to build a forward momentum that I find really motivating.
5) Singular focus and the Pomodoro technique
Another thing that has really helped me to become more productive is to focus on just one thing at a time. I used to be so guilty of trying to write a blog post while also listening to a podcast and replying to emails, but what I found is that I just ended up wasting lots of time and doing nothing well. Now I try to focus on one task at a time, and mute my notifications so that I’m not distracted by my emails or social media notifications pinging in the background.
One technique I always come back to if I’m struggling with this is the Pomodoro technique. You can find more details about it online, but the premise is that you set a timer for 25 minutes, and in that 25 minutes you focus completely on the task at hand - no picking your phone up, no checking your emails, no getting up to make a cuppa. Then when those 25 minutes are up, you get a 5 minute break, before starting again. I was pretty sceptical at first because it sounds so simple, but it’s incredible how much you can achieve in 25 minutes if you don’t have any distractions!
6) Get creative
My last tip is to get creative! It’s highly unlikely that you’re ever going to have swathes of time or the perfect environment to achieve optimum productivity, but by getting creative, you can claw back some little pockets of time to focus on the things that are important to you. I’ve heard of people dictating blog posts into a voice recorder while they drive to work, people who tackle their emails in the car park while they’re waiting for their kid to finish nursery, and people who do their very best work while on the tube.
What I’m trying to say is that it’s probably going to be pretty rare that you’ll get to sit in a gorgeous office and tap away for hours on end working on something really important to you. Instead, in order to actually get the work done, we sometimes have to find those little pockets of time that we can take back and make them work for us. Just because you don’t have loads of “free” time doesn’t mean you can’t still find some time in your schedule.
So there you have it, my very best productivity tips! I’d love to hear yours…