How to Really Get Things Done: Your #1 Tool for Staying Productive

Your #1 Tool for Staying Productive

The thing about multitasking is this: we all think we’re good at it.

I’m not talking about the kind of multitasking when you’re making dinner, while also calling your doctor’s office.

I’m talking about tasks that require your focus and mental engagement. I don’t know about you, but for me, multitasking usually ends up with me starting a whole bunch of things and  completing none of them.

There’s something else that stands in your way to being productive.

Distractions. And those, my friends, are everywhere.

RECOGNIZE + ELIMINATE DISTRACTIONS

Distractions are everywhere and I’m sorry to say, but they kill your productivity. It doesn’t matter if you’re working in an office environment or you’re working from home. Your phone, email, social media, the overly chatty co-worker, your dog, the TV- distractions are everywhere. Finding some quiet time to get things done can be a challenge- which is why you need to recognize and eliminate those distractions (well.. except for your dog, I wouldn’t want you to “eliminate” your dog).

I have a very short attention span and it’s been killing my productivity for years. I’d start working on one thing, then I’d think of another thing, while I’d get an idea for some new thing, and next thing I know I’m getting no where with all those things.

Are you still with me? I know. I said “thing” a lot.

I noticed that while multitasking kept me busy, it wasn’t bringing any results. That is why I started scheduling everything in my calendar. And I mean everything- even things like “feed the dog“. Why? Because otherwise, I’d be all over the place. There are certain times of day when I put my phone in an airplane mode for an hour or two, because I know that otherwise I’ll be reaching for it, every single time I hear a notification go off. No, turning on the silent mode doesn’t work, because I’ll still reach for it anyway, out of habit. By putting it in an airplane mode or turning it off, I’m eliminating the distraction and allow myself to focus entirely on my work. Next time you’re working on something important, pay attention. There might be something that distracts you and pulls your focus from those important tasks, without you even realizing it.

CREATE A SCHEDULE

This is where your #1 productivity tool comes to play: time blocking. There are many names for it, but the main idea behind it, is that it’s a scheduled block of time, with no distractions; a block of time just for you and your task. Think of it as scheduling time around your priorities.

NOT my actual schedule, just a sample I created for you.

You can make your schedule in blocks of 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minutes, 1 hour- it all depends on how detailed you need it to be. Your schedule might look completely different from mine and the truth is that sticking to it isn’t always possible. However, having everything scheduled in this manner will equip you with tools and ability to get back on track quickly, whenever something unpredictable happens. Your schedule can be as detailed as you want.

I also like to take a break during weekends and don’t follow such a strict schedule on Saturdays and Sundays. As much of a control freak as I am, I do need a bit of spontaneity in my life. I’m actually grabbing dinner with a friend tomorrow and can’t imagine looking at the time and saying: “ohhh is it 4.30pm already? Listen.. my schedule says laundry at 5pm so… if I’m gonna make it home on time then, I should probably leave. But chat soon?!”

No. I’d probably go crazy if I ever got to that point.

IDENTIFY MOST IMPORTANT TASKS + SCHEDULE THEM

What is the most important thing that you need to work on? Identify that task and schedule a block of time to work on it. Whether it’d be 15, 30 or 45 minutes- decide what works best for you and set up a timer. Give your task your undivided attention and focus during that time.  I find that having a tool like this one makes it a lot easier to really stick to the schedule and make sure that you spend no less and no more time working on  your tasks, than you planned to.

TAKE MANDATORY BREAKS- AND SCHEDULE THEM IN, TOO

Being productive doesn’t mean working non-stop, it means working smarter. Schedule in regular and mandatory 5-10 minute breaks and take them- even when you feel like you’re “in the zone” and want to keep working. Sometimes stepping away from your desk and from your tasks for a few minutes, can be a great thing. It can give you a new perspective- almost like looking at your work with a fresh pair of eyes.  Do some gentle stretching, drink some water, you can “reward” yourself by checking your Twitter feed, but once those 5-10 minutes are up, go back to work.

My writing process wouldn’t be the same without me taking regular breaks and I never finish my work one sitting (unless it’s something very simple)- and I mean both here; my “work” work and my blog work.

Working full-time and running a blog means that I’m always busy. I’m almost never not working on something, and I’m totally fine with that because I love staying productive. I can honestly say though that I wouldn’t be able to juggle the two and get as much work done as I do, if it wasn’t for time-blocking + having a good schedule. I schedule in time for everything: writing, editing photos, answering emails, catching up on social media, working out, cooking. I did the whole multitasking thing for years, and it just doesn’t work.

Time blocking and setting up a schedule for yourself is a commitment. It’s not enough to just create a schedule- you also have to actually stick to it. You have to follow through and create a routine that works you. There are a ton of things that we constantly tell ourselves we don’t have time to do. Truth is, it takes discipline to really manage your schedule and stick to it.

Before the end of year, I’ll show you exactly how I create my schedule (+ color code it) and share some tips on how to actually stick to it. Scheduling everything in time-blocks might seem a bit OCD but trust me, it makes all the difference and really helps develop stronger discipline, especially when you’re juggling both a full-time job and a blog.

If you want to know how to start your own lifestyle blog for just $3, make sure to check out my step-by-step guide right here

  • Janet

    I agree with you on so many things, Paula. As a professional writer (outside of my blog) I have learned that I need to be in my home office with nothing but a little music playing. I do need to have some structure because even though I make my own hours, I have errands and meals and laundry and blah, blah, blah.

    I think you are really on to something as we need to be organized to eek out some personal time. I, myself, could never schedule in 15 minute increments. It’s a little rigid and I would be a little uptight with that. I guess the scheduling would be more about what I’m working on personally and everyone can modify that according to their work and/or lifestyle.

