When I got started freelancing full time, I tried every time management you could think of – GTD, the Pomodoro Technique, the Eisenhower Principle, the Action Method, Inbox Zero… Yeah, I tend to geek out on this stuff. It’s one of the traits that made me an exceptional UX designer.
Actually, it’s almost an obsession now, as being a digital nomad requires that I stay productive as possible. With traveling on a pretty regular basis, it becomes imperative that one stick to a framework that makes getting things done effectively and efficiently as simple as possible.
Nowadays, there’s just so many distractions, it’s any wonder how people manage to get things done at all. So if you’re looking for ways to boost productivity and just get things done, you’ve come to the right place.
In this article, I’m sharing my 6 best productivity tips that have helped me to build the life of my dreams. I’ll show you how to maximize productivity so that you too can build that business that will allow you to work anywhere.
6 Productivity Tips to Help You Stay Focused, Be More Productive, and Get Things Done
#1) Pick your priorities, or they will pick you.
This is probably one of the most secret tips of being productive that you’ll ever hear. If you keep spending your time on the wrong things, you’ll never be able to get the important things done that truly matter.
Learning how to prioritize is hands down the most important thing you can do for your business and is the key to getting shit done. One way to do this is by simply asking yourself two questions. The first is, “Is this important?” and the second one is, “Will completing this move my business forward?”
Once you answer these two questions, you can then decide when or if it needs to be done, or if it is something you can outsource altogether.
A word of caution, just because something may seem urgent does not mean it is truly important. While urgent things require immediate attention; the important things are “of great significance or value” and will help you achieve specific goals.
Here’s a good rule of thumb to follow: aim to spend 80% of your time working on important tasks that aren’t urgent, and as little time as possible working on unimportant stuff.
This is especially true in regards to personal time-wasters like tv, internet and social engagements. If you want to build a business, you need to guard your time like a bulldog.
Building an online business is difficult as it is, so do yourself a favor and stop wasting time doing the things you don’t want to do with people you don’t even want to see. Do remember to take the time to occasionally unplug.
#2) Plan your day, and plan to plan.
When entrepreneurs (myself included) aren’t willing to take a step back & strategize effectively, it’s only a matter of time before they revert to living in reactionary mode, especially if they are feeling overwhelmed.
Yet, if you fail to plan, you’ll fail to succeed. 100% of the time.
In fact, one of the best ways to overcome feelings of overwhelm is to start building in time to focus on strategy and prioritization so you’re not always freaking out about what you have to do next. You just know.
Part of effectively planning your day begins with a strong morning routine. If you’ve been following me for any length of time, chances are you’ve likely heard me refer to the power of a morning routine. I credit mine with much of my success over the last couple years. Don’t underestimate how important it is to plan your day, particularly if you’re starting a new business.
By having several blocks of time per week dedicated to reviewing and planning built into my Google calendar, I can usually do a weekly (okay, bi-weekly) review of my running task list (in Todoist). Doing this keeps me on track and gives me the opportunity to eliminate anything that’s been taken care of or is no longer relevant.
#3) Chunk your time to limit context switching.
While we are on the subject of time blocking, here’s another time management technique that really helps prevent cognitive fatigue and will allow you to make better decisions throughout the day.
As much as people like to say they can multitask, fact is our brains aren’t meant to “multi-task” and by keeping tasks aligned, you’ll waste less time mentally switching gears.
The idea behind this is simple: create “chunks” of time throughout your day or week that are focused on specific types of tasks. I personally had heard about this quite a bit for several years and would only implement it in small bursts . However it wasn’t until I started traveling full-time that this became absolutely critical for me to keep moving forward in my business.
While there are a number of ways to implement this technique, ranging from rigid 90-minute calendar blocks for writing to daily or weekly “themes.” I recommend experimenting with different techniques to see what works for you.
For me, I found that daily themes work best for me
I dedicate Tuesday and Thursday to working with clients and potential clients, so I have my “coaching hat” on all day and don’t have to context switch to marketer, strategist or administrator. Anything I do besides talking to clients is considered a bonus.
Wednesday is content creation. Mondays and Fridays are admin and marketing days, or as I like to call them “get shit done” days. I try to limit my working hours on these days to smaller chunks – 4 hours max, usually 90 minutes at a time.
#4) Focus on the outcome, not the task at hand.
Honestly, it’s time we stopped doing things just because someone else is doing it. So often we add something to our to-do list because we think we should.
Instead, start focusing on your real outcome and what’s important, then do what’s true to you and your business.
Here’s a real world example, everyone and their mother has a Facebook Group these days and I can’t count the number of times I’ve been told to create one. I’m so glad I didn’t because A) I didn’t want to and B) There is now a term called “Facebook Group Fatigue,” and very popular groups are closing because they aren’t actually improving business outcomes for business owners.
Instead of jumping on the bandwagon, ask yourself how you can best achieve your outcome – i.e. get more leads, more customers, build a stronger brand presence – and then see if there is a way to get that outcome with less effort or with more enjoyment.
Not sure what your outcome is?
When in doubt, ask yourself “what’s my fastest path to cash?” You are running a business, after all – and businesses exist to make money.
#5) Work with your natural biorhythm.
You left the 9-to-5 world for a reason – why are you still working the same hours? Start monitoring when you’re most alert, effective or creative and adjust your schedule accordingly.
For instance, I’m not a morning personal and am usually slow to start my day. Mornings are good for me to do some basic housekeeping, clean out the inbox, pay bills – basic stuff that doesn’t require a ton of intelligence.
After a mid-to-late morning break for exercise or fun (in Savannah, Tuesday AM was my beach morning, every week), I come back to work in the afternoon ready for deep work. Then I’ll get sleepy and take a nap or go for a walk then start again in the evenings when I get inspired and creative.
Your routine might very, but keep in mind that your brain performs best in smaller bursts. Try working in 90-minute increments for less intense work and maxing out at 4-hours of deep strategy or creative work.
Tim Ferriss’ 4-Hour Workweek might be a fallacy for new entrepreneurs – but a 4-Hour workday can be very effective.
#6) Follow the two day rule.
If you are like most creatives and have the tendency to put stuff off, this one is actually quite simple. One thing to understand is that it is perfectly OKAY and normal to take time off or to not feel motivated (tips for getting motivated can be found in this Positive Psychology article).
But in truth, motivation is pretty useless unless you have a strong willpower. Yet, if you’re like most people, chances are you don’t. What’s worse, is afterwards, we have the tendency to beat ourselves up when we do take a break.
So the beautiful thing about following the two day rule is that it allows you to take up to two full days of doing absolutely nothing if you wish – but no more than that. While it’s good self care to take time for yourself, chances are high that you have places you want to visit and experiences you want to have.
This method allows you to take time off whenever you need to as long as you don’t take more than two consecutive days. Plus it helps you to stay focused and still be kind to yourself when you just need to take a break.
So, there you have my top six keys to success and getting shit done. By implementing just one of these today can change your life and business. Be sure to let me know how it goes!
Have a method I haven’t listed that you think is superior? Shoot me a message and I’ll update the post.
Want more? Grab my productivity tool kit to get my guide for creating a morning routine, and getting things done framework for determining what to work on next and exercise for designing a vision for your life and business.