Your #1 Tool for Staying Productive
The thing about multitasking is this: we all think we’re good at it.
Just to be clear, 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 nowhere 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 5 pm 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.
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.
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