Are You Less Productive Than You Think?
As a freelancer, working in an unconventional setting is awesome, but productivity can also be a challenge. I mean, I’m on my couch in bright blue leggings with Downton Abbey in the background completely avoiding the nightmare that is Nashville during rush hour in the rain.
But, there are some downsides. For one, the critters in the attic throwing a party when I’m trying to concentrate. Second, that "trying to concentrate" part.
I’m all for productivity strategies and ideal working environments, and I definitely utilize those. But before you can implement those strategies, you need to realize a very simple fact.
Do you have a realistic idea of how productive you are?
Does it seem like you’re getting enough done in a day, but then you think about the rest of your to do list and realize the day was a bust?
I’m right there with you! Self-improvement only occurs when we realize where our weaknesses lie then create a plan to improve.
I tend to work in bursts, so I’ll work on client work for an hour, then work in Buffer for 20 minutes, then take a Facebook break. 20 minutes later, I realize where I went wrong.
Breaks are great, and definitely needed. But they can quickly go awry.
Last month I created a new style of weekly calendar, and it was perfect, until I realized it’s double the effort since I still need to put it in my regular calendar.
If it was sustainable, I would put in the time, but it’s not.
This month I took some lessons from that experience and have created a workflow that so far is working really well!
My current productivity boosting workflow
Always have sticky notes when working
Plan out work when I first sit down
Always have sticky notes
My intense love for sticky notes came from my mom, who lovingly gives me some every gift-giving holiday. (I think I have enough for the next 10 years. :)
I didn’t fully realize their power until my last semester of college when no matter how many calendar reminders and emails to myself I had, I still forgot things. I lapsed then for most of the time since then, but recently renewed my focus, which means making the most out of these brightly colored pieces of gold.
Plan out my work
I keep a running to do list on one sticky (or two, depending on the week), then right after I sit down to work I make a list of three things I want to accomplish on another. This helps prevent the "I know I need to work, but what do I need to accomplish, again?" moments.
This does a few things:
Makes me prioritize
Helps me focus on the now instead of the long list for the day/week
Let’s me cross things off (the best part about a to do list, am I right?)
The fewer things on the list, the more manageable my work session seems. At times I’ll write some additional items at the bottom of the sticky, but fold that under so I don’t see it until the others are finished.
This all comes down to maximizing my focus, because I tend to be very - oh look a text! a tweet! Instagram must have something new, right?
There’s one very simple thing I do to minimize distractions: turn my phone upside down. Smartphones are wonderful inventions, but this constant connectedness can easily ruin our focus.
I’ve also made a conscious effort to ignore any mail notifications. I haven’t gone so far as to set firm times that I check it, though I may in the future.
I also know the way I work best. I love sitting in coffeeshops, because the slight buzz and chatter is great background noise. I hate silence. I need some noise no matter what, so wherever I am I either turn on music or make sure there’s enough background noise. But, you may be different, and hate noise while you’re working. I can’t comprehend that, but to each their own, I guess.;)
To keep myself on track, I’m telling you, comrade-in-arms, my plan. So tweet at me in a few days and see if I’m sticking to it.:)
Start using the Pomodoro Technique.
Restrict phone usage during working hours.
Resist the urge to immediately respond to emails, texts, and notifications.
Tell me this...