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We often kick-off the year with a motivated mindset that helps us get headway on conquering our goals.
After a few months in, the excitement begins to wear off, and we tend to lose traction on some the things we wanted to get done.
It's easy to let discouragement sink in, and we wonder if we set out with too much ambition or if we aren’t capable of accomplishing our goals.
But missing the mark isn’t always because our goals are unrealistic or because we don’t have what it takes; it’s usually because we haven’t used our time in the best way possible.
Productivity is a creative entrepreneur’s best friend. Failing to utilize it is the biggest opportunity you could ever miss out on for your business.
After lots of experimenting with ways to be productive while working from home, I can’t wait to share my favorite 10 methods with you in today’s blog post. They have been the biggest game-changers for my entrepreneurial journey to date.
A few notes on productivity
A definition: Productivity is making actual progress and getting real work done within a given amount of time.
A reminder: Productivity is a skill; sometimes it needs to be learned from a beginner level. Start slow and practice improving each day. (Don't expect to be at the pro level when you're new at becoming productive.)
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1 // List fewer to-do tasks for the day.
When I used to list everything I wanted to get done each day, I was usually too optimistic.
The list was overwhelming, and prevented me from focusing. I bounced from task-to-task and never completed much work. I wanted to (and needed to) be faster and more productive so I could reach my goals. But failing to mark things off each day made me feel even less capable.
One day, I allowed myself to strive for less. I just wanted to get one thing done: write a blog post.
This fresh approach took away the enormous pressure of facing an impossible workload. As a result, I actually completed the post much faster than when I had other things on my list weighing me down. So I was able to move onto an another task.
If you’re feeling stuck, give yourself room and time to hone your productivity skills. Each time you hit your mark, you’ll be encouraged and gain confidence at getting things done. This will boost your productivity so you can slowly fit more into a day and eventually reach your ideal workload.
2 // Define what needs to get done before you start.
Part of my daily routine is to take 15 minutes to plan my workflow. When I enter my work zone in the morning, the first thing I do is outline my main objectives. I list out their smaller action steps and plug them into a timeline for that day.
This keeps me focused and on track throughout the day so I don't waste time doing random things. And it ensures I don't miss an important task I might have otherwise forgotten about. This simple step also helps me work faster because I don’t want to run out of the allotted time for each task.
Don’t start working until you know what to work on that day. Invest a few minutes up front to ensure a productive start. Define your goals and assigning everything to a time. It’ll help you gain clarity and work more quickly.
3 // Start with 10 minutes.
This is one of my all-time favorite productivity hacks. I happened upon this effective trick one day when I was having a particularly rough time.
No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t seem to get anything done or stay focused, so I decided to set the timer for just 10 minutes. I told myself that if I worked laser-focused until the alarm sounded, I could take a break or move onto something else.
What I found surprised me: when the timer went off, I had hit a productive stride and didn’t want to stop. So I reset it for another 10 minutes. Then again. And again. I ended up working for over 2 hours and got more work done than I had in the past few days.
It turned into a race against the clock in 10 minute sprints that carried across a large block of time. It also took the pressure off and put a stop to my perfectionism before it had time to set in.
Creating a short timeframe to work on a dreaded task helps you crank through and get so much done in those 10 minutes. It’s easier to work hard and give it your all when you know it will be over soon. And it just might turn into a lengthy productive session.
4 // Identify the “right things,” and do them first.
Doing the “right things” first is probably the most important way to succeed with your business.
When I have a certain task that needs to get done, it lingers in my mind and distracts me if I try to work on something else. So I have a much easier time being productive when I get those things completed first and out of the way.
When you plan out your day, list all of the tasks you want to complete. Then, identify what needs to get done, and complete them in order of importance. The remainder of your day will feel like a fresh slate because your mind won’t be bogged down with those pressing tasks.
Plus, you’ll avoid scrambling at the end of the day if you suddenly remember an important task you needed to get done.
(If you can’t seem to get them all checked off, try method #1 above. If you have trouble getting started on them, refer back to #3.)
Related Post: 25 Ways to be Strategic with Your Time and Efforts
5 // Cut out distractions.
The number one killer of productivity is working while distracted.
On days where I constantly check my phone or open a new tab every time I think of something I need to look up or do, time flies by, and I get very little work done. So I mute my phone and turn it upside down, and I close out all tabs on my computer.
When I want to stay laser-focused and stick to one document, I like to use the full screen function (Fn + F11 on Windows). This is especially helpful when I’m writing blog posts.
If I have an idea or a note I don’t want to forget, I jot it down in a notebook I keep nearby. It’s a quick and handy way to store all of the important thoughts that come to me so I can stay focused on work.
Figure out what distracts you, and commit to cutting it out. Set boundaries to help you stay productive throughout the day.
6 // Create a productive work zone.
There’s nothing more distracting than a workspace that slows you down or inhibits a productive day.
Maintaining a tidy work area is crucial if I want to get things done. Otherwise, I face the burning urge to clean it and organize it while I’m trying to work. I also need my space to function at top-capacity, so I make sure it’s stocked with everything I need.
If your workspace is messy, take a little time to organize. It’ll take away unnecessary distractions and give you a productive space to work. When you need to find something, you won’t waste time by searching through piles of papers or messy drawers.
Keep pencils sharpened, fresh paper in sight, and whatever other tools you need. For extra style, and to set the tone, hang inspirational artwork or whatever helps you stay motivated in your workspace.
7 // Prepare and set up ahead of time.
This first burst of work in the morning tends to set the tone for the rest of the day. And the more progress I see throughout the day, the more motivated I am to continue the productive pace all day long. So I have the best jump-start to a day when everything is already laid out when I begin.
For example, when I know I’ll be writing a blog post tomorrow, I create the new document in Google Drive, write the title, and minimize it on my computer before I call it quits for the evening so it’ll be ready-to-go in the morning.
It’s a quick task I tack onto the end of the day that saves me time and gives me a productive start. It prevents me from getting distracted in the morning when I really only need to start typing my blog post (instead of remembering what I want to call it, where to save the document, etc.).
Think about the little tasks you can complete the previous day to help you hit the ground running and set the tone for a productive day.
8 // Wake up early.
I’m a natural night owl. Staying up late has always been easy. In college, you could almost always find me burning the midnight oil writing a paper or working on my latest art project.
Recently, though, my husband and I have been waking up at 4:30 am, and I’ve been so surprised at how beneficial it's been! Each morning feels like a head-start, and I've been able to get more done. Getting things checked off my to-do list before the day begins helps me stay on top of my work throughout the day.
If you have a hard time getting a productive start, try waking up early. Completing a task or two before the morning has a chance to start might be just what you need for a more productive day. It’s not always easy at first, but once you get used to it, the benefits are worth it.
9 // Establish a morning routine.
In addition to getting an early start, I've also recently started a morning routine. It creates a helpful framework for what I want to do before I begin working. Following the same steps to start my day each morning allows me to work smoothly from the time I get up.
And this productive mindset then carries into my work hours.
Instead of spending the first hours of your day without much guidance, create a morning routine to establish a productive mindset right from the start. Then stick to it. You’ll likely find that the strong start boosts your productivity for the rest of the day.
10 // Utilize batch days.
My most productive days are often the ones with fewer types of things to do. I love to get in the zone and work for long hours at one kind of task. So I utilize a few batch days each month to knock out tasks in bulk.
For example, I have a day each month where I plan all of my newsletter and blog content for the entire upcoming month. Some of my less frequent batch days are for website updates, working on other creative content, and goal planning.
Think about what types of tasks work well when performed in large chunks. It's best to schedule batch days in advance so you can prepare for them and stay productive with minimal interruptions. The goal is to stay focused on the task at hand for all (or most of the) day.
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And there you have ‘em. My favorite productivity tips for getting more done each day. These methods have helped me stay on top of my goals, and I hope they help you, too. Do you have any favorite tips on being productive? I'd love to hear them! Let me know in the comments below.