    As always, an excellent post! I love a written planner and I need to get one now! Where did the year go?!

    • Oh yes, I probably wouldn’t be able to section it off in 15-minute blocks either haha, unless it’s a specific task like giving myself time to catch up on different social media channels.

      I can’t live without an actual planner. There’s just something about actually writing things down, that helps my brain register what I’m writing in a different way haha ;) Thanks so much Janet!

  • These are such great tips! I struggle with distractions all the time, but also find that prioritising and focusing on my must-do’s helps a lot. I love your schedule too — I’ve recently started keeping a stricter schedule, and it’s definitely helping!

    Lovely inspiration as always Paula, thank you! :)

    Steph | Misc. Bliss

  • Keeping a tight schedule definitely helps!

  • Ashley Christabelle

    Ooh scheduling things is such a great idea! Is it weird to say, but seeing that chart of your weekly schedule brought me a great ton of satisfaction inside of me! Might have to give that a go as I have a short attention span.

    http://www.ashrealasitgets.blogspot.com

  • I really need this now that I’m struggling with unfinished writing, i just found myself ended up in youtube or twitter again. Eliminating them works for me, but sometimes I can find scheduling to the most miniscule level stiffling, so I tend to keep them on larger scale.

    Selene Addicted

  • I love planning out a schedule at the start of my day and allocating times to do each task – I literally just finished writing mine up for today before reading this post haha :)
    – Ambar x
    http://www.herlittleloves.co.uk

  • Taking breaks is so important, most people don’t realise if they do not have enough breaks, the productivity decreases. I needed to learn this too xD

    xoRosie // Rosie’s Life

  • I love when you said ‘It’s not enough just creating a schedule, you have to actually stick to it’ because that is so true!! I’ve created so many different schedules/to-do lists/plans etc in the past but if I don’t actually put the effort in myself, they never work! Lovely post <3 xxx
    http://www.samanthafrances.co.uk

    • Haha yes! I used to do the same thing. Create a to do list and get super excited about it but don’t get much done :) Thanks Samantha!

  • Using a time blocking schedule has been so so useful for me, much more so than just a to do list

    – Natalie
    http://www.workovereasy.com

  • Frances Kayleigh

    This is soo helpful! it seems crazy to block off time for the simplest of things but I’ve recently learned that I have to focus my mind onto one task, otherwise I’m getting completely distracted and confused by what to prioritise! And I love working and having a blog too! Love to be occupied and always have something to do and something to work on :) xx
    franceskayleigh.com

    • I know it seems a little (or a lot) OCD and I don’t always make such strict schedules but it really helps to get a ton of things done. Thanks Frances! x

  • Mila S

    I NEEDED this!

    omg I’m not sure that I’ll be as good at timetables as you tho, but it’s worth giving it a try! I’m SUCH a procrastinator! shah

    x M
    http://www.topknotkindaday.com

    • Try doing this without a schedule or a time-table first, that’s how I started. I’d just use a timer when working on different things. I’d give myself an hour for taking photos, 45 minutes for catching up on social media, etc. That way I don’t spend too much working on one thing, while falling behind on others.

  • I am so disorganised and unproductive 5 days out of the week so I really needed this. Thank you x

    http://www.erinazmir.com

  • Macy Brown

    Great post! I’d love to see exactly how you create and color code your schedule! I’m always looking for new ways to keep myself organized and productive because sometimes the same old methods just don’t work that great.

    -Macy
    http://www.heytheremacy.wordpress.com

  • This is amazing! Just what i needed. Im trying to work full time, finish a fiction writing course, and try and get my blog back up to speed! Thank you xxx

    Lottiethings.com
    Charlotte xxx

  • I am going to try this! I keep procrastinating despite coming up with a list of to-dos and this seems like a real promising idea! Thank you Xx.

    Sarah | Beautybyrah

    • Time-blocking was life-changing for me! I first tried doing it without such a strict schedule, just using a timer when working on something and it worked really well.

  • ThePartyParrotBlog

    I must say that I am always distracted. It can be my phone, someone talking to me while I type or even a smell of coffee. I should think more about some of the tips you gave in this post. Thanks a lot for sharing!

    Naya xx

    • I’m very easily distracted too, my mind is always racing. Time-blocking definitely helps with that and helps me stick to my schedule. Thanks Naya!

  • The example time block you came up is really helpful, I definitely need to try this myself since I work full time and blog too!

    http://www.insearchofsheila.com

  • saraa_ps

    Thank you for the the tips!!

  • GIRLLLLL, you know I needed this! Bookmarking yet again! <3333

  • This is something thats perfect for getting things done!!
    It will def be used! Thank You :)

    http://www.liliantahmasian.com

  • Alison Heath

    I was only just saying to my Mother the other day that I need to manage my time better, I find I am all over the place, doing a bit of this and a bit of that but not actually getting a lot done. I’ve now created my Time Block in Excel and will begin my new time management regime on 3 Jan when I go back to work after the holidays. Thanks for the nudge to get this done

    • That’s exactly how I felt! I’m so easily distracted that I’d be all over the place too, trying to get several things done at once. You’re very welcome, thanks for stopping by and good luck! :)

  • My biggest problem would be not being able to function well so early in the morning – I am a late night type, but I still have to get up early for work.. :(

    http://www.bestofbrac.com

    • That’s why everyone should adjust it to their own schedule ;) If you’re a night owl, then maybe there are some things you could get done late at night, instead of early in the morning? It’s all about making this work for you :)

  • Natalie Redman

    I definitely need to schedule my time more!

    http://www.upyourvlog.com