As I have got a little older, I have become more self-aware of things I am good at, and things that I perhaps should leave to others (coordination sports, digesting lactose, long phone-calls for catching up, drawing and multi-tasking to name a few).
On the flip side, I am a good natural organiser and tend to thrive with tasks requiring self-discipline, productivity and planning. Recently, a few people have been asking for what it is I do each day to get stuff done, or get stuff done quickly. So I thought I would share a post on my top reflections and habits that I think contribute towards my productivity in case it’s useful for a wider audience.
With the above in mind, I also want to reflect that until recently I used to be pretty embarrassed of just how organised (read: borderline control freak) I was as a person. These days though, I welcome it with open arms. I think that because of these traits I find it easier to go after the things that make me really happy, and put a lot of energy and effort into events, trips and plans that leave a lasting impact and memories for years to come.
Top ways to keep organised and productive on a day to day basis:
One: Know your goals, and know your plan
It is so easy to get wrapped up in the hype of being ‘busy’ or hyper productive. There are methods that get you to write down 5-7 habits a day to do every day. Others encourage you to break down big tasks into more manageable chunks to make them seem more attainable.
Personally, I think that the most important way to keep disciplined and productive is to have three things established. One, a very clear vision of where you want to be in life in the next 3-5 years. I am not talking specific here (although feel free to be detailed) but a good understanding of what life looks like for you in the coming years. If you don’t have a good goal, nothing’s going to motivate you.
Secondly, an understanding of your main priorities in life and what matters most to you.
Lastly, a personal acceptance of the fact that you really can’t do everything, but you can do a lot.
If you know you want to be a full time writer, living in a small house in the remote countryside in the next three-five years. You are aware that your priorities are your family, your health, your friends, travel and writing. Then you can easily take a moment to assess your day to day and even week by week plans to see what is contributing towards that and what is distracting.
If in a week you spend two hours a day watching Netflix, but the above is your plan, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out it won’t happen for you in the near future because it’s not where you are putting your energy.
Two: Do what makes you happy
This one isn’t really easy for all, but I am a firm believer that unless you are doing something that challenges you, makes you happy and feel fulfilled you’re never going to have the motivation to put 100% into it.
If you are feeling stuck in a rut, or like you’re limited because you are pursuing something you really don’t enjoy, make a change today. No one can be productive all the time for something that doesn’t make them happy.
Three: Do the hardest tasks of the day first, every single day.
Block out the first hour to get the rough stuff done. The stuff that makes you scared, a good dose of exercise, the email you’ve been putting off writing or the paperwork you have yet to reply to and file.
Often the things that are the hardest to do, or that we avoid are the ones that bring the biggest changes or impact on our day to day.
Honestly, if you can just change one thing this for me would be it. Before reading the news, before social media or joining a call, put aside an hour to just get stuff done.
Four: Know your own habits and routines
We all have our own habits and pitfalls when it comes to organisation and discipline. Personally, I know that after 6pm I am cognitively useless. If you check my blog and writing performance, I always have a dip in publishing mid-month.
Instead of being frustrated by these habits, I instead just work my projects and days around them. I write more at the start and end of each month, and during the middle I focus on other priorities such as getting outdoors, trips and down time.
It’s the same with household tasks like taxes, budgeting and planning for my husband’s business, I know if I don’t tackle them in the first week of the month I will lose motivation. So I make these a priority.
After 6pm I don’t do anything ‘mentally taxing’ and use this time to unwind.
Embrace your own ways of working and natural habits rather than consistently trying to overwrite and fight them. Make them work as part of your productivity.
Five: Time blocking
If you are always finding yourself too busy to do the things that matter, take some time to block out and organise your diary now to make room for the bigger priorities. Give yourself an hour every day to work on projects. Refuse meetings or calls on a Friday to use this time to turn your ideas into reality.
Give yourself an hour a day for self-development.
Six: Don’t hyper organise
An app can be incredibly helpful if you already know your goals and priorities. A notes site can be fantastic to collect articles to read later, if you actually are going to read them. A well-structured calendar will only be effective if you are actually going to stick to your agenda.
We seem to love technology and hyper-organisation when it comes to being disciplined and often think that certain apps, tools and tech will help us become productive. The reality is, these tools complement an already productive lifestyle.
Plus, with these tools we tend to want to add 7-8 habits a day rather than one or two that will actually get done, because otherwise the list looks bare.
Get apps if you need them to further habits you already have, or interests you already stick to. Don’t expect them to be the cure.
This one took me a long time to firstly realise was a thing, and then secondly do properly. You don’t need to do everything yourself, and to go back to my first tip, in order to be productive you need to realise that you really can’t do everything, but you can do a lot.
Outsource whatever it is that distracts from your priorities or what you enjoy where you can. Obviously some aspects require financial freedom to do it, such as having a cleaner or someone or taking a load of laundry to be dry cleaned once a week.
Others however, not so much. Sites like Fiverr make getting all sorts of tasks done quickly and easily for less. They have everything from virtual assistants to data entry and video editing.
Same goes for things like present shopping, do you know many big online stores now offer free personal shopping services or AI powered Chat Bots to get you the perfect gift in next to no time. Or food shopping, have a service deliver a weekly pre-prepared favourites list to you and then add in things you fancy as you think about them.
Lastly, the biggest thing I think that has helped me be more productive is living a lot more minimally. I have less stuff to clean, no real clutter to sort through, I don’t spend hours worrying about outfits as my wardrobe is pretty capsule and I don’t spend hours working out how to get the new car I covet or striving after the next big material success. When you let go of the distractions, the must-haves and the noise, it becomes really easy to just get stuff done.
What are your top tips for being productive?