How to Be More Productive
With life the busiest it’s ever been and with so many ways to get distracted, spending time planning your day and preparing yourself up to be productive is one of the best ways to spend your limited time.
Lots of us are trying to squeeze lots of things in to our already busy day. Things we’re trying to organise, fit in, balance and figure out, so there needs to be some kinda method to the madness if you’re going to be productive instead of feeling like you spent your day doing nothing significant to speak of.
How I Finally Kicked My Beat Procrastination Habit
The truth is that I was a terrible procrastinator. I knew exactly what I had to do, but I used to put things off and leave things ’till the last minute. Procrastinating isn’t going to help you achieve anything you want to. So I have spent a lot of time learning about why people procrastinate, how to beat procrastination and as a result, I learned how to be more efficient with my time.
I read books, I listened to podcasts, I spoke to people that I considered to be one of those ‘super efficient’ types, I read blogs and most importantly, I then put what I had learned into practice.
Taking action instead of procrastinating and repeating this a few times over finally meant that I have learned a new habit and I although I still procrastinate from time to time, I feel like I know what I am doing.
I recently wrote one of my most shared blog posts, 6 Scientifically Proven Ways to Beat Procrastination – I wanted to share with others what had worked for me, how I’d really learned how to stop procrastinating and get sh*t done.
How to Cope When you Don’t Have a Real Life Drill Sergeant (aka Life-Coach)
When you become an adult and you set out in the world on your own, unless you have paid for a life coach or enlisted the hope of an accountability partner, there is nobody breathing down your neck or cheering from the side lines, encouraging you to get things done. This can be a blessing and a curse. We all want freedom, but sometimes without some pressure we can all just coast and not get on with what we know we should.
When you’re trying to make it in your chosen career, working to create a successful side hustle, or learn a new skill, or achieve a goal – it’s all down to you to take action.
If you don’t get what you want done then guess what, nothing happens. Nobody is asking you where that piece of work is, nobody is emailing asking where you have got to with x, y or z and there are no KPIs to to report against. Nothing. If you don’t work, it doesn’t get done and then it’s just you – with no outcome and the thing you want still sitting on your “someday” list.
So seeing as I have goals I want to achieve, my beloved Poppy and husband that I want to spend time with, I had to figure out how to spin lots of plates.
This is What I’ve Learned About Successful People
Think about a successful person you know. Now think about what makes that person successful and you’ll likely discover that actually, they do not have super powers or anything necessarily remarkable about them (unless of course you are Beyonce?!). But the things that’ makes them special is that they have clearly defined their goals, have used their time efficiently and have created a habit out of managing their time well to move closer what they want, and have continued to take that action consistently.
So, successful people:
“use their time efficiently”
“create a habit out of it”
“do this consistently”
But nothing happens overnight or without effort. We live in a world where everyone wants things instantly. It doesn’t happen like that. One of my favourite quotes is:
“If you look really closely, every overnight success took a really long time”.
I’ve found that learning to use my time efficiently was achievable when I decided to put my mind to it. Creating a new habit after years of procrastinating was tough. Managing my time efficiently and taking small steps towards what I want over and over again is challenging, but I’m doing it gradually (inbetween spinning all of the plates).
How to Be More Productive:
1. Decide What you Want To Achieve
Another one of my popular posts, How I Set New Years Resolutions I Actually Achieve is a good read if you want to get started with goal-setting.
You also don’t have to do this on a grandiose scale, this planning can be for the day. Decide what you want to achieve that day and get on with doing it. The act of planning on it’s own will have a huge impact n what you actually get done, trust me.
2. Understand How you Currently Use Your time
How many times have you said or heard someone say “I can’t do A, B and C because I’m doing X, Y and Z”? I’ve heard this so many times and I’ve definitely said it myself a few times. The truth of the matter is that we all make times for the things that we want to do.
Do the maths. Calculate how you spend your time that doesn’t help you to achieve your goals:
– Watching Telly/Netflix/YouTube
– Scrolling through Instagram/Facebook/Twitter
– Chatting with friends about nothing in particular on WhatsApp/Phone/Facetime
I was definitely spending at least 2 hours a day on WhatsApp(!), a couple of hours watching the telly and the rest of the time on social media, doing not very much. This was in-between parenting or trying to keep on top of the household laundry/cleaning.
Review where you are spending your time and decide what’s really important to you and prioritise those things.
3. Eliminate Dead Time
Turn the commute or driving time into a useful time when you can either get something done or learn something.
I’ve been “reading” books and courses using Audible and have been listening to podcasts for years. They’re a great way to use otherwise ‘dead’ time when I’m driving, walking or at the gym. Just think, the radio plays the same music and lengthy adverts over and over again, so switch it off and learn something or catch-up with what’s going on in a specific niche related to your goals and really use that time the best way you can.
You can also listen to my new podcast, Not Wonder Woman with my co-host Mel called on iTunes or Stitcher.
4. Outsource what you can
This is my podcast co-host Mel’s favourite tip on how to be more productive and I’m inclined to agree. She doesn’t go grocery shopping and she doesn’t cook. I’m not quite there, but here are the things I have outsourced:
- the cleaning;
- the ironing;
- cutting the grass;
- washing the windows;
- washing the car;
- listing things on eBay;
- blog photography; and
- general outsourcing of bits and bobs (hiring a virtual assistant who knows social media)
The idea is to spend your time doing the things you WANT to do and will bring you closer to your goals and not the things you HAVE to do. Also, it’s ok that some things just don’t get done. If things aren’t outsourced and still don’t get done, it’s fair to say that those things aren’t a priority to me and that’s ok.
4. Make a List and Categorise What You Need to Get Done:
Steven Covey the author of ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’, has a great method to help you categorise the tasks that are on your to do list and determine the priority in which you do those things.
The age-old to do list is a good productivity tool, but not on its own. Without a proper system behind it, a to-do list is a never ending, out-of-control reminder that you’re not ticking things off quickly enough before a whole bunch of new things just get added to it.
Prioritise those things on this list and have more control of the never-ending to-do.
5. Start Your Day Before it Starts You
Before you organise your day, it’s definitely a better use of your time to find out how best you work before setting yourself up for some sort of unworkable structure. Instead of dragging yourself out of bed at 5am if you’re going to be miserable for the rest of the day because you’re not a morning person, figure out if you’re more likely to be productive at different times of days than others.
I’m a morning person, but because Poppy wakes up early if I do, it doesn’t really work for us logistically. So I have to be a night owl and get stuff done when she’s in bed.
Lots of people say ‘start before the sun comes up’, but that also means going to bed at a reasonable hour, you can’t burn the candle at both ends (trust me I’ve tried, don’t).
6. Plan your day the night before:
It sounds so simple, but it’s been so beneficial for me to create a routine with the effect of eliminating some of the morning stress and start the day off on the best foot possible:
– I get all of Poppy’s uniform ready the evening before (I’m pretty sure all parents of school-age children do this?);
– I plan my own ‘uniform’ in my head for the next day (and
pray make sure it doesn’t need ironing!);
– I write out a list of the things I want to get done work-wise the next day;
– I also write out a list of personal to-do’s that I want to get done the next day; and
– I sort out what I’m doing for lunchtime next day (Do I have time to go out for lunch and catch-up with someone? Or will it be working lunch?)
7. Use the Pomodoro Technique
I have actually used this system on and off since my exams and it works incredibly well and builds discipline.
If you haven’t already heard of it, the Pomodoro technique was created in the 1980s by Frances Cirillo and gets its name from the old style tomato timers (Pomodoro means ‘tomato’ in Italian) and this is the process:
- Create your list of tasks that you want to complete for the day (be realistic)
- Set a timer for 25 minutes
- Get to work
- Make an X on a piece of paper after the first 25 minutes – one of these is a ‘Pomodoro sequence’
- After your first 3 Pomodoro sequences, take a 3 – 5 minute break (check Instagram, chat on WhatsApp, get a coffee, whatever you want)
- After you’ve marked down your fourth ‘X’ on your piece of paper take an extended break for 15 – 30 minutes
- If any distractions or thoughts arise during your Pomodoro don’t stop! Instead just write them down on your paper and schedule dealing with them during your scheduled intervals.
The breaks are like a carrot and you feel like you’ve earned those moments of doing nothing during the day (for checking Instagram).
Being “too busy” is a decision
Let’s face it, there are so many things to be distracted by, not getting distracted should actually be rewarded with more than just a break to scroll through Instagram. Sometimes I feel like it deserves a bottle of champagne!
Being Busy vs. Being Productive
I worked at a large corporate where I had a colleague there who always stayed late. She was the first one in the door and the last one to leave. Everyone thought that she was super keen and really committed to her job. One evening when we both happened to be staying late, I recall her saying “just because I’m here late, doesn’t mean anything, I may I may not be very efficient or I may take longer to get my head around things…”.
This always stuck with me. Although I didn’t know exactly why she stayed (it really didn’t matter to me) her reason for staying later than the rest of us could have been for a number of reasons and not all of them were positive. She said so herself.
Don’t subscribe to presenteeism. Aim to be more productive not more busy. Forget what people around you may or may not be saying. Work smarter and not harder by having proper systems in place that help you get more done in less time by figuring out what works best for you.
There are people are there that are a hell of a lot more busy than you or I and they figure it all out somehow. Find out what you need to improve on and get on with learning how to improve it. We all need to start somewhere.
These are some of the books I’ve read and recommend reading some of these for more detail on how to be productive:
This is where I am at the moment, I was thinking of posting my daily schedule and actually listing how I fit in the blog and a work day, Poppy, making dinner, spending time with my husband and self care – if you guys would be interested in that, leave me a comment below or drop me message somewhere on socials.
Shop My Outfit:
Trousers – Zara, here
Jumper – Zara, sold out, on eBay here