Not enough hours in the day?
I wanted to share with you my top five productivity hacks that have worked for me.
Let’s face it we all have come up with some kind of excuse at some point as to why we can’t do something or why we haven’t got it done. Do these come to mind – ‘I haven’t got time’, ‘It gets too overwhelming’ ‘ I just don’t know where to start’ ‘I just don’t know how I can fit it in’ ‘I just don’t know where the day has gone’.
Or we get lost in the black hole otherwise known as the dreaded Facebook scroll! Before we know it the day has ended and we have not ticked everything off our to-do list or actually done anything proactive or carried out any money producing activities. Is this relatable?
That was previously me! I can relate to using all of the above excuses and more. I was either disorganised with no system in place or it was because my inner demons were putting me off tasks. Entertaining bad self talk in my head created a lack of confidence. I was scared of success. Then the big one! Comparing myself to others and what they would say. Something I have had to work on a lot!
So let’s get straight to it and dive right into my 5 top productivity hacks.
Number one, which was a massive game changer for me and if you have been on any of my courses before or worked with me, one-to-one you will know I talk about this all the time.
Blocking out and allocating time. Honestly this was a really enormous game changer for me.
So many years ago, when I started my first ‘proper ‘ business (long story!) I was trying to be everywhere, I was not at all organised. I was just trying to build a business and purely winging it! At the same time also creating a complete overwhelm.
I had a full-time job. I was a PA to a director in Manchester, so I had a full-time job as well as my business. I also had a really young son who was going through lots of difficulties. This was further complicated due to us going through his diagnosis of autism and ADHD. So life was really tough. I was trying to juggle all these different stresses along with running a home, being a wife, and lots of other things were going on in our life at the same time too. I was constantly juggling. So as much as I wrote things down in a diary, and had my to-do lists coming out of my ears I wasn’t actually being very productive with any of it! There was just so much to manage but I wasn’t coordinated and therefore I wasn’t being productive in anything I was doing at all! So when I learned about time blocking, I was like, okay! I can do that, I’ll give it a go!
I wasn’t sure whether it was for me, and I didn’t know how it was going to work, but nevertheless I started implementing time blocking.
So for anyone that doesn’t know what time blocking means I’ll explain a little. I had a diary or a planner and it had time slots. An hourly breakdown of the full day. So everything I do in my day is now time blocked. This means anything! From making breakfast, making lunches, tea time, family time, dog walking time, remembering to drink and feed myself, errands that need doing, answering messages, answering inboxes, meetings that I’ve got to partake in. Any time that I want to spend on my business, like creating graphics. Even down to scrolling 10 min sessions. These are just some of the examples. Absolutely everything was written in my planner against a time slot. My motto now is if it’s not written in it doesn’t get done! My planner is like my bible now lol!
To also make it more easy to follow I then coloured coded everything. Pink represents work time activities, blue is family activities and so on. I would give specifics too and allocate a time scale for each activity setting out how long I was giving myself to complete the particular task. Yep even for scrolling on facebook!
So yeah, everything’s time blocked and time allocated because what happens otherwise is if you don’t give yourself a set time and then before you know it an hour has passed and you’ve not moved on to the next task. You got sidetracked doing something else. You spent too long on a task and before you know it you’ve not even tackled any real income producing activities. You get sidetracked in the scroll hole! Looking at somebody else’s posts where there is no real relevance for you or looking at cute dogs and cats and all that jazz! You know the score right! Recognise yourself here?
This was one of the reasons that my own Pink Fizz Social social media planner was born. I couldn’t find the perfect planner that allowed me to time block and plan my social media.
It all may sound overwhelming and complicated but I can honestly say it truly works! Once you do it over and over again you end up creating a new habit and it becomes a norm. Now I don’t have to set myself as many time scales because the habit has formed and I automatically do it. At the very start of this learning curve, I used to set an alarm on my mobile phone to say, right, your 10 minutes has gone now for that one activity that you set yourself. Then I knew it was time to move on to the next task.
It really kept me away from the big black scroll hole and far more focused on my tasks. I get so much done by implementing this. I could talk about the subject all day as I’m super passionate about it! However let’s move on to the next item shall we ….
As briefly mentioned above, tracking your time is another big one guys. What could have been a twenty minute activity might have taken you two hours because you just got lost in the scroll or got distracted. You got carried away in the activity. You’ve been doing the activity, but you’ve sort of been doing something else on the side. Example, you have been trying to do something on your laptop but messaging people on your phone at the same time. Or you have been sorting the kids out and multi tasking! Whatever it may be. So setting and tracking times gives your tasks a time limit. Like I said previously if it helps to set the alarm or Alexa to go off then do that! Find your own way.
Ok number three. Make a ‘to-do’ list the night before you go to bed. It might sound something simple, but again, it was something very effective for me. Number one, it gives me a better night’s sleep because my brain isn’t ticking over and I’m not waking up in the night thinking, oh my God, I’ve got to do that or I’ve got to remember to do that tomorrow! When you’ve got the idea your brain doesn’t switch off. So not only does it give me a better night sleep, but you’re getting up the next day feeling fresher because you’ve cleared your head of those thoughts which in turn makes you in a better mood and more proactive.
You have got your to-do list ready to go and your not getting up thinking right! What have I got planned today and starting to write your to-do list for the day. So be prepared and write your list out the night before. You will see a massive difference.
Number four. Set time aside for you.
So this is again another important one guys and something many of us don’t do.
If we don’t put ourselves first we become absolutely exhausted and potentially burn out. Having even little 5/10 minute breaks clears the mind and helps you become more pro active too. Even just a walk away from your computer. Go and make yourself a nice cup of tea! Open the back door, have some fresh air and then return back to it.
Just walking away from your desk sometimes makes an enormous difference. So I know it’s not something easy to do, but it’s something that once you get a hang of the time blocking and all the other stuff, then it becomes much easier.
I make sure now I give myself a lunch break because that was something I never used to do. I would work at my desk and continue to work through. Or even just have something ready at my desk. I would find myself flagging because my energy dropped. After all how long can you actually stare at a screen for without a decent break and be productive? I ended up finding myself just doodling and getting nothing done if I was honest. Even spending three hours on a task that actually only should have taken one! But then if anyone had asked I had been so busy all day!
So you’ve got to take yourself away and give yourself that time to be more productive.
My last tip for now is to break down your tasks into bite size and manageable chunks and that also goes for the to-do list. This was one of the major things that I did wrong at the start of my business journey. I used to have a list as long as my arm! Everyday I had around 20-30 things on it. It was just not manageable and I was lucky I ticked ten off.
So I used to get upset and think I was failing, and was really hard on myself. Then I became even more overwhelmed and stressed. I started to hate my business.
I know I wasn’t being realistic with my time. I wasn’t being fair to myself. They were not manageable or attainable tasks. I was giving myself far too much pressure trying to do things that I didn’t actually need to be done in a day. So what happens is if your list is too long you are not productive because the overwhelm takes over and that means you’re not productive. If you’re in the overwhelm then it’s just a downward spiral and a whole heap of mess! Then you’re actually not doing anything productive in your business whatsoever and you’re just in a state of constant overwhelm.
If anybody can relate to that, please let me know because that’s where I was in a complete state of overwhelm. I was constantly giving myself grief because I wasn’t getting through my tasks. Then I thought I was a failure. That I wasn’t good enough, not good enough to run a business. You know what I’m saying here! all that negative self talk rubbish we feed ourselves…
And then when I realised, I had a major wake up call. I thought to myself, Heather, you’re not being realistic with your to-do list. You’re not being fair. You’re not giving yourself manageable, realistic tasks. So I started to give myself a to-do list of five major things that I needed to do that day. Yeah. Just five major things that are going to make a difference that day to your business or life just five.
And guess what happened? I ticked them off really easily. Because I only saw five things in front of me which was appeasing and with no longer feeling overwhelmed I felt energised. I felt more productive, and guess what normally happens then you feel on fire? You feel more productive! You feel inspired and you take inspired action.
So guess what happened? I did more than five tasks! Because then I looked at my other list of my monthly tasks and I gave myself some extra tasks. Some days I just finished up the five tasks and gave myself time out. It freed up so much extra time and that could be the same for you! time that could be spent with family, planning new things for your business, courses to up your skills etc. The list is endless..
So there you are! I hope you found my five productivity hacks, helpful